Friday, October 24, 2014

Great PR 

Mark Zuckerberg understands great PR and he was caught engaging in it during his visit to China.  He spoke to college students there in Chinese.  It was, according to Chinese speakers, a halting performance with incorrect tonals and a heavy accent, but the students loved it, and his effort immediately went viral around the globe.  Zuckerberg later explained that his study of Mandarin was influenced by his wife who is Chinese, but no matter.  Here was the CEO of a huge company in the US who was struggling to make himself understood in a difficult language and succeeding.  Give him credit for great PR and for the courage to try.  He has set a high standard for the rest of CEOs in their efforts to carry their messages around the world.  English is the global language for now, but there is a strong chance that Chinese will be in coming decades.  At least one CEO is ready.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sunk By A Supplier 

Honda and every other auto manufacturer that used airbags from the Takata Corp. is involved in a massive recall.  They have been sunk by a supplier who made a defective part.  The recall will involve tens of millions of dollars, most, if not all, of which will come from Takata.  Takata also will face lawsuits over the defect that will drag on for years.  At issue will be whether Takata knew or should have known that its airbags will blow up under certain circumstances and injure rather than protect a passenger.  One can feel sympathy for the auto builders in this instance.  The recall is for something they didn't do.   The industry has been involved in massive recalls this year and doesn't need another one.  But, it is here, and the auto companies have to deal with it.  The PR departments of the affected manufacturers must be working at full speed to handle both this and the introduction of new vehicles.  It won't help them much to point a finger at Takata.  Consumers drives Hondas, not Takatas..

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Succession Planning 

This is the reason why every organization should have a succession plan in place for its CEO and other top executives.  It is also the reason why the PR department should have a crisis plan that envisions the loss of the CEO.  Death at the hands of an allegedly drunk snowplow driver is unusual and might be a first but mortality itself is not unheard off, especially through disease.  This is another reason why CEOs should not be put on pedestals and worshiped by their organizations as Steve Jobs was, for example. The chief executive is the visible leader of an organization, but in the end, has no more power over his or her destiny than anyone else.  Understanding of the tenuous nature of leadership has increased with more active boards that are now independent of their CEOs.  If a chief executive is removed today, it is more likely though poor performance or a scandal.  Most of the time, PR is far removed from boardroom deliberations, but that doesn't absolve it from having a plan in place and rehearsing how to handle the news of the death or departure of the CEO.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Change And Inertia 

Chief Marketing Officers are complaining that they are supposed to measure everything in marketing but they don't have tools or authority to do it.  It seems company executives want measurement but they aren't willing to change behaviors to get it.  Welcome to cultural inertia.  Public relations practitioners are intimately familiar with bone-deep reluctance to adapt to shifting environments.  Too many of us are dismissed as press release factories, incapable of advising managers on larger issues.  An organization's leadership might not have gotten counsel from the PR practitioner before, so why trust him now?  This circular argument keeps PR in a cubby writing ledes.  CMOs.on the other hand, are supposed to be at a level where they can order compliance, but in reality, they can't.  They must obtain cooperation from multiple departments in addition to their own and time spent building credibility is onerous.  Change comes glacially, and it might prove too slow for CMOs to keep their jobs. Inertia frequently wins, especially since mid-level managers needn't do anything different to keep their jobs. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Celebrity Comes -- And Goes 

In the news this morning a story about President Obama on the stump in Maryland before an audience that was decreasing as he spoke.  There may have been many reasons for people leaving, but Obama must be aware that there was a time not long ago when voters would queue to hear him and would cheer until hoarse.  The lesson here is that if one depends on celebrity to make his way, he should be ready for the day when the public's attention wanders to something else.  Only a few performers have mastered the art of renewing themselves constantly in order to stay in the public eye.  Among politicians, there aren't many who can command a camera and an audience whenever they want it.  When they do, they become tiresome in time, and one wishes they would go away, give it a rest, step down... shutup.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Peril Of A Poor Reputation 

Comcast, the cable TV company, is learning the fallout of a poor reputation.  The city council of Worcester, MA not only said no, but "Hell no!" to Comcast's petition to serve the town of 180,000.  This isn't going to hurt Comcast's bottom line, but it must sting to have verbal brickbats thrown at company representatives.  Were I an employee of Comcast, I would urge management to mollify the Council and to implement good service to the town. Having been a Comcast subscriber for a number of years, I didn't have much to complain about, but my family did.  Outages were frequent and cut into my wife's business and my daughter's study time. Comcast's system was unstable, even with upgrades.  Today we use Verizon and have no complaints.  Verizon has its own issues, but not when it comes to internet delivery.  This is a reminder that reputation is paramount.  Reputation is hard to win and easy to lose, and one can never rest in providing good service.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

PR Disaster 

The Center for Disease Control has a PR disaster on its hands after a second Dallas hospital worker came down with Ebola.  The CDC had projected control of the situation, which proved illusory.  Now it says it will station one of its officials at any hospital in the US caring for Ebola patients.  It probably should have done that at the beginning of the situation.  It is unclear how nursing staff and other workers are contracting the disease.  All we know is where.  The CDC needs to examine hospital procedures and their implementation minutely to determine how the virus is slipping through the prophylactic barriers.  It might not be easy to find the breakdown and it might be something simple that no one has thought about until now.  Either way, the CDC has a distance to go to win back its reputation for protecting Americans against disease. 

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