Tuesday, June 28, 2016

PR And No Future 

How do you motivate employees when your company has no future?  This is the task facing Takata, the manufacturer of millions of faulty air bags.  Takata is now working for consumers who need replacement parts.  It is not selling many air bags for new installs.  There is a strong possibility that the company will go out of business or will shrink to a fraction of its former size.  It has already lost contracts with major Japanese auto makers, and it is not likely to get them back.  Every time another death is reported because of faulty propellent, another nail is driven into the company's coffin.  So, how do you keep employees focused on the task of replacement when there are better job opportunities elsewhere with a future?  There isn't much one can say other than "we owe it to our customers."  Most employees, however, were not part of the decision to use one explosive over another.  It was an engineering specification. Chances are most employees were not aware of the danger.  That makes it harder to motivate a workforce that had nothing to do with the decision.  

Monday, June 27, 2016

Dealing With The Fallout 

Communications are essential when dealing with the fallout of a crisis.  That is why the British government is appealing for calm.  There is little that can be done physically while the country breaks away from the EU, so the best thing to do is to carry on as normally as possible.  The exit will not happen in days or even in weeks.  There are too many regulations, agreements and understandings to unwind.  Keeping British citizens up to the moment as each one of these breakaways and their implications is effected will be essential.  There will still be confusion and a goodly number of individuals will not get the message, but the government must try in order to prevent a worse crisis.  The rule here is to over-communicate, to be in the citizen's face with the message, to make sure that every rumor is addressed with facts and every outburst handled calmly.  The government should project a sense of control even though it doesn't have it and of the ability to deal with each situation as it arises.  Beneath the surface and among bureaucrats there will be a sense of panic that also must be handled for they are the ones who will formalize the rupture and they have to be kept at the task as it unfolds.  There will be plenty for communicators to do in the weeks and months ahead.  Little of it will be pleasant.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Where To Begin 

On rare occasions the news is so startling that one is at a loss on where to begin comments.  This morning is one of those.  There is the Supreme Court decision on immigration yesterday that struck down President Obama's executive order and at the same time, there is Britain voting itself out of the European Union last night leading to the Prime Minister stepping down this morning.  Both actions have implications for the public and communications.  The Court's decision places millions of immigrants in jeopardy of being deported.  The British decision upsets the relationship of the country with hundreds of millions.  It will take time to see how both decisions play out and the messages they send.  The financial markets have already reacted negatively to the British vote.  It is too early to determine how the political sphere will respond to the Court.  In any event, yesterday was an historic day and one hopes not soon repeated.

Thursday, June 23, 2016


Costco, the wholesale retailer, has a disaster on its hands.  The company ended its credit card agreement with American Express and moved to Visa.  The problem is that Citibank, which is issuing the Visa cards, has bungled the job.  Rather than just blaming Citi, irate shoppers are haranguing Costco about the mess.  Some have vowed to stop shopping at Costco stores because of the botched transition.  The problem is that there isn't much Costco can do to straighten out its vendor.  It has to wait until all cards are issued then try to rebuild good will with customers.  One can ask how it came to this in the first place.  Was Citi too confident that it could handle the job?  What are the fallbacks Citi should have had in place, or did they fail as well?  One can imagine the pressure both companies are under, especially knowing that it didn't have to happen this way.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Ad hominem 

What does one do when it is hard to attack a message?  Attack the sender.  This is a rhetorical tactic in which Donald Trump is an expert.  An economic study shows Trump's plans for the economy would damage it and cause a recession.  Attack the author of the study for being in bed with Hillary Clinton.  Don't bother with the study itself.  Assume it is worthless and anyway, who but the "sleazy" media are going to read it.  The average voter is cynical enough with the ways of Washington that he is only to ready to believe that such a study is shilling for the Democratic nominee.  Ad hominem attacks are misdirection.  Rather than arguing the merits, they argue the person behind the contention.  Sometimes that is all one can do because his armory of argument is bare.  This appears to be the case with Trump.  He has no study to make a counter-argument. He is likely not to get one before the serious campaigning begins.  His only argument is "Trust me.  We'll make America great again."  That seems to be a weak proposal from someone who has an inflated ego and is a narcissist.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Employee Damage 

This is an example of the immense damage a single employee can do to a company. One disaffected worker ruined 27 tons of chicken.  The size of the damage is understandable when one considers what one chicken weighs -- about five pounds.  This person ruined the product of several giant chicken houses.  The article doesn't state what the grievance was that caused the individual to go over the line, but it is a reminder that a company is only as good as every employee in it.  One wonders about the state of employee relations at the processor and whether workers understand the absolute need for cleanliness in the lines.  If they do, then this worker's action was especially egregious and he or she deserves dismissal and legal punishment.

Monday, June 20, 2016


Peter Thiel was a darling of Silicon Valley until the Gawker case.  Now he faces being voted off the board of Facebook.  His reputation as a savvy investor is intact.  His reputation as a balanced participant in the media is in tatters.  It is a reminder, should anyone need one, that business and news do not have to get along, and indeed are in some ways opposed.  The profit motive can and does stand in the way of higher principles promulgated by the media,  such as a fair and decent wage, healthcare and fundamental benefits.  When a company owner gives these, he is acting above and beyond the economic transaction.  Even when a business owner says he is acting out of self interest to keep valuable employees, he is stretching the meaning of an exchange of goods and services for money.  So Peter Thiel is acting like a normal businessman.  The question now is whether that is acceptable to Mark Zuckerberg who has aspirations of being a media baron.

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