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Friday, May 26, 2017

Time Off 

I'm taking time off until June 14.  There will be no blogging till then.

Evil Influence 

If true, this is an evil way to influence public opinion.  There is no way of knowing at this juncture whether the investigation into the air strike is accurate. The evidence points to intentional murder of 100 civilians at the hands of ISIS through luring an airstrike on a booby-trapped building.  There is no reasoning with an organization that plans and conducts warfare at its ugliest.  ISIS believes in scorched earth, winning at all costs and never letting moral scruples get in the way.  Warfare might be diplomacy in another means but in this case, diplomatic solutions have been replaced by an urgent need to crush the terror organization out of existence.  It won't be easy and a final resolution might never be achieved. ISIS might well continue to exist, but at a lower level of influence and with many fewer attacks on civilians and soldiers.  

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Outpacing The Customer 

Customers have a direct way of managing their relationships with a company.  If they don't like it, they stop coming.  The business in turn must modify its behavior or fail.  Here is an example of a vendor taking a wrong turn and suffering the result.  J.Crew raised prices just at a time when customers were looking for bargains.  Predictably, its sales plummeted and now the company is backtracking and trying to win them back.  It might not be as easy as losing them in the first place.  It is refreshing that the CEO takes the blame for the wrong move.  One wonders how he misread his base in the first place.  It indicates something fundamentally wrong in J.Crew's marketing intelligence.  Did the company survey its customers?  Conduct focus groups? Examine social media?  If it had done one or more of these tests, it should have picked up its customers' mood.  One suspects the company won't make the same mistake again.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Publicity Coup Again 

Google made international headlines last year when its artificial intelligence computer beat a Korean Go master in a series of games.  It was a publicity coup.  Google is at it again with a series of three games between the AI machine and the top-ranked Go player of the world.  It has already won the first game with a much-improved system.  This kind of publicity has a serious purpose -- to show the capabilities of the computer and to add credibility to claims of what the computer can do.  Even if the machine should lose a close game the fact that it can play against a human master and acquit itself worthily is a mark in its favor.  These kinds of demonstrations are not new.  They have been done for hundreds of years but they work so they are used again and again.  They show the confidence humans have in an invention such that they are willing to risk public failure.  The chance of flaming out is what captures public interest and keeps it, if the event is successful.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Graduation 

My daughter graduated from college on Sunday and all the ancient symbols and ceremony were in full display from the grand marshall who led the celebrants in to commencement speeches and awarding of honorary doctorates.  The occasion was meant to mark a milestone in a young person's life -- the end of formal education unless one is going on to a postgraduate experience -- and the beginning of work life.  Monday was reality day -- packing up to go home and incipient worries about work.  The lofty communications of the commencement ceremony were gone but for the memory.  Call graduation ceremonies an academic public relations exercise and you will be on the mark.  But, it is a wonderful and moving affirmation of education.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Robots And PR 

Robot makers who are using the streets of San Francisco to deliver meals have a PR challenge.  The city wants to ban them.  There is a fear that the machines will run over people rather than avoiding them.  What Marble, the maker, must do now is to defuse the concerns of a city supervisor.  The company has an audience target of one, and that person is convinced robots will go rogue eventually and smash into people rather than deliver the food they are carrying.  One way to ease the supervisor's fears is to show him how the robot works on crowded sidewalks with adults and children.  Even that might not be enough.  The company might need to mount a campaign of citizens who want to be served by robots.  Write-ins, calls, appearances at city council, public pressure can eventually wear an opponent down. The question is whether the company has the money and time to get this done.  A robot for food delivery is hardly a household necessity.  

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Poor PR - 19th Century 

English railroads in the 1800s had a PR challenge -- railroad madness.  Victorians thought the sound and motion of a train caused men to become lunatics.  There were several reported incidents to back their thinking.  There wasn't much a railroad company could do about it.  Modern psychology and psychiatry had yet to be discovered.  So, they accepted the idea of railroad madness and tried to devise means of safety for the passengers on board.  Nothing worked well.  We in the 21st century can look back and think how ignorant our forefathers were, but were we tasked at the time to combat the idea of railroad madness, the PR challenge would have been nearly insurmountable. The only evidence we would have would be the presence of psychotics on trains.  In other words, we would have nothing to work with.  

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Realism 

This article is a cautionary argument that Apple won't stay on top of the electronics market forever.  The thesis is that no company has done it before, and there is no reason to believe  Apple can break the pattern.  Apple has passed $800 billion in market value, a dizzying height from which a fall would be extraordinary.  But, the company is only as good as its next products and there is no guarantee, even with its fan base, that Apple can continue to hit home runs.  At some point, the company will put out a clunker, or a series of them, and consumers will start asking questions and more importantly, start buying other companies' phones and computers.  When Apple's income stagnates, the market will take action and  the result won't be pretty.  Meanwhile, Apple's employees are moving into its new multi- billion-dollar campus, Steve Jobs' legacy to his company.  There is no guarantee the building will help Apple be any more successful than it already is.  And, if the company meets stiff headwinds in the marketplace, there is a good chance part of the property will be empty and unused.

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