Friday, January 13, 2017


The San Diego Chargers are now the Los Angeles Chargers.  Leaving San Diego after 50 years has produced a psychic wound among fans of the football team.  Many will say, "Good riddance."  Some will follow the team north and continue rooting.  The move is not unprecedented.  The Oakland Raiders moved twice and returned to the East Bay.  The Indianapolis Colts left Baltimore in the dark of night to the rage of forsaken fans who have never forgotten the slight.  The PR challenge for the Charger's owner is now to build a new fan base, and that won't be easy with another franchise in town, the Los Angeles Rams who also have moved twice.  The two teams are getting a new stadium. This was the friction for the Chargers in San Diego where a vote for a new structure was defeated.  The question now is whether Los Angeles can support two franchises.  That will not be known for years to come.  Thus far, only New York has been able to support two teams -- the Jets and the Giants.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Out Front 

Nearly all big box retailers are cutting back, laying off retail workers and closing stores due to poor sales.  Wal-Mart is different.  It is cutting back on corporate staff but keeping store employees untouched.  The company realizes its PR is at the store level and between floor employees and consumers.  Stores with fewer retail staff tend to be dirtier, have inconsistent inventory and are harder to find items in.  Keeping retail staff boosts morale in its aisles.  Wal-Mart has been a target for unionization for years.  So far, the company has beaten back activists, but it recognized that it couldn't go on paying the minimum wage and win the reputation war.  Now that it is keeping its retail workers and cutting corporate staff, it is showing good faith to consumers and its own workers.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The White House Press 

This is a discussion of why the White House press corp is no longer needed nor valuable to the media or citizens.  The problem is that it is an anachronism, and it never worked well anyway in terms of covering the President objectively.  President-elect Trump has successfully end-run the mainstream media with his twitter and social media presence.  He has stiffed reporters for months at a time because he doesn't like them -- and the feeling is mutual.  The White House press office is a medium and it is no longer as effective as it once was.  Good PR dictates that one change a medium when it no longer works well.  Will the reporters and journalists now scatter across Washington to report on how the President is doing?  Don't bet on it.  There is a magnetic pull toward the locus of power even if one is shut out of its considerations.  Look for more junior reporters to staff the room now even though it is a dead-end, and there might no longer be daily press briefings

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


A tech company creates a new product.  It takes the market by storm and the company scrambles to keep up with demand.  Meanwhile, its other products mark time or wither and R&D struggles to develop the next big thing that equals the curve of the current product.  When skyrocketing growth stops, the company finds itself in trouble because it doesn't have a replacement for the maturing device.  This, more or less, is the transition Apple is experiencing.  The iPhone drove the company for 10 years but sales are slumping because everyone who wants a phone has one, and the replacement market is a fraction of previous demand.  It is a tough position to be in from a public relations perspective.  Company fans are asking, "What's next?"  Apple has answers but none yet are as appealing as the iPhone.  It might not find the next big thing, if history is a guide.  I've seen this scenario 30 years ago when a company rose and fell on the creation of word processing.  The business wasn't ready for a technological shift in the marketplace and it went bankrupt when it could no longer sell dedicated word processors.  Apple is in no danger of going broke, but it does face a struggle to create new marketplaces that cumulatively are the same size as the iPhone.  Meanwhile, it has to keep its fans happy and customers coming back.  Messaging will be important during this period..

Monday, January 09, 2017

Political Theater 

This week is the beginning of an extended run of political theater.  The President makes his farewell address.  The incoming President meets with the media, but most of all, the Senate takes up a pile of confirmation hearings for Trump's cabinet.  The predictable will happen.  Republicans will praise the nominees and Democrats will throw stones, ask hard questions and otherwise try to derail picks they don't like.  The media, attuned to good theater, will run stories about the controversial picks and barely mention those that skate through the process.  If the incoming President were a Democrat, reverse the roles and play the script exactly the same way again.  One wonders why both the politicians and the media don't get tired of the theater, but they don't. Since the cast of characters are new, each occasion is presented as a different play, one never seen before in Washington and not to be seen again. But, voters are suffused with boredom.  They've seen the drama too many times.  

Friday, January 06, 2017

Hard Task 

The new governor of Puerto Rico says he will push hard to achieve statehood for the island.  That is a tough PR challenge from several points of view.  Puerto Rico is a financial disaster at the moment, and people have been leaving the island for the US.  Previous governors of the island have wanted statehood and never succeeded.  Congress isn't of a mind to grant statehood.  The governor has to convince not only his citizens but the populace of the US that his island is worthy of joining the ranks of 50 states. If he should succeed, the island will be the first with a native language that is different -- Spanish -- and it will be the first Caribbean country to link to the mainland.  A positive note for the governor's efforts is the close relationship between Puerto Rico and cities like Miami and New York where tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans dwell.  But still, it won't be easy.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Slow Death 

Watching a brand die is an ugly, disheartening experience, especially when that brand once dominated the marketplace.  That is what is happening to Sears.  People of a certain age remember when the retail chain dominated America's malls.  It was an anchor store. Tens of thousands moved through its aisles monthly.  Then it was bought out by a financial engineer who thought he knew how to run retail.  He wrecked the chain and along with it the struggling K-Mart stores.  Now he is doing the only thing he knows how to do -- closing stores and retrenching in a process of slow strangulation.  The problem with Sears is that consumers don't need it.  They have plenty of shopping options whether online or on the floor of other stores.  Sears has not kept up and the harder it struggles, the worse it gets.  There is no compelling story behind the brand, no sense of flair, nothing to entice consumers into its space.  It needs lessons from Target, which has a sense of style that Sears is missing with its stodgy approach.  Sears should be a reminder to marketers and communicators that nothing is safe in the marketplace.  One needs to work each day to advance a brand or watch it slip quickly into irrelevance.

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