Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Technology companies are banding together to co-develop and set guidelines for open source software. They are working under the banner of TODO -- Talk Openly: Develop Openly. Put this effort under "Hope Springs Eternal." Historically competitors have failed at collaboration because of fears that someone might gain an edge in the marketplace before they do. In other words, they are more concerned about the short-term injury to themselves than long-term benefit to the public. It takes leadership from the top to make collaborations successful. The CEO has to dampen fears of what other companies will do and rein in impulses in his own company to steal a march on others. PR supports the idea of better user experience and software that works on any platform. It is better customer relations, and it removes a major headache for owners of multiple devices from different companies. However, it can reduce hardware to a commodity if companies fail to innovate within the platform standard. Think of an electric plug. In America, we think nothing of it today because the three-prong plug is standard. Go to Europe, however, and you will encounter multiple plugs depending on the country. The cost of that lack of standardization is a headache for manufacturers and users. So, here's to TODO. "May the odds ever be in its favor."
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Amazon.com is choosing to remain silent in its dispute with publisher Hachette. Its reputation is taking a beating from authors and publishers who are speaking out. Amazon is becoming a case study for CEOs and PR practitioners in the dangers of failing to make one's case public. The company has a history of avoiding the media so its current stance is not new, but previously its decision to remain close-mouthed was not as dangerous as it is now. What is known about its dispute with Hachette puts Amazon in a pro-consumer light, but one wonders why the company isn't merchandising its point of view. Instead, it is letting authors complain publicly about its stubbornness and its decision to stop pushing Hachette books. The word that comes to mind with this stance is arrogance. Amazon is so convinced of its position that it doesn't feel it has to make a public case for it. If so, the company could not be more wrong.
Monday, September 15, 2014
My colleague, Mike Cargill, sent this story to me for which I thank him. It is an example of why marketers shouldn't create content. The article is a collection of some of the best and worst tweets commemorating 9/11. The bad ones are terrible and disrespectful. They push product on a day when commercialism should be at an ebb. The best ones do a credible job of remembering the day without attempting to sell the reader anything. How can a marketer use an international, world-changing tragedy as a bench for selling anything? The answer to that is marketers are trained to ask for the order at any and all times. "So, thousands were killed, here's a coupon to buy my product." The marketer doesn't see the offer as tacky and inappropriate. It is one more opportunity to sell, sell, sell. On the other hand, the PR practitioner should and usually does consider the feelings of the audience being addressed. Marketers should leave content creation to professionals, all of whom should have PR training.
Friday, September 12, 2014
The commissioner of the National Football League is living on a razor's edge. He was dealing with a crisis of concussions and their effects on players. Suddenly he is dealing with domestic abuse by a player against the player's fiance. In each scandal, the NFL has been perceived to move too slowly to address the underlying problem. Part of the reason the league has been tardy might be that it isn't set up to handle scandal quickly. It might be too busy marketing itself to watch the horizon for incidents and events that can compromise the image and reputation of the teams and the office of the commissioner. As this second scandal demonstrates, the league has to get better at disciplining players who cross the line. But that means it must move faster and not wait until video of an ugly incident is made public. By then, it is too late.
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Apple debuted its version of mobile payment on Tuesday. Already, skeptics are weighing in on the cloudy future for the technology. The reason for doubts is one that held back other systems from success -- conservatism on the part of retailers and consumers. So far, there hasn't been a clear advantage to waving the mobile phone near a merchant's point of sale system and having it record data wirelessly. Merchants will need to upgrade systems to handle Apple's technology. That costs money. Apple will want a percentage of each transaction as payment for its system. More money out the door. Consumers have to adapt to passing their phones near the system and not swiping a card. That requires a change in behavior. Consumers also will be concerned about the safety of such systems. This will take time and intensive communication. Way back when banks introduced ATMs, they stationed people next to the machine and had them walk consumers through depositing and withdrawing money. Banks had a vested interest in doing this because they wanted to cut down on tellers and bricks and mortar. There is no equivalent reason for mobile payment. Apple has taken on a huge marketing and PR job to make sure its system is a success. The company is capable of doing it, but there won't be much progress initially.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Anheuser-Busch is replacing its diesel trucks at its Houston brewery with compressed natural gas rigs. The brewery says it wants to be "green". That may be true but left unsaid is that the price of diesel is higher than that of natural gas. In other words, A-B is doing well by doing good. There is not only nothing wrong with this, but in the best situations, this should prove true. The better, faster, cheaper way should also be less expensive in both the short and long run in order to gain the support of business. Good PR does not have to be costly. It should not be an add-on that a company should do out of good citizenship, but a line item that contributes to the bottom line even when it seems far afield from what a company does. Too often, PR activities are "stick-on" actions without reference to the company's main business. But, PR is what a company does, not what it says. It is how a company acts and not how it spins. So, bravo to A-B for doing the calculations and even though the tonnage of carbon dioxide diminution is modest, it is something to note.
Tuesday, September 09, 2014
The question in this essay is who should pay for Detroit's bankruptcy? Today, the debt overhang rests on the poor because the wealthy and middle class left for the suburbs long ago. Even if it had been possible that Detroit could have kept its tax base evenly distributed, it wasn't likely. This, of course, is true for several cities around the US, urban centers that have been hollowed out and are surrounded by wealthy autonomous towns. To keep the wealthy and middle class, city administrations needed a long-term PR plan that involved taxes and services targeted to the middle and upper classes. Is this fair? Not really, but the wealthy and the middle class have the option to move and have done so over the decades as cities became less welcoming, cramped and poorly run. The reality is that cities have to compete for the wealthy and middle class against suburbs, first by keeping businesses in the inner core and secondly, by holding on to the well-to-do population. Once either has left, the other will follow. New York City, as wealthy as it is, nevertheless lost numerous corporate headquarters to the suburbs surrounding it and is in danger of losing more as its power as a financial center has declined. Mayors need to play a long game but often are constrained by short-term politics. It isn't fair that the wealthy and middle class get to leave, but that is the way it is. Laws won't change self-interested behavior.