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Monday, May 21, 2018

Jiggered? 

Nicholas Maduro has won-re-election in Venezuela, but how he did it verges on fraud, if not outright illegality.  He jailed likely opponents.  He bribed the poor with boxes of food at a time when there is none available for anyone in the stores.  He set up tents near polling places to distribute prizes for those who did vote for him.  He ran the election in the face of a boycott at the polls.  The negatives about him are abundant.  He is presiding over a country whose economy has collapsed despite having the largest oil reserves of any nation on earth.  He doesn't know how to handle hyperinflation, which has rendered Venezuela's currency worthless.  He has done nothing to slow the outflow of citizens who can no longer deal with the country's chaos.  Maduro positions himself as a strong man, but he is weak in administration and governance.  His relations with his countrymen are at a low, and if he had run without giving himself overwhelming advantages, he would have lost.  Even so, there are accusations that he had to jigger the voting.  The only thing that keeps him in power is the military with whom he had better maintain good PR.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Gaffe? 

Google at its recent developers' conference demonstrated an artificial intelligence voice that was so real people were saying it could past the Turing test.  But now, doubt has been raised about the demo because no one outside the company can say whether it was staged or real.  Google won't reveal which salon it contacted, if it did, and a news organization has taken to calling salons in the Silicon Valley area to determine if they answer the phone the same way as heard in the demo.  So far, they haven't.  The medium claims Google's demo was fake.  This has sparked a discussion.  How much artifice is too much?  If Google did construct a false demo, it would be a gaffe in this instance.  Google was trying to show it has mastered the human voice and response to some human queries.  If it hasn't, it deserves to be held to scorn.  If it has, its technological feat is amazing.  Only the company knows, and it is not talking. This is a time for transparency.  

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Taking The Fall 

This fellow is taking the fall for an error in contracting with Michael Cohen, Trump's lawyer.  He could have pointed to the former CEO who was a co-signatory on the agreement, but he didn't.  He took full responsibility.  That is old-fashioned, stand-up obligation to the role he served in the company.  He should be commended.  PR would be easier if more executives admitted errors instead of ducking and/or covering.  it is not often one sees a senior manager who publicly admits to being at fault and takes action to correct it.  Novartis should do what it can to keep its general counsel involved with the company as a consultant or something else.  He deserves it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Addressing A Challenge 

Kaspersky Lab has been dogged with the suspicion that it is in cahoots with the Russian government and helping implant malware throughout the internet.  Denials have done no good.  Now the company is taking steps to move some of its core processes to Switzerland, far away from Moscow.  That, plus a new transparency institute funded by the Lab, are intended to lower fears that Kaspersky is compromised.  While the move addresses the issue of proximity to Russia, it still doesn't answer the question whether the company has secret alliances with Putin's agents.  Only time can resolve that, and it may take years.  There is little a company can do when it is cast in the position that Kaspersky finds itself.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Dumb 

Harley-Davidson is involved in a dumb tactic.  It is about to rehash bad results at its annual meeting so it has barred the media from attending.  This is a change from its practice in previous years when it threw its function open to all.  Predictably, governance commentators were not impressed.  As one said, "They can run but they can't hide."  Now the local media, especially, will make an effort to report what was said and questions shareholders asked.  The company would have been far better off if it had just opened its doors.  Chances are that its meeting would have been reported in a few paragraphs at most.  One wonders if some companies ever learn transparency or whether it is a lesson that has to be repeated year after year.  

Monday, May 14, 2018

Dangling 

Xerox, the once powerful and now forlorn, office equipment powerhouse is dangling with an uncertain future.  It just called off its merger with Fujifilm under pressure from activist investors.  It is replacing its CEO and making changes to the board of directors.  Xerox's customers and employees are facing fear of the future.  There is little PR can do in a time like this.  The CEO can hardly calm the waters because he isn't going to be there for much longer.  The investors are outsiders and might not know the morale of the company.  Statements from HR might mean little if there are cuts in the future.  Xerox will do well if it holds on to its key talent, but no one should be surprised if they are looking elsewhere for employment.  It is a public and employee relations crisis.  

Friday, May 11, 2018

One Step Forward, One Backward 

Google is contending with a PR problem surrounding its artificial intelligence voice.  It is so good critics are condemning it as a violation of ethics and trust.  The company unveiled the "voice" at its annual I/O conference and the audience cheered.  Those who fear AI immediately criticized the natural delivery as too good. There is no way people can tell they are talking to a machine and not a human.  This for AI critics is the worst nightmare and a sign machines are taking the place of humans.  Google needs to address the fear before it becomes a reason for regulation and prevention of further AI development.  This is not the first nor last time new technologies have ignited opposition, but as in the past, there needs to be a clear presentation to the public that technologies are a benefit to mankind and not a harm.  This might in the form of a "killer app" everyone wants to use or a winning demonstration of progress.  For every step forward, there needs to be one backward to appease critics and educate the public.

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