Friday, January 23, 2015
How much PR and investor relations do you really need? If you were this company and this executive, the answer is little to none. Gordon was able to get away with decades of running a public company as a personal fiefdom. He talked to no one. His SEC filings were minimal. He kept the public far away from his business although he made a consumer product. Gordon's silent treatment was at the limits of what a company can do to remain out of the public eye. There are a number of what-ifs that should be asked about its stonewalling. What if, for example, there had been contamination of Tootsie Rolls and there had been a nationwide recall? What if there had been a labor action? What if his wife had died before he did? What would have been his succession plan? None of these things happened while he was leading the company, so he had no need to communicate -- and he didn't. When PR and IR practitioners swell with their sense of importance, it is important to remember that there are other Tootsie Roll Industries in the marketplace who have faded into the background and are intent on remaining there.
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Airbnb, the room sharing service based out of San Francisco, has a PR challenge in New York City. Hundreds of tenants are angry over other tenants renting out their rooms through the service. The angry tenants claim that Airbnb is reducing the amount of affordable housing in New York City because landlords would rather let apartments for a night at a higher price than they can get for monthly rental income. Irate tenants also claim that many of the Airbnb rooms are rented in violation of New York City law. This is a problem for the company because New York is a desirable market for its room-sharing service. The cost of hotel rooms is high and a traveler can get an Airbnb room for much less. Meeting the PR challenge will require ground-pounding work -- getting out into the buildings where tenants are letting rooms and finding out just how serious the problem might be. It also might require lobbying to get the law changed or modified. It will require working closely with city authorities to make sure that it remains on the right side of regulations. Press releases and presentations are not nearly enough.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Wal-Mart has won multiple marketing objectives with one stroke of genius. For the under-banked in our society, many of whom are Wal-mart customers, the chain is offering tax refunds in cash at its stores. One can go to the store, get taxes done and receive refund without a check or direct deposit, neither of which are convenient for the under-banked. Wal-Mart hopes that some of the cash refund will remain in the store as customers shop with their refund money. But, even if they don't, the chain has demonstrated a close understanding of customers needs and has taken a step to meet them. That alone makes this a great idea. It's public relations at its best.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
The Islamic terrorist group, Isis, is blackmailing the Japanese government by threatening to decapitate two Japanese citizens unless the country pays $200 million for their ransom. Japan would be foolhardy to give in. By so doing, it would put a ransom on the head of every one of its citizens. No Japanese would be safe in any part of the world where there are kidnappings, As ugly as it is, the country for the larger protection of its citizens must risk seeing the two men beheaded on camera. This will pose an immediate public relations problem for the government, but one that can be handled. The government will need to explain that by giving in once, it encourages criminals to do it again without an end to the nightmare. It is a difficult position for the prime minister to be in and he requires a stiff back to withstand the pressure, but leadership is never easy.
Friday, January 16, 2015
Drones are coming to the news gathering business, and to the crisis communicator it means a loss of control. There will be no keeping back the news media from the scene of an accident while first responders handle the dead and dying. Overhead cameras will record every grisly detail. For PR practitioners, there will be less control at events with cameras hovering overhead. Drones might prove to be a nuisance, or ultimately, they could be woven into an evolving tragedy or event. Chances are it will be the latter because once the news media start using them, they won't stop. Drones are much cheaper than helicopters and can get closer to events on the ground. It might seem premature to say what a PR practitioner should do, if anything, about drones, but it isn't too early to ask.
Thursday, January 15, 2015
The CEO of JP Morgan, Jamie Dimon, is accusing federal regulators of piling on his bank. Rather than one regulator, he says, he now has five or six to deal with. While that might be true, his complaint smacks of special pleading. Large banks were in the thick of the financial meltdown, and they are still cleaning up the mess seven years later. JP Morgan avoided some of the mire early on but was caught later. Dimon might have a case, but he lacks the credibility to make it, and he might not gain credence for years to come. It is a tough position to be in. The public perceives regulators to be on the side of the angels and reining in irresponsible banks. Dimon can complain but he is fighting an embedded perception and distrust of large financial institutions. Perhaps his best course of action is to remain silent. Speaking out doesn't appear to be working, and it makes him seem like a petulant whiner.
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Disneyland has a medical and PR problem. A measles outbreak has been traced to the theme park. Disneyland wouldn't have the issue if parents vaccinated their children, but many aren't. What is the company to do? It would risk its business if it demanded that parents bring vaccination papers from their doctors before they are allowed into the park. On the other hand, it is risking its business with the measles outbreak -- a disease that was supposed to have been eradicated through vaccination. This is an example of an unintended consequence. What company would think about childhood diseases being a major PR issue? Yet, challenges like this arise regularly in business. There is little that Disney can do other than to encourage parents to get their children vaccinated. Parents who fear vaccination won't, but others who have overlooked the issue might.. Meanwhile, the park has to do the best it can to minimize instances of this highly contagious disease and its spread.