Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Not PR 

A so-called Ukrainian PR agency has been booted off Facebook for creating fake accounts, groups and pages.  The firm was not doing PR but spreading propaganda.  There is a clear difference between the two.  The first rule of PR is accuracy, which includes transparency and respect for facts.  Setting up false accounts, groups and pages is anything but an accurate rendition. One shouldn't be blind to the opportunities the internet offers to dissemble.  I'm sure a good number of PR agencies are doing it.  But, if they are, they are wrong, and they are dragging down the industry.  Modern PR has had an image problem since the beginning when publicists recruited women to promote smoking.  Many reporters don't trust PR people because of a lack of respect for facts.  The public has been taught to be wary of them also.  Yet, the best practitioners are as scrupulous as editors in making sure what is said is verifiable. They gain respect through deeds and not spin.  The Ukrainian agency has chosen the dark side. It deserves to be stopped.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

What's The Problem? 

Amazon is accused of featuring its private label products above those of branded goods.  People are upset.  What's the problem?  Retailers do this all of the time, particularly in grocery stores.  It's a margin play, and it is perfectly acceptable.  However, maybe it isn't online. The rules might be different with a mammoth business that dwarfs all but Walmart.  The regulatory and consumer worlds are still trying to figure out online shopping -- what is allowed and what isn't.  Sooner or later, there will be rules for online vendors to follow.  Right now, there are few, and reputations hang in the balance of accusations whether justified or not.  Amazon only has to fear a perception that it is pulling one over consumers with cheaper, lower quality goods.  It has a defense if its private-label products are as good as or better than competitors.  Maybe that' s the PR strategy it should follow.

Monday, September 16, 2019


Purdue Pharma has declared bankruptcy in the face of billions of dollars of suits over its marketing of Oxycontin.  That won't help the company's or the owners' reputations.  They are stained forever with wanton distribution of the addictive pills.  The Sackler family has been enormously dedicated to giving money to not-for-profits.  Institutions nationwide bear their name.  Now, some of the charities are removing the names or giving the money back.  It will take many years and concentrated PR for the company and the Sacklers to regain a semblance of a good reputation.  And, it doesn't look like the family is concerned about that with recent allegations by the New York State attorney general that they have wired a billion dollars to Swiss bank accounts.  It is a terrible downfall for the company and its employees.  They will now be a trust held by the government, and their profits on the sale of Oxycontin will go to victims and local and state governments to repair the damage done.  

Friday, September 13, 2019

Still Alone 

Astronomers have been publicizing the first exoplanet to have water molecules and the potential for life.  It is exciting news but it is tempered by the fact that the "super earth" is 110 light years away.  Even if we were able to detect carbon forms on its surface, there is no way to communicate at a distance of 110 trillion miles.  Science fiction fans like to dream of a way to rocket through space faster than the speed of light.  Of course, there is no way of doing that.  Such news is actually a reminder that we are alone.  We have one earth to protect and one atmosphere, and there is no place else to go if we wreck it.  Self-sufficient colonies on the moon and Mars are pipe dreams well outside of the technology and logistics of any one nation.  Colonization of space is totally unlike the discovery and settling of new lands on earth.  The vastness of space should be a constant reminder that we need to overcome nationalistic tendencies and the ravaging of the earth, air and water.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

About Time 

News that California will force the NCAA to pay college athletes is long past due.  Exploitation, particularly of basketball and football players, has gone on for decades.  It fostered corruption when alumni paid players under the table or gave them expensive gifts. It distorted the educational system with coaches receiving million-dollar salaries, many times more than professors.  All for the figment of amateur sports.  It was and is a PR scandal, blatant hypocrisy and a constant irritant to young men and women who competed under the amateur rules.  The NCAA will retaliate and might exclude college-age athletes in California from competing.  That would be a burden on the jocks, but it might also be a blessing by forcing them to pay attention to academics rather than grids.  If other states follow suit, as some are trying to do, the NCAA will eventually have to capitulate.  Meanwhile, California is taking the lead and hoping other states will follow.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


Not  long ago this blog commented on a Business Round Table declaration of 200 CEOs that they would serve all stakeholders and not just shareholders.  My opinion stated that the principles were good until an activist shareholder (an institution) took offense.  AT&T is about to find out.  A large institution has taken a position in its stock and is pressing the company to spin off some of its businesses.  It isn't happy with management and would like to replace them too.  Now AT&T's CEO has a choice he might not have envisioned when he inked the principles a few weeks ago.  Does he kowtow to the shareholder or bluff his way through?  His board will be a factor as well.  Are directors eager to pay down the company's huge debt burden or to continue the course?  The CEOs one safety is that the activist institution only has a 1% stake in the corporation and will have difficulties replacing directors, but its call for change is a warning shot, and other stakeholders might have to take a back seat. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Didn't Work 

When is a do-good deed a failure in PR?  When you talk too much about yourself.  Like this.  The Carolina Panthers football team and the Lowe's home improvement retailer combined to provide a 12-year-old a lawn mower so the boy can cut lawns to raise money for college.  Heartwarming, sure, but in a 90-second video about the gift, the focus was all on the Panthers and Lowes.  And, it backfired.  There were critics on the web who said the team and the company could have and should have done more.  Others counted the boy's words and noted that he had the least to say while the Panthers and Lowes hogged the limelight.  There is an old cliche that states "no good deed goes unpunished."  It is relevant here but it didn't need to be.

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