Wednesday, May 22, 2013
I will be away until next week. Have a happy Memorial Day.
Tesla, the electric vehicle company, has a PR headache. It seems car dealers are protesting Tesla's desire to sell directly to the public. Dealers are organized, and they have political power. How do I know this? Porsche tried to do the same in the mid-1980s and enraged its dealers who were instrumental in passing laws against the company and in suing it. Porsche quickly gave up its plans while my agency worked to overcome the PR damage the German sports car maker had caused. There is no reason why Tesla should be barred from selling directly other than the tradition of dealers coming between the manufacturer and its customers. That is the way the auto business started over a hundred years ago, and it is the way it continues. Should a company be allowed to shatter precedent? Yes, but it needs market power to do that and when even majors are scared to take on their dealers, one fears for Tesla's efforts. For all that, I wish the company well in handling the PR and legal fallout from its efforts. If it should succeed, it will show a way forward that other auto companies have been too timid to take.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
There is one more argument between Israelis and Palestinians -- who shot a 12-year-old boy, Mohammed al-Dura. There is video of the incident but no smoking gun. Israelis say there is no proof. Palestinians point to the firefight as evidence that it was Israeli bullets. What one believes is in the eye of the beholder. If you trust Israelis, you accept the argument that there is no proof. If you trust Palestinians, it is the opposite. There never will be a definitive answer, but there is and will be passion on both sides. With an increase of video surveillance in society, there will be more of these moments when the camera neither lies nor tells the truth but poses a conundrum. PR practitioners are well versed in the power of the image, but even they cannot make strong cases from incidents like the death of Mohammed al-Dura.
Monday, May 20, 2013
How do you sell an island that was the national quarantine center for infectious animal diseases? Carefully, very carefully. Can you imagine a householder paying a large sum to buy two acres and a sumptuous house on land where one is never quite sure if another virus or microbe outbreak might occur? All the assurances of authorities that the island is safe will have a "but" floating in the air. It might take years for people to forget that Plum Island was shut off from the rest of the world because animal maladies there were so serious and contagious. And, who knows if any of them could jump to humans? Authorities have an interesting PR challenge with the 843-acre dot on the end of Long Island. Perhaps their best bet is to turn it into a sanctuary and to restrict access until memories fade. The island today might be completely safe, but then again...
Friday, May 17, 2013
The attorney general of the US is the latest boss to say he didn't know what was happening in his own department. Maybe he didn't but it is a poor excuse. A boss is supposed to know what is happening, and if he is surprised, he is also supposed to take responsibility rather than ducking. Courts take a dim view of executives in the docket who plead ignorance. Inevitably there is a smoking e-mail or memo somewhere that shows the boss he was informed. He failed to grasp the significance of what was written. My guess is that the same holds true for Eric Holder, Jr., but he is trying to lawyer his way out of the spotlight and fire. It is understandable that he doesn't want to stand up. The media are furious that the government would snoop into their phone records. Holder's defense of those who took the action doesn't make it any less of a PR gaffe. The media believe they are set apart and they react badly whenever they learn they aren't.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
The former Catholic Cardinal of Scotland is leaving the country to perform penance and reflect on his past behavior. He stepped down after it was revealed he had made inappropriate advances to fellow priests. A PR counselor would tell him to remain out of the country. There is little he can do to restore his reputation. His power is gone and unlikely to return. He is an embarrassment to the Church in Scotland by his presence. Roman Catholics believe in forgiveness but that doesn't mean one should get his old job back or remain on the scene. Scripture relates that Jesus forgave Peter's denials of Jesus and handed him the keys to the Church. The modern day is not so tolerant, particularly when a religious figure embodies criticism for how society behaves. Critics are only too ready to charge hypocrisy if an errant priest remains in power. The former cardinal can perform good works and demonstrate repentance in the time he has left on this earth. And, he might return to grace by doing so, but not as a cardinal and not in Scotland.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Here is another worry for PR practitioners and marketers -- a phone app that allows one to determine if a company or individual is behind a product. One can envision a time in the not too distant future where a protest group organizes a national grassroots campaign through use of the app. The only safety for targeted companies and individuals is that most people might not care enough to scan products in their shopping carts. In other words, apathy might be the best protection. Still, practitioners cannot discount the rise of such mobile tools. Say there is a scare about genetically modified foods. People would use an app like this in the store, and it would be a major issue for producers and retailers. It is less likely, however, that millions would shun a product because the Koch brothers are behind it. Still, the more tools developed for individual expression, the greater the likelihood that people will eventually use them.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
The quickest way to lose the support of the media is to investigate them to find their sources. The Justice Department has poked the bear with its seizure of phone records of Associated Press journalists. To call the move dumb would be to dignify it. The media have treated the Obama administration well to this point. There is a good chance that they won't from now on. This revelation comes just a couple of days after the IRS admitted it investigated conservative organizations to see if they should maintain their not-for-profit status and during the Benghazi free-for-all that Republicans are trumping up in Congress. The President should ask himself how many investigations of his administration he wants to have running at the same time. From a PR perspective, the Obama administration is squandering the good will it gained from winning the election last November. It is about as bad as the previous President who thought he had political capital to spend after his second election only to blow it away in a year.