Friday, January 18, 2019
Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, is making bold pronouncements about his company. One wonders if he has gone too far in consigning competitors like Disney to the margins. There is confidence and there is hubris. It might be hard to tell the two apart. Overall, it is smarter to maintain a sense of caution when communicating about the future. No one knows what will happen and the best plans get derailed. That is not to say Netflix is in a weak position. It isn't, but even the strongest companies can run into walls they didn't anticipate. Think of General Electric. Think of Sears. Think of Enron. It is best to remember that human planning and foresight are limited. We can't anticipate everything, and even if we did, there isn't much we can do about most of it. A CEO can be full of himself and make the work of communicators difficult. They know, or should know, the vagaries of life, and they should proceed with respect. When their boss ignores the future, there is a heightened chance of disaster.
Thursday, January 17, 2019
TV commentators, especially, should be accurate about what they say. Otherwise, this might happen. An African-American analyst for CNN accused her radio host of having white privilege when her unseen interrogator is black himself. It was an embarrassing moment, and there was nothing she could do to backtrack. The host took the opportunity to scold her for making assumptions and then emphasized his point about the need for qualifications to rise in the business. That doesn't mean the CNN analyst was completely wrong about the point she was making but she destroyed its impact and looked stupid as a result. The situation would not have happened if someone had just looked up the host before going on the air with him. No one did. In PR, someone could get fired for a mistake like that.
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
PG&E Corp, a California utility, will shortly file for bankruptcy and might be trapped by global warming. Long-running drought in the state has dried brush and trees along its power lines to the point of tinder. Any sparking from its poles ignites vegetation immediately and causes a wildfire. The company already is being sued for the Camp Fire that burned an entire town and caused a loss of life even though authorities have not yet assigned a cause for the blaze. The CEO has stepped down, and the state has said it won't indemnify the company, which is facing $30 billion in penalties. There is little PG&E can do to get out from under its burden. Clearing trees and brush from around its lines would take years and is an expensive never-ending job. Investors have already largely abandoned the company. There are no messages of comfort for them. It is like a butterfly pierced with a pin pushed into a cork board. It can flap its wings but it isn't going anywhere. Its only salvation is that customers need electricity and gas and someone needs to deliver them.
Tuesday, January 15, 2019
Android cell phone users sometimes wonder why they can't have right away the most recent version of the software. The reason is that it must be matched and tested in multiple steps before it can be released in new phones. This graphic explains the process in a creative and fun way. It makes a technical process transparent and understandable. It also burnishes the reputation of Nokia by showing the care the company takes to get things right. It is smart PR and one hopes we can see more of it in the future.
Monday, January 14, 2019
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island has reacted in the only way it can to an embarrassment. It stripped Nobelist James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA, of all of his titles. Watson continues to believe and speak out on a non-scientific relationship between DNA and IQ. He says Africans are inferior as a result. It is a racist opinion coming from a person who ought to know better. The faulty logic is not comprehensible in a person of such stature, but he is definite about his thinking. From a PR perspective, Cold Spring Harbor has done all that it can do by disavowing the ideas and taking punitive measures. The distance between the organization and the individual should be enough in time to preserve its reputation. One is left to wonder how an eminent scientist can take such a wrong turn and persist in it.
Friday, January 11, 2019
Tiffany is practicing smart PR with its pledge to be transparent about the source and preparation of its diamonds. The company understands that its customers don't want to be associated with mines where workers are exploited or from countries where there is strife. So, it is telling everything it can about them and in the process, it is burnishing its image. One wonders why more purveyors of the precious stone haven't done the same. Perhaps they will now that Tiffany has shown leadership. In retrospect, it seems an obvious move, but many good marketing/PR actions seem that way. If it was so apparent, why didn't anyone else think of it a long time ago?
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cattlemen are upset by a new wave of vegetable substitutes for meat, and well they should be. The plant-based food is getting better all of the time and now is nearly indistinguishable from meat. Ranchers are banding together to lobby state legislatures to require labeling laws. They want meat from cattle clearly marked and vegetable-based products assigned a status that is something else. They don't like the competition. It is inevitable, however, that foods like the Impossible Burger 2.0 will cut into red meat consumption. It is better for you. Stock-growers aren't taking the challenge lying down. They have mounted marketing campaigns to tout the quality and taste of red meat, and they are trying to persuade American consumers to put more of it on the table. It used to be their foe was chicken and to some degree pork. They are hemmed in on all sides now. It will be interesting to see what they do to survive.