Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Losing the PR Battle 

Amazon.com is slowly but surely losing the PR battle with publisher, Hachette.  Authors, well known and not, have united in protest groups to oppose the company's actions.  Amazon is not listing books from Hachette or not making them available for weeks.  It makes little difference at this point that Amazon's position is a benefit to book buyers.  The noise from the author community is so loud and insistent that Hachette needn't worry.  Where did Amazon go wrong?  By not explaining itself forcefully in the first place.  This was an easy battle for the company to win if the company had only engaged rather than remained silent.  It's not Amazon's style to justify its position in the media.  It might not be too late to respond to its critics but it needs to go big at this point and that isn't what it appears to be doing.  Jeff Bezos is brilliant but in this case he has been ham-handed from the beginning.  One hopes he is not so arrogant that he fails to realize the poor position he is in and how he is compromising the long-term reputation of the company.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Keep 'Em In The Dark 

The world knows about the democracy protests in Hong Kong, but not the people just across the border in mainland China.  There, every mention of people in the streets protesting has been blocked in a modern example of Orwell's 1984.  In the internet age, can China really get away with censoring news?  We're about to find out.  My guess is that there will be leakage but no deluge.  Democracy activists on the mainland will hear about it.  The average Chinese citizen won't.  One wonders how any government can maintain credibility with its people when it behaves as it is doing?  It is perpetuating a cover-up of major proportions.  The answer to that is the throttle that the Chinese have placed on the internet and government controlled news media. The country is becoming a case study for dictators of the present and future who want to keep their citizens in the dark and obedient.   Sooner or later, the truth will come out but China is betting that later will be enough to prevent protests from spreading.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Common Sense 

These nine rules for handling e-mail should be filed under common sense.  Unfortunately, as always, common sense is not common.  I had boiled down e-mail to three points.  1.  Keep it short.  2. Keep it accurate  3. Manage your mail.   There is overlap between my points and his.  Whether you follow nine rules or three, e-mail is the basic medium of business.  It should be treated as such and not abused.   As for brevity, it is an issue with  business school students I teach.  I push them constantly to keep e-mails short and to get the key idea into the first sentence.  Most of them can do that but they feel compelled to ornament their writing with information the other party doesn't need to see or read.  There is a time for explanation but after one has given the key message and not before.  Action-oriented managers learn sooner or later to condense their thinking and to use e-mail for implementation. They know there is less stress when a recipient knows exactly what to do, think, or say.  Examine your use of e-mail and be honest with yourself.  Do you follow the nine rules or the three guidelines?  If not, it is time to start.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


A general has banished a reporter publicly because he doesn't like what she writes.  The newspaper involved is standing by its journalist who will continue to cover the division the general leads.  Not only that, but a higher level military public affairs person has vouched for the reporter in opposition to the general and is seeking to overturn the general's action.  The general doesn't realize the power of the media and is clearly out of his depth when dealing with them.  Somewhere in his training he should have received basic instructions in how to work with reporters.  If so, he forgot them.  His anti-journalist stance is dumb and won't stop the journalist.  It might make her more critical of the division's actions because of the general's boycott.  She won't get insight she needs to understand the unit's operations.  If the general was miffed, he should have taken it up directly with the reporter in an off-the-record session, cleared the air and started over.  My guess is that he will be forced to do that anyway.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hanging Out  

Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper have finally agreed on something -- the sugar calories in soda aren't good for you.  They have committed themselves to reducing the calories by 20 percent by 2025(!).  With such a long lead time, they can nibble at the goal for 10 years.  And, maybe, that is what they have to do to keep consumers from protesting that the taste of their cola has changed.  The important result of this announcement is that the three beverage makers are hanging out in public and open to devastating criticism if they don't do what they have pledged to accomplish. Public pressure has brought them this far.  Now they have to make it the rest of the way.  Reducing sugar and fructose is a risk.  They are going to find out how much consumers want a sweet refreshment and whether consumers can tolerate sugar substitutes in a non-diet cola.  Cutting sugar is the right thing to do but it could prove to be bad for business.  The companies and the public will know in a decade.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fundamental Credibility 

Tesco, the UK grocery chain, is learning the hard way about credibility and reputation.  You can't fake numbers and maintain either.  It is obvious but someone (or a group of executives) did it anyway.  Now the facts are emerging and the company is under stress.  What would possess the executives involved in undertaking such a stupid move?  A desire to protect bonuses?  Fear of revealing bad news that would reflect on their stewardship?  They should have known that the factual numbers would eventually come out and they would have explaining to do.  It is possible in the internet age to hide but not for long.  Someone will discover discrepancies soon enough.  The managers thought they could insulate themselves from the world within their corporate walls.  They know now that they can't.  Tesco has months, maybe years, to regain its credibility and reputation because of a fundamental transgression against transparency.  It is a case study and a reminder to other executives who might be considering similar tactics.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fried Motherboard 

Those who reach this blog through the web page, online-pr.com, were legitimately confused during the last week.  The date did not change from Sept. 12. That was because I was dealing with a fricasseed motherboard on my home computer from which I reach my web site.  A dead machine is never pretty, and this one died slowly enough that it confused me for days.  First, the USB ports started sputtering -- not working some of the time then springing to life at others.  Then they stopped altogether but for one and I was in the position of using the keyboard without the mouse or the mouse without the keyboard.  Still thinking it was a software problem, I had a tech come by and look at it.  His diagnosis -- hardware failure.  Thinking it might be solved remotely, I called the maker of the machine, Dell. No luck there either.  So, hundreds of dollars later, I've got a new motherboard in the machine, and shortly, a new video card.  It might have been cheaper to get a new desktop, but for gigabytes of data on the hard drive --most of which had been backed up, but not all.  This is the first machine that has died on me in decades of computing.  With luck, it will be the last.

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