Friday, August 29, 2008


This article demonstrates again that the worst abuses of power come from government. Yet, the perception is that "bad" equals business and "good" equals the state. It is an assumption that is part of American DNA. It is true that business left uncontrolled will swiftly turn to suspect behavior but business in the US is hamstrung by regulation. Unfortunately, regulators are not held to the same standard and by wrapping themselves in the flag, they get away with more. As a corporate communicator, I've watched this misperception and have seen reputations ruined.

There are rogue companies but there are rogue prosecutors as well. Human nature doesn't change when one joins the ranks of civil servants. The sad part of this affair is that individuals who probably should have gone to trial are now set free because prosecutors abused the system.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


This article highlights a behavior that PR practitioners should engage in constantly. It is the skill of observation -- noticing what is around one. The article points out that one needs to train the senses to observe well. Noticing is not natural. Humans fall into patterns that are hard to break. Yet, the little things that happen around us day to day -- the way people dress and walk and talk -- can provide clues to changes that might otherwise be missed.

I, for one, am often in a fog on the way to and from work. Noticing is a skill I need to practice.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


If there is ever doubt about the primacy of face-to-face communications, look at a party convention. There is little news coming out of the Democratic gathering in Denver. Everyone knows the candidates. Ratification could as easily be phoned in -- or e-mailed. Yet, the party faithful have gathered to listen to hours of oratory, much of it banal and some of it exciting. Conventions long ago lost their original purpose of nominee selection. They have been turned into camp meetings for the faithful to get them charged up and working to support already chosen candidates.

There is little wonder that US TV networks have abandoned full coverage of conventions. They are boring to outsiders who are not politically inclined. And, that includes most of the citizenry. Even re-runs are better than listening to an endless succession of speakers touting the virtues of a candidate.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


This story is sad but true. We visited several national parks and monuments last week and noticed typos in handouts and signs. While we don't expect park rangers to be grammarians, we do wonder if they use a spell checker. There is something disappointing about obvious errors. It is unprofessional and a sign of disrespect for tens of thousands of visitors to historical and archaeological sites. That no one seems to notice is commentary on our education system.

While the young persons who traveled about the country correcting signs were in the wrong, I can understand their desire to get things right. Someone should be checking brochures before 100,000 are printed and signs before they are cast into bronze.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Technophobes and Technophiliacs in PR 

After decades of preaching the need for technology in PR, I've concluded that it is an impossible mission. PR is a big tent that includes technophobes and technophiliacs, a minority. Technophobes use technology when they must, but they don't investigate it nor learn how to adapt it to broader uses. Technophiliacs seek new software and hardware and can fall into using technology for technology's sake rather than advancing client service. This essay discusses both and what you should do as a practitioner. At least one of my colleagues disagrees with its conclusions. I am eager to read your comments.

This is the 83rd essay posted to online-pr.com

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Taking Off 

I am taking off for a few days, and it will be difficult to blog from where I will be. This blog will return by Aug. 26.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

It's Here 

There have been predictions for some time that the next war will be as much a cyber conflict as a shooting one. That is what is happening in Georgia. There are widespread reports of massive Denial of Service attacks against country and government web sites to prevent the government from getting its messages out. The attacks emanated from Russia. While Denial of Service attacks are not new, their use in this way is.

There is nothing to prevent such attacks against any organization anywhere. This is a threat that is beyond PR but can stop communications in its tracks. It is an issue practitioners need to think about because so much of organizations' message distribution today depends on the internet.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Reputation Today 

This article on the fragility of the iPhone was news to me. It wasn't to my daughter. She told me two days ago that 3G iPhones were having trouble, so she didn't want one. For an eighth grader who doesn't read tech publications to know that is scary. It means she and her friends passed around information gained from the internet long before it reached traditional media. If that is happening among the young, what is the future of reputation management? It has entered an era in which the concept of "management" is nearly fictitious. Even with careful online monitoring, companies can hardly move fast enough to respond. So far, Apple's sales haven't been seriously damaged by the problems, but there is at least one girl on the East Coast who won't have anything to do with iPhone.

Monday, August 11, 2008

As The Media Turns 

This kind of article is becoming more frequent about Barack Obama. He is about to take his turn in the harsh media spotlight. The question is whether he can take criticism without losing perspective. From what little I know, he has been less forthcoming with reporters than his opponent, but it hasn't hurt him so far. But, the media will turn. They have their own self-correcting compass. If a candidate is thin-skinned, it will show soon enough, and the media will be merciless in pricking.

This is a hard lesson of media relations that leaders often fail to learn or to remember. They want to become invulnerable, but that never happens. Their response is to try to control the media, but they find the media uncontrollable. Their handlers hew to messages of the day and themes of the week, but somehow other news breaks through. Some leaders stop listening. They consider reporters nothing more than naive hounds baying in the night. But, having done that, they miss critical issues. Others listen too closely and take criticism too personally. It is hard to maintain balance and to view the media as a both an asset and liability.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Big Physics, Big Publicity 

There is something about size that automatically attracts media interest. That is the case here with the Large Hadron Collider. Everything about the proton smasher is huge, and reporters have been breathless in describing its components and the work that has gone into building them. Certainly the machine has potentially major importance in understanding the building blocks of matter and universe, but we haven't heard much about that -- not yet anyway. That story is complicated and will take terabytes of data to tease out of the machine. When it comes, if it comes, reporters will rely on the scientific community to tell them what to write because they won't understand it. They can grasp "big" but not the purpose of the machine.

There are many anomalies where accidentals overshadow ideas. PR needs to counterbalance this tendency by working to remind the media about purpose. It is too easy to miss the point.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Crying Foul 

How often can one condemn a process and still have credibility? It seems forever in government contracting.

Boeing cried foul and won a rebid on the aerial tanker. Now that the Pentagon has re-issued rules for a new bid, it is criticizing the process again. Perhaps Boeing is right, and the Pentagon is trying to force through the original contract. On the other hand, Boeing had better have strong proof of misbehavior or increasingly it will look as if the company is trying to manipulate the bid. Boeing is playing a delicate perception game that requires support from Congressional delegations. So far, it has Congress in its pocket with a "Buy American" strategy. Should Northrop Grumman and EAD lose the bid, the partnership will have a strong case to protest Boeing's interference. It is conceivable the process will start yet again and take years to finish. Meanwhile, the Air Force has a fleet of aging tankers that are past due to be replaced.

It is interesting to observe these contracting wars for the communications strategies they use. On the other hand, one can become cynical quickly -- with good reason.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

When It All Goes Bad... 

When companies run afoul of key audiences, it seems as if one bad thing happens after another. Yahoo has been under the gun for killing a merger with Microsoft. Now, it has to report that its proxy vote counting service miscounted shareholder votes. It wasn't Yahoo's fault, but it happened. It just makes Yahoo and its CEO look worse. There are days when a CEO must ask "Why me?"

Dribble, Dribble 

The worst way to suffer bad publicity is for news to dribble out prolonging the pain. That is what is happening here. For months now, UCLA Medical Center has been under the gun because an employee had peeked at celebrities' medical records. It turns out that not one employee was misbehaving but at least 127 and counting. There was an underground of improper access. Now the Medical Center is thoroughly discredited. The governor is proposing a law to fine hospitals where such improper access happens. It will take years for the Medical Center to live down what happened.

Be happy that you are not the PR person in the middle of this crisis.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


This kind of entry about Barack Obama is a danger to him. It looks as if he is taking on airs and already setting himself apart. If McCain's campaign were decent, they would exploit the imagery of an opponent who has "president" on his airline chair and a cabin configuration fit for a king. Obama's safety thus far has been that McCain is a poor campaigner.

Imagery speaks volumes in PR. One TV story about the Obama's plane could turn thousands of voters away. The question is why Obama is taking the risk. It may project his confidence, but it also could highlight arrogance. McCain is not technically dead yet, but he is falling farther and farther behind. One can understand why Obama might be making assumptions.

Still, this is not a PR risk I would take, but then, I'm not Barack Obama.

Friday, August 01, 2008

What The Heck? 

You may be reading this late because Google's automatic spam blocker has somehow been kicked off and this blog is temporarily blocked as a spam blog. I think I know what the cause might be. I had trouble mounting yesterday's blog but was finally able to get it up.

Now, a human has to look at this blog to determine that it wasn't written by a computer and only then will it let me post again.


Update: Apparently, I was one of hundreds to whom this happened. There is less pain in numbers.

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