Wednesday, September 30, 2009

PR Exercise 

This is an interesting essay on manned space flight. It takes a cold view of sending men back to the moon and calls for more unmanned missions. It is good to remember that the original manned space flights to the moon were a giant PR exercise meant to beat the Russians in space exploration. The Russians at the time President Kennedy made his speech about going to the moon were still in the lead -- but not for much longer. The original moon missions were probably the largest and most expensive PR programs ever undertaken in human history. They did pay for themselves in a roundabout way through new technologies that made their way to the market, but it is questionable whether going back into space for manned flights would yield similar advancement. Time has shown that robotic missions can do the job well enough.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Social Media Fiction 

The idea behind social media is networking and trust but the actuality is that people network with others whom they don't know and hence, cannot trust. This creates two networks within a social medium like Facebook and LinkedIn -- a trusted network of a few people with whom one communicates in a two-way relationship and a larger secondary network of people to whom one might communicate unidirectionally. This paper discusses that distinction and how companies are dealing with it. For the most part, they aren't. They are using social media like just another web page to get messages out.

This is the 105th essay posted on online-pr.com.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Is PR Next? 

This is an interesting and provocative discussion of how the media went astray in serving the public. The question PR practitioners should be asking is, "Are we next?" The author says that reporters lost touch with their communities over decades. These same communities are the targets for many of the messages PR practitioners send. We need to move with our target audiences to the media they are using and the ways they are getting information. This is happening, but are we doing it quickly enough?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Irresponsible Twittering 

I missed this from earlier this week but it shows what can happen when someone with poor judgment tweets a question that starts a wildfire rumor. The worst part is that the irresponsible Tweeter was a member of the media who should know better. When the reporter was proven wrong, he disappeared, probably out of embarrassment. This is a lesson for PR practitioners. When companies are in a delicate position, it doesn't take much to start a panic. In this case, BusinessWeek is up for sale, and it has heavy losses. Almost any rumor could start a cascade of tweeting, which is just what happened. Obviously, there needs to be guidelines for Tweeting, just as there are for blogging or any other online medium, but even with rules, a crisis can blow up in minutes. That is why constant monitoring is essential.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fear Of The New 

This post is interesting and worth citing. It deals with the fear of the new and an anti-technology bias of most humans. It seems every age from the ancient Greeks on has had doubters and "aginners" when it comes to the advancements of writing and publishing technologies. What makes this interesting is personal experience in introducing technology to the PR agency world over 20+ years. Every step of the way was painful. Practitioners didn't have time to learn something new or said it wouldn't be useful in their work or any number of other excuses. Thankfully, that resistance is history. Practitioners today adopt new technologies swiftly -- sometimes too quickly without thinking about the implications. It's good to know that fear of the new is as old as human nature, but that shouldn't be a reason for stopping progress.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

When It All Goes Bad 

There are times in a company's history when it is besieged on all sides and unable to get out of the glare of bad publicity. This is one of those times for Bank of America. Whether or not one feels that the company deserves its troubles, its current problems call for sophisticated crisis PR. B of A's CEO, Ken Lewis, is in a difficult position of trying to guard attorney-client privilege from the House oversight committee at the same time he is battling the SEC, which is trying to impose new sanctions on the company for failing to disclose material information during the acquisition of Merrill Lynch. The irony of the situation is that a great deal of his troubles are not entirely of his own making. Lewis has said he felt pressured by the government to take over Merrill during the financial meltdown late last year. It is too early to guess at the outcome of these crises, but there is a good chance that Lewis won't be around to see them through. Meanwhile, the company slogs on.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Great PR 

I've written about this before but it is worth mentioning again. The Netflix million-dollar prize for a better recommendation algorithm was an example of excellent PR. It tackled a problem the company needs to solve. It involved the worldwide programming community. It generated media interest through the life of the competition. Netflix was by no means the first company to have a competition like this, but it managed the contest well and reaped continuous publicity throughout the length of it. Great PR provides positive results for everyone involved.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tough Position 

One is put into a difficult communications position when the President of the United States asks him not to run for office. That is what has happened to the governor of New York who has declared he is still running. What kind of message does one have to have in light of this? He can't expect help from the White House. He won't get the support of the Democratic party at the state level. Does he run against both parties in an independent campaign, which are usually unsuccessful? One can only imagine what his communications staff is thinking now, but it is a challenge that usually results in failure. It will be interesting to read the themes that the governor adopts for the campaign.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Interesting Challenge 

Here is an interesting PR challenge -- defending High Fructose Corn Syrup against those who would ban it from the food supply. Nutritionists are against it. Customers are increasingly concerned about it and companies are responding by removing it from their foods. What is the likelihood that the Corn Refiners Association can beat back the growing criticism? It is too early to tell, but a multi-billion dollar business is under direct threat and could go away. It is the kind of challenge that would be fun to tackle because the threat and what needs to be done are both clear.

Hype Works 

After all the bubble companies and the bubble economy, one would think that this kind of story would be unlikely -- a billion dollar valuation for a company without material revenue. Unfortunately, hype still works and even smart people are susceptible to it. What is it about human nature that it becomes too easy to lose perspective, especially when money is involved?

Thursday, September 17, 2009


The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee at long last revealed a health care bill yesterday and judging by the sniping from both Republicans and Democrats, it was dead on arrival. Without judging the merits of the plan, it demonstrates just how difficult persuasion can be. Never think that communications are all that are needed to gain support. Persuasion is cajoling as well as threatening and often face-to-face. The White House understands that ringing speeches are not enough, but they apparently haven't yet mastered arm-twisting. When communicators begin to think their job is easy, there are two possibilities. Either they are talking to a friendly audience or they are mistaken. Too often it is the latter.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Visual Lies 

This is disturbing. It proves again that one cannot trust what he thinks he sees or remembers. It is testimony to how difficult accuracy can be and how easy propaganda can convince people that falsehoods are true. If one cannot trust what he thinks he sees nor what he thinks he hears, then finding the facts of anything requires patient investigation and a skeptical mind. Admittedly, this experiment was a carefully planned to bamboozle test subjects, but the fact that it did readily is what should give one pause. We believe too easily what we see or think we see. The cynical communicator would use this to advantage. The honest one won't.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


CNN, the 24-hour news channel, is being excoriated for making a mistake late last week about a Coast Guard training exercise in the Potomac River. It seems that CNN let the basics of reporting slip. In its rush to report news, it failed to find out whether a police scanner report was right or not. CNN's failure is a reminder to everyone that no matter how interconnected we become, the basics of news reporting still apply. These can be summed in three words, "Accuracy. Accuracy. Accuracy." Nothing substitutes for getting facts right in the first place. The network is red-faced about its error -- and should be. PR practitioners should use CNN's error as an occasion for a bit of self-examination. How accurate have we been in reporting or have we allowed a "creative" use of facts to creep into news releases and story pitches?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Anything For Ink 

This publicity campaign follows the principle that anything one does to get coverage is good. It hearkens back to the early days of PR and publicity stunts. The question asked in the article is whether it is the best or worst way to gain attention for a new electronic game. Predictably, the company has been condemned for its ill-mannered stunts, but even the condemnations are good in the company's eyes because people are talking about it. If one is that desperate for coverage, there is always a way to get reporters to write -- commit a felony in public. Seriously, there should be limits, but for some companies and their publicity agents, there are none. Does it give publicity a bad name? Of course. But, we live in a country with Free Speech and if someone wants to act like a horse's arse in order to get attention, he can. That seems to be what is happening here.

Friday, September 11, 2009


This is an example of NASA PR. It worked too since hundreds of media carried the Hubble telescope images. It almost makes one forget that NASA didn't want to fix the telescope and wanted to burn it in the atmosphere to get rid of it. It took the badgering of thousands of scientists to convince NASA to make one final trip to Hubble in order to refit it. No matter now. Hubble is producing beautiful astronomy, and NASA is showing it off to the agency's advantage. It takes a strong sense of self-preservation to turn a negative into a positive.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Good Speech 

President Obama's speech to the nation last night was a model for speechwriters to study. It was clear, pointed, simple and rebutted its critics. It reset the agenda for the healthcare bill and brushed away rumors, falsehoods and fears. As two commentators said, it was probably the best speech he has given since he became President.

Now the hard part. Did he convince the American public that health care reform must be done now, or will meaningful reform fail to pass once again?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Perception Is Reality 

Perception is reality at the biological level with the placebo effect. It is interesting that placebos apparently are getting stronger even though their ingredients are inert. The mind that believes it is getting medicine can cure itself. Perception also is reality in the neuroscience of decision making and judgement. Pure reason without emotion leads one into a wilderness of possible outcomes without an ability to make a decision. We say in PR that perception is reality, but do we understand how deep that insight goes into human nature?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


This essay looks at Facebook and whether a company should be there. One doesn't have to put up a Facebook page, contrary to enthusiasts. It is a question of audiences and what one does with the page. A cursory survey of companies on Facebook showed that some have active sites, some dead sites and others have pages that they didn't put up. Their friends and fans have done it for them. This raises the question of whether a company is forced to manage its brand, even if the friends and fans are not its target audiences for goods and services.

Facebook is still a bit like the Wild West. It will settle in time. Meanwhile, PR practitioners need to monitor it and at least to track what is being said about their organizations.

The essay is the 104th posted on online-pr.com.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Labor Day Chore 

Labor Day is a time of rest but there is one chore worth doing over the three-day weekend -- cleaning your essential tool in PR, the computer.

At work, we have a technician who regularly disposes of junk internet files, cookies and other useless stuff. At home, computers becoming more and more clogged and slower by the month.

My home computer was dragging badly. I determined to clean and optimize it. An unfortunate problem was lack of hard drive space to do so. In order to defragment a hard drive, one needs at least 10 percent of the space left. I had less than that, but I tried anyway. The computer ground away for 24 hours and achieved only 17 percent defragmentation. Obviously, there needed to be a thorough file cleaning. The culprit, it turned out, was leftover files from my daughter's iTunes. She has her own computer now but failed to remove her songs from mine. So, I cleaned the hard drive again and shifted files here and there to gain another 10 gigabytes of space. With that, it took the computer less than an hour to complete defragmentation. The machine is zipping along now as it should have been doing all along.

Do yourself a favor. Do a Fall cleaning on your computer(s). You will be happy that you did.

Friday, September 04, 2009


Media experiments like this will affect PR sooner rather than later, especially since users are mixing media. My daughter, for example, watches old TV shows on her laptop frequently while sitting in front of the TV set at the same time. PR must learn how to compete with the media melange if it is to get messages through to target audiences.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Bad PR 

Here is a case of bad PR. Months late and poor in excuse, the Securities and Exchange Commission explains why it missed the Madoff fraud. The excuse? Incompetence. Or, in other words, "we're not crooked, just stupid." That hardly builds confidence in the agency that is supposed to be watching out for investors. On the other hand, what else could the agency say?

Good PR 

Here is a case of good PR. Google had an outage of its G Mail system and explained what had gone wrong in terms any layperson can understand. That is not always easy to do, but the company works at transparency with its users and in keeping them happy.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Happy Anniversary 

Today is the 40th anniversary of the invention of the internet -- an event that changed communications the world over. Everything we do now is different because of the development of data packets that could travel over any number of routes from computer to computer. It is worth noting that the internet was a Cold War invention -- a way for communications to survive in the event of a nuclear attack. The inventors couldn't have foreseen the growth that would occur and indeed, for the first 25 years of the internet's life, it was confined to universities until the invention of the web protocol that runs on top of it. Take a moment to consider what PR was like before the internet became an essential tool. Think paper -- lots of it -- and inefficiency. PR departments were little better than mailing houses. Public relations is better, faster and less expensive today because of the internet. That is worth remembering.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Bulling Through 

Two politicians in trouble are attempting a coup de main. One has "discovered" that he forgot to report more than a million dollars of earnings. The other is embroiled in the scandal of an extramarital affair. Both are defying calls to step down. It will be interesting to see if they can get away with their sins in office. Politicians who have committed lesser offenses have gone quietly. These two have determined that they will maintain their grip on power and apparently, use any means to do so. Is this a case where public relations has broken down in the face of obdurateness? It would appear so. There are times when individuals and organizations can bull through public opinion and survive -- and even thrive. One can claim, however, that effect of public opinion has only been deferred and sooner or later, it will catch up with those who go against it. Maybe so, but in the meantime they continue to wield power and the public's sentiment is denied.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?