Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Congress passes a law that requires companies to recognize taxation of some health care benefits. Companies take accounting write-down as they are supposed to do under Generally Accepted Accounting Practice. Congressman gets upset and threatens to haul companies before Congress to explain their egregious behavior. This would be funny if it weren't true, but it is, apparently. It is a comedy of error and unintended consequences, but it threatens the reputations of the companies involved, and it is a PR headache. Now these companies need to explain Accounting 101 to Congress under the glare of lights and cameras. This is one more reason why the need for PR will never go away.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
There are times when frustration overcomes one, and the tendency is to insult another. It is a poor PR move, especially when the insult is directed at millions of individuals. Even if the statement is true, it is usually an ineffective way to get people to listen by calling them dumb, slow-moving and inept. I've been guilty of it and regretted it almost immediately. There are times when one sees clearly what the answer is and is flummoxed when no one else does. The temptation is to say that it is obvious, but even that statement implies others are stupid. It must be hard for the brilliant mind to deal with society at large. Perhaps PR is best accomplished by not-so-great minds with better sensitivity.
Monday, March 29, 2010
If this fellow is right about the fate of journalism schools, then PR programs should be trembling as well. His point is that experts in various fields will become the new journalists and not those taught to report "he-said-she-said" journalism. In PR, the same holds true. Those who are the most valuable come out of fields they represent. They are experts first and communicators second. I've long been skeptical about PR as an academic curriculum. The advent of new media increases that skepticism. On the other hand, if professors of public relations and communications are able to adapt to the new environment, they might bring some value to the field and future practitioners. That's a big "if", however.
Friday, March 26, 2010
How does a religion win its reputation back when it is the subject of daily scandal headlines? This is the challenge facing the Roman Catholic Church. Even the most charitable person would have to conclude that for decades the Church was inattentive to abusers in its priestly ranks, or it thought that it could cure them. Now it has to deal with those cases of neglect and there is little that the Church can say in its defense. It is particularly hard for an institution that sets itself up as a model for living and whose members are supposed to set themselves apart from the evil of the world. Perhaps the hardest task for the Church now is to keep its flock intact, especially since it appears that the hierarchy is guilty of the worst form of hypocrisy. The Church will survive this period but it might be smaller as a result. That is a pity, but the wound was self-inflicted.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Here is an interesting example of community relations from a university. One can't help but wonder, however, if it is a gift that will be ignored because the receivers won't know what to do with it. Even heavy users of the internet might not have a use for one gigabit per second internet speed. The kinds of applications the university wants to test in the community would seem to be lightweight for such a fast fiber connection. Still, it shows concern on the part of the university to raise the standard of living of the neighborhoods about it. That is worth something.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
As this article indicates, there will be medical rationing under the new healthcare reform bill. That rationing will come from the government but it will also come from insurance companies pressured by the government to keep returns within narrow brackets. This will force insurance companies to become leaner and to pressure doctors and hospitals to cut rates and procedures. One can already forecast the PR problems that will cause for the healthcare industry. The problems won't be felt right away because the bill phases in over a number of years, but they will emerge. Young PR practitioners might start thinking about the healthcare industry today.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Google's move yesterday to redirect its Chinese searches to Hong Kong was daring and a fulfillment of its threat to leave China's censorship. From a PR perspective, it was brilliant. From a business perspective, it is dangerous because China can easily block its Hong Kong address and probably will. That will leave Google shut out of the fastest growth internet country in the world. However, in one move Google let the Chinese know that it is against censorship of its searches and for that reason, made its service all the more desirable. Google kept its trust with the public rather than buckle under to the government's restrictions. It is a daring and fine example of guarding pubic relationships and a case study of how to act.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Whether you agree or disagree with the health care bill, it is a case study in persuasion --how to mishandle it and finally how to handle it correctly. The year it took to get the bill passed probably could have been telescoped by months had the White House been more involved in the beginning. But, to the President's credit, when he did turn his complete attention to the bill, he and the House leaders got it through. Someone will write the detailed history of how the bill was finally passed last night. I will be interested to read it. It will be a complex story but an example of the persuasion it takes to get major legislation enacted. Still, it strikes me that if Lyndon Johnson had been around, it would not have taken so long.
Friday, March 19, 2010
This discussion of the economics of online news is uncomfortable but necessary reading. Essentially, the news industry is no closer to finding a workable business model than it was last year or the year before. It is not that publishers are dumb. The cliff to climb is a reluctance of online news readers to pay for news and the inability of publishers to make up for it in advertising. It is a double whammy for the industry at a time when mainstream media are losing subscribers and viewers. Another nail through the heart of the news industry is a lack of loyalty among online readers. Few have a habit of going to one site for their news. They graze across multiple sites and use aggregators like Google. So, how does one make money from people who won't pay, aren't loyal and insufficient advertising? Meanwhile, PR and marketing practitioners are abandoning news publishers for direct approaches to target audiences. It all adds up to a continuation of a perfect storm for the industry and the eventual disappearance of some mainstream media. Eventually someone somewhere will find a viable economic model but it may be too late for most of the industry.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Privacy is an interesting issue in the internet era. We lose it willingly when we surf the internet, shop online, play games, etc. Yet, we don't want others to take advantage of us. As this article discusses, even if we are vigilant about privacy, we're giving it away. This is a relationship issue with the public that won't disappear, especially in relation to marketing to others. What can be done about it from the PR perspective? We can be reminders to marketing and senior management that people want their information respected. Most companies appear to understand this today, but there is constant erosion that one needs to worry about. We'll use this data today, then that other data tomorrow. Soon one is profiling each customer across the web. At some point, there will be more restrictive legislation about privacy, but it would be better if companies acted on their own before they are legally required to do so.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
What do you do for a quasi-government entity that has lost its purpose for existence? This is the knotty problem facing the US Postal Service. Year by year it carries less mail and faces larger losses because everything but catalogs is moving online. Imagine, if you will, that you are a PR practitioner working for the post office. What do you say? How do you convince people to use a service that is the same as a buggy whip maker in the age of automobiles? Lately the post office has been featuring parcel post with flat rates for shipping standard-size boxes less than 70 pounds in weight. That seems to be working but can it offset the collapse of first class mail? The postal service is forecasting billions in losses over the next few years, and it is planning to suspend Saturday service to cut costs. That won't be enough either. The public has decided to sever its relationship with mail carriers, and there is little anyone can do about it.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Mexico used to be a place people wanted to visit. Not anymore. Not with flagrant murders of consulates and others. Now there are cities through which one dare not pass and sections of the country that are risky to traverse. Mexico realizes its reputation has been deeply wounded, but it hasn't been able to stop the drug lords and murders. It will take years to clean out the bandits and in that time, both citizenry and outsiders will suffer. One wonders how it got this far and the answer appears to be corruption that allow the gangs to embed themselves in the first place. It is reminiscent of the gangs of the 1920s and 1930s in the US that controlled cities and booze distribution during Prohibition. It took a somewhat ruthless FBI to stop them. In Mexico, it is taking the army to make progress, but there is a long way to go. What will it take to get the country's good reputation back?
Monday, March 15, 2010
With shrinking in the mainstream media, PR practitioners who relied on journalists to get messages out are now faced with going directly to target audiences. This raises several issues of the function of mainstream media and the tasks that PR takes over. This essay discusses both and points out that PR has undertaken a significant burden when it chooses to go directly to target audiences. There are issues of credibility, content choice, frequency and distribution -- all of which need to be solved if a medium is to be effective. However, the practitioner may have little chioice but to tackle these questions if there are fewer third-party gatekeepers to approach.
The essay is the 109th posted on online-pr.com.
The essay is the 109th posted on online-pr.com.
Friday, March 12, 2010
PR practitioners have enough to worry about in crises, but here is another headache -- people taking video of a dying workers and posting it on YouTube. It is an invasion of privacy that is becoming more common, now that camera phones are ubiquitous. It is likely that the individuals who take the shots aren't thinking about the insensitivity of what they are doing or of the grief families will endure. It is not clear whether there is any kind of policy that would prevent employees from doing this other than common sense. What it does mean, however, is that PR practitioners need to monitor YouTube after a tragic incident to see whether videos of it have been posted, and they may need to take steps to have the videos taken down. There is a point between free speech and personal privacy that should be crossed with trepidation. All I know is that if something fatal happened to me, I would not want my wife and daughter to relive it online.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
The US is pulling back from Haiti and reducing the number of military on the ground and the sea. The Haitians are critical of that step. They need help. On the other hand, if the US stays too long, the Haitians will be uncomfortable that the US is acting like an imperial power. What is the US to do other than what the President has done -- assuring Haitians they will not be abandoned but continuing to remove the troops anyway? Haiti is a nation that needs rebuilding from the ground up. The US could do that but it would take decades, and there would be no assurance of success. Nation building is messy. The US could allow Haiti to remain in its morass of corruption and poverty on the assumption that the people of Haiti must decide to lift themselves. There is no reason to believe this will happen either. From a relationship perspective, Haiti is a dilemma. It can't help itself: On the other hand, it resents intrusion. Sometimes you can't win.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Here is an excellent summary of the problems facing newspapers, and wouldn't you know, it's from Google. The only problem with the article is its advice to newspapers -- "experiment, experiment, experiment." Newspapers have been experimenting and so far, few have found an economic answer to their problems of declining circulation and advertising. Many are locked into a death spiral from which they can't escape. It has happened before in business. It will happen again.
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
This is the second story I've read about green power in recent days. It demonstrates that in a democracy nothing is free, not even wind. Green power advocates need lobbying and public relations programs to ensure that they can continue to deploy wind generators. It is interesting that multiple arguments are being advanced against wind -- the availability of power lines, "Buy American," unfair competition against gas generators. When wind power was small, there were few arguments against it. Now that it is a significant player in states like Texas, there are cries of foul. There is a lesson here for practitioners -- even when you are doing good, you have to protect relationships. Someone will always complain.
Monday, March 08, 2010
AIG, once the powerhouse of global insurance firms, continues to shrink. One wonders what the firm is doing to reestablish its relationships with the public other than trying to repay loans from the government. It appears certain that the firm will never again be what it once was -- a fearsome competitor, unstoppable and implacable -- all characteristics of its former CEO. One doesn't need a long memory to recall when reporters feared writing about the company because of what the company might do to their reputations. There was no love between Maurice “Hank” Greenberg and the press. AIG today is more than a shadow but less than a mountain. The company is a reminder that reputations are lost easily in business and are hard to win back.
Friday, March 05, 2010
Some PR techniques are gold-plated. They work every time one uses them. Here's one -- the concept car. Porsche has been a master of this game for decades and judging by the drooling prose of the writer, it has scored again. The car is cool to view and its performance characteristics are stunning. No wonder the writer is breathless. I'm awed too.
Thursday, March 04, 2010
Communications practitioners who work in offices become alienated -- estranged from what a company or client makes, ships and sells. This was brought home to me yesterday while touring a plant. It was humbling. The factory is 80 acres under one roof, thousands of machines, hundreds of workers and coordinated systems that take flat, gray steel and black pipe and turn it into two-story products. The noise was deafening but the power was awesome. As I told the tour guide, I could spend weeks wandering the plant just to learn what was going on in each department. This was just one of many factories the client has -- all producing machines sold around the world. Sitting in an office in midtown Manhattan, I had no feel for the industrial might I was representing to journalists, and the journalists, for the most part, don't understand it either. Perhaps, the best PR practitioners are those who have started near a shop floor and return to it regularly to get grounded in what companies do. At least they have a more realistic view of industry.
Monday, March 01, 2010
I'll be on the road for a good part of this week.