Monday, January 31, 2011

Fortune 100 And Twitter 

Continuing with a series of studies in how large corporations use social media, here is an analysis of  how the Fortune 100 use Twitter.  The table for the study is here.  The use of Twitter is not as developed as that for Facebook.  The study uses several measures to show why this is so.  Read it and let me know what you think.  A point for PR practitioners to consider... Since Twitter is still developing as a tool, it is time now for PR to assert itself in showing how to use the medium creatively and effectively.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Lesson Too Late 

The former head of Washington DC's public school system is a convert to communications.  That comes after a devastating defeat of her boss, the former mayor.  It is interesting that she was appointed to transform the school system without training in how to communicate the changes she was making.  She created enemies and wasn't aware of it.  Parents were angered by her reforms, and she became a lightning rod that helped defeat the mayor.  She is back now in a consulting role to politicians about education reform, and she says she has learned her lesson.  It might have been better had her education in politics been sooner.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Social Media And Revolution 

Tunisia and now Egypt have learned the power of social media in forming and launching demonstrations against the government.  Reports are circulating that Egypt has blocked both Facebook and Twitter.  That hasn't stopped citizens from rising up, however.  There is a lesson here for PR practitioners.  Whatever can be done to governments also can be aimed at corporations.  Activists know how to use social media well.  Look for boycotts and demonstrations against companies to be organized in the same way.  This means, of course, there is even more reason for constant monitoring of social media.  The work of a PR practitioner has become more difficult as communication has become democratic.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Emerging PR Problem? 

After a successful State of the Union Speech last night, the President probably doesn't want to see this news.  Yet, it is important since housing is one of the key investments consumers make.  Should the housing market take a double dip, the economy won't continue to climb and consumer confidence will plunge again. Knowing this, what does the President do from a communications perspective?  What messages does he fashion and how does he deliver them?  He has said that he wants to more money in consumers' pockets, but if consumers elect not to spend, what good is that?  Housing could be a PR problem for the President that is emerging again just when he has reason to hope about the economy.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fortune 100 and Facebook 

In 2009, I took a random sample of the Fortune 100 corporations and examined how they were using Facebook.  I've just completed an update of that survey, which is here with a table that is here.  The conclusion of the new survey is that corporations are using Facebook better than in the past but they have a way to go to develop the potential of the social medium.  The study also examines one particular site that has developed its Facebook offering well as a guide for PR practitioners and marketers.  

Monday, January 24, 2011

So Much For Hype 

The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the New York Jets in the AFC Championship game last night.  You know that.  What you might not have been aware of was the unrelenting hype about the game over the last week in New York.  Newspapers, radio, TV, blogs, twitters were chattering madly about the game and the Jets's coming success.  Merchandise was flying from stores and street hawkers.  There were rallies and demonstrations of support.  It was a delirious tizzy until it came to end.  Although the score seemed close it wasn't.  The Steelers had buried the Jets by the half and hung on to win it.  There is a lesson there about celebrating too early but no one will learn it.  It is always this way and always will be.  The hype was tiring, and it raised a sense of foreboding about the game.  From a PR point of view, it is better to be understated than to pick up shattered pieces and try to explain failure.  

Now, get ready for the hype about the Super Bowl.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Same Words, Different Meaning 

This is something PR practitioners are familiar with --the use of a common phrase but a different interpretation of its meaning.  For the Chinese, human rights are not the same as they are for the Western world.  While we value Free Speech and a right to dissent, the Chinese don't.  They see it as treason.  One has the right to speak but not against the state. The Chinese value the rights of individuals to a job, enough to eat and a chance to advance.  They are making themselves into a world power through elevating the prospects of their citizens.  However, there is a point beyond economic prosperity that one may not go.  The Party is in power and will remain so for as long as Chinese leadership can survive.  It is understandable that China's leaders think this way.  They know the hardships brought on by political controversy.  They don't want to see it again.  So, while the US can talk of the need for human rights, the Chinese can focus on their version of it and resent America's preaching.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Need For Massive PR 

What do you do when there is a chance that you can cut off a million customers?  This is the challenge that Yahoo faces as it upgrades its system to the more robust form of the internet - IPv6.  The company estimates that at least a million users of its system will suddenly find themselves unable to access it because their home systems and networks are configured wrongly.  The problem, of course, is that neither Yahoo nor the home user will know that a system is in jeopardy until the switch occurs.  Yahoo is taking the right action technologically by making the switch.  The world has about run out of addresses for the original protocol -- IPv4.  It is just that no change as large as this can be clean.  One hopes that Yahoo has a massive communications campaign in the works that starts months before the change and continues until months after.  It will need all that and more.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Strained Credibility 

Boeing has pushed back delivery of its Dreamliner again.  The plane is three years overdue and billions are riding on its successful production.  The program has been a disaster for the company.  Everything that could go wrong did.  Its new methods of construction, its use of widely distributed suppliers and its employment of different materials all combined for a failure of historic proportions.  Perhaps the worst outcome is to Boeing's credibility as a plane developer and builder.  It is unlikely that the world's airlines will trust Boeing for a long time to come, and Boeing needs their support to develop new airframes in order to compete.  The Dreamliner program is a case study in damaging customer relationships and chewing up managers one after another who have been sent to rescue it.  It is a public relations nightmare.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Maybe This Time 

Steve Jobs of Apple is taking another medical leave but not giving up his post as CEO.  The last time he did this, he did not tell anyone why he had stepped away, and he had a liver transplant -- a serious and life-threatening operation.  He owed at least investors an explanation for his absence. Jobs is so closely identified with the success of Apple that his departure would affect it deeply.  His physical condition is a material consideration for investors.  Maybe this time he will keep people apprised of his condition, but I wouldn't bet on it.  I wondered last time and probably will again this time why the Securities and Exchange Commission hasn't investigated his failure to divulge publicly how he is doing.  I wouldn't be surprised if Apple's shares fall today.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Fortune 100 And LinkedIn.com 

LinkedIn advertises itself as the professional's social network, and millions use it.  Companies are present as well.  In fact, the entire sample of the Fortune 100 in a study I just completed was on LinkedIn.  That doesn't mean that the corporations are using LinkedIn well.  For the most part, they are present but that is all.  This provides an opportunity for PR practitioners to develop LinkedIn as a communications vehicle to reach both internal audiences and related professionals.  The work involved is minimal but the chance to reach important audience segments is large.  Read the study, and decide for yourself what you might do.

Friday, January 14, 2011

When Marketers Lie 

What can a PR practitioner do when marketers stretch the truth?  Here is a case.  Cell phone carriers have unilaterally declared that their networks are now 4G in terms of speed and data carriage.  It seems that few know what 4G should be, so marketers are getting away with a lie.  From a PR perspective, it is bad business.  Eventually the public will catch on.  The media already have.  The question is whether consumers will let the companies get away with it.  One wonders as well why the government hasn't said anything to the companies yet about the sudden promotion of their networks.  Unfortunately, there isn't much that a PR practitioner can do when a company decides to fake it.  It is either go along or find another job in a bad economy.  It is hard to believe, however, that PR practitioners can promote a lie enthusiastically to reporters who know the truth.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


This is an interesting PR tactic -- silence.  The National Rifle Association has stayed out of the discussion over gun control that has erupted since the Arizona shooting.  The feeling is that the NRA knows it has the votes to prevent any serious moves toward gun control so it is better off remaining quiet.  The NRA also may be predicting that the discussion will quiet down in time as it usually does.  While silence is not a normal PR tactic, in some cases it makes sense to avoid inflaming debate further.  In the Arizona case, there is little chance the NRA would do anything but further upset vocal gun control advocates.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bad Behavior, As Usual 

PR practitioners are well aware of bad behavior in the media when a tragedy occurs.  There is a rush to assign blame, to capture innuendo, to speculate.  The same thing happened with the shooting of the Congresswoman in Arizona and the murder of several other victims.  Blame was assigned all around, even to the media.  The disgusting part of this tragedy was watching supposedly bright people take cheap political shots at one another.  The liberal wing of the Democratic party and the conservative wing of the Republicans were in full cry and at each other's throat again.  They barely bothered to mourn the dead and comfort the wounded.  It was a measure of the ugliness to which humans can descend, and a reminder to PR practitioners, if they needed one, that sometimes rational discussion is impossible.  That doesn't mean, however, that PR should stoop to the lowest common denominator of the public discussion.  Our role should be to elevate communications, or at least, make the attempt.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Is this the way to do PR in the face of a hostile local government?  Appealing to the public through radio and other advertising instead of working with the City Council strikes one as a losing position.  That is, Walmart knows it has lost the game this time around and is playing for the next time.  It is hardly likely that masses of citizens will show up at the City Council to plead for Walmart stores to come to New York City, especially in the face of huge opposition.  Walmart appears to be frustrated, so it is taking its anger public.  That may make the company feel better, but it won't solve the problem.  In fact, there may be no way to break through the opposition at the current time.  It may take months or years of appealing to the public to make the City Council more amenable.  Is Walmart willing to do that?

Monday, January 10, 2011


Almost all politicians in the US and Europe today have one of the hardest messages to send  to citizens -- Anti-growth, no growth, cutbacks.  There is no good way to do it.  Here is one attempt.   Most citizens dislike it, and government employees, especially unionized employees, are riled by it to the point of violence.  It would have been far better if in good times politicians had prepared citizens for the lean years, but they never do.  Politicians understand growth.  They do not grasp budget control and the need to say no.  They have trained the populace to ask for and get new programs, and they rate themselves on the basis of spending programs they pass into law.  Anti-growth is a message that will be rejected by the politicians themselves as soon as they see signs of a turnaround, but for now, it is their burden to communicate. 

Friday, January 07, 2011


What should you do when the majority of the public doesn't identify with you?  The Democratic and Republican parties should be finding out.  Today just 31 percent of Americans say they are Democrats and just 29 percent identify themselves as Republicans.  The independent voting block of citizens continues to grow and neither party seems able to stop the drift.  This is a  PR problem for both parties.  Neither seems to understand what the majority of Americans want although both do continuous polling, so they should know what the national mood is.  On the other hand, there are so many interest groups and public opinion is so divided that it might not be possible to fashion an over-arching message to appeal to a common interest of the majority.  There is as well the problem of both parties being captive to politically active interest groups who don't speak for most Americans.  America is quickly approaching a point where parties are irrelevant.  Both Republicans and Democrats would agree that this is not a desirable outcome.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

PR Coup 

Ford Motor has pulled off a PR coup.  Consumers now rate its brand equal with that of Toyota.  Two years ago, it was 35 percentage points below Toyota.  Consumer Reports, which does the study, attributes Ford's rise to "safety, quality and value."   Ford's gains came from better products, and Toyota's decline was the result of massive recalls during 2010.  While Ford should be happy with its progress, it also should recognize that brand reputation is a slippery slope.  Two or three recalls could knock Ford back into the pack again where American manufacturers sat for decades.  Still, hats off to the auto company that did not take Federal money during the economic meltdown and moved forward on its own with new models and technologies.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Graphics: The Future of PR? 

This is an interesting story for what it doesn't say.   Visual communications are emerging as a dominant medium, and PR practitioners need to be skilled in presenting messages graphically rather than in text.  PR for most of its history has been locked to words.  We hire specialists when we want to communicate visually.  I recall being shot down by a senior PR counselor years ago when I called for better visual training for PR practitioners.  The fellow said he would never consider hiring a practitioner who could not write.   His view still appears to dominate the industry.  But, if our target audiences are communicating graphically, then we must be prepared to do the same.  And, as computers increase their capability in graphics rendering, we have fewer excuses for failing to exploit the technology.  It is time to move beyond PowerPoint and to learn the logic of visual presentation.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011


When you read about company valuations such as this, one wonders if even bright people can be overcome by bubble mania.  Or, perhaps Facebook has magic that has escaped even knowledgeable outsiders.  Whatever the reason, as an observer, I'm puzzled.  Facebook is not producing revenues yet to match its valuation and may never, but Goldman Sachs is betting that it will.  Goldman has the credibility to make the rest of the financial world pay attention.  It is giant act of faith and an expensive one.  Should Goldman prove wrong in the end, it will take years for its reputation to recover, but right now the PR value of its valuation is of immense aid to Facebook.

Monday, January 03, 2011


I took the week off between Christmas and New Year and read two books.  Both were depressing but informative.  The first, Just How Stupid Are We?, examines the political ignorance of American voters and blames some of the bad decisions in Washington and our state houses on an uninformed electorate.  I couldn't help but thinking that public affairs and PR practitioners are partly responsible because they have promoted ideas and actions that were clearly not in the long-term public interest.  In other words, they have played on the ignorance of the public rather than trying to lift political conversation.

The second book, All the Devils Are Here, examines the financial meltdown of 2007 and 2008 and traces its roots to the 1980s.  This book shows that even the brightest of individuals can go astray through ignorance, venality, greed, lack of standards and an inability to foresee the long-term effects of short-term decisions.  Here too I found a cautionary note for PR practitioners.  Spinning the media was a part of the sub-prime mortgage bubble that brought the financial house down.   There was a general lack of skepticism and an inability to listen to warnings that were clearly raised.  

Both books are recommended reading.

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