Friday, April 29, 2011

Shareholder PR 

The New York Stock Exchange is finding out what it means to manage shareholders.  They're hopping mad that the exchange won't consider a merger with NASDAQ, which is offering a higher bid than the German stock exchange.   Some have noted already the irony of the NYSE refusing to meet with NASDAQ.  The NYSE has pushed member companies toward greater transparency with shareholders, but apparently transparency doesn't apply to the stock exchange itself.  Whatever happens, NYSE is in the middle of a fight with its shareholders that will last until a vote in July.  This gives both sides plenty of time to adjust their positions and to appeal to shareholder interests.  It should be an interesting battle to watch.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Self Publicist 

Here is a man who has mastered the art of publicizing himself.  Say what you want about him (My thoughts are unprintable.), but he has a media pack that follows his proclamations and publishes his inanities.  Trump apparently is of the school that any publicity is good as long as his name is in print and on the air.  Publicity is oxygen even when he is making an ass of himself, but it keeps him where he wants to be -- in front of people.  What is not clear is whether his publicity is helping him in his real estate development business.  My guess is that it is not, especially since he has had troubles keeping buildings out of debt default.  So what drives him?  Commentators point to his ego and that may be the best explanation.  It is possible that he truly believes he is as good as he claims.  Whether or not he continues his quest for the presidency, we are likely to have him around for a few months more until voters have a chance to voice their opinion of him.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Limits of Persuasion 

Here is an example of the limits of persuasion.  The country won't get moving again until the housing market stabilizes and construction returns, but the housing market isn't stabilizing -- not yet, anyway.  That means millions of homeowners are still underwater and millions more of home buyers are waiting rather than buying.  What is it going to take to get the market back to a semblance of normal?  Time rather than jawboning.  The market is undergoing a restructuring for which there are few words.  The president can urge citizens to buy and sell but that doesn't mean they will when there is no personal economic advantage for doing so.  Millions of homes are still empty and millions in foreclosure.  Words won't make that right.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


As this story illuminates, no company or person is safe from eroding reputation and credibility.  Warren Buffet has for decades been the honest and insightful investor who has magic when it comes to buying companies and operating them.  Now, since the Lubrizol affair when his manager took a position in the company's stock before recommending that Buffet buy it, people are questioning whether Buffet is in touch with business affairs.  There is little Buffet can do to turn around public opinion except to produce better than average performance from his empire.  But, his age is against him now.  There are questions about succession -- who will take the company over when Buffet steps down.  There are questions about the ability of the company to continue growing because it is so large.  Issues that remained on the shelf for decades are being examined because Buffet has a chink in his armor of reputation and credibility.  If it can happen to Buffet, it can and will happen to any company and CEO.  The price of a good reputation is eternal vigilance.

Monday, April 25, 2011


I spent the last 10 days away from news, the internet and other forms of electronic communication.  It was refreshing.  The world didn't end.  There was no craving to find out what was happening.  Other local events were of more interest.  It reminded me that most people live this way.  They are not concerned about world affairs.  They are focused on making it through the day, feeding families and living.  Communicating to them will always be difficult and persuading them even more so.  

Friday, April 15, 2011

Taking a Break 

There will be no updates here until April 26.  It is time to take a break.

Sea Change 

This is an observation that is now conventional wisdom -- the era of big government is over.  Left unspoken is how the sea change of public opinion occurred.  When I was a youth, big government was the answer along with large infrastructure projects -- highway systems, dams, housing complexes for the poor.  There was plenty of cash from Washington and plenty of free spending.  Slowly, as the debt of the country climbed that began to change.  Today, the mood of millions of citizens is to cut debt rather than spend more.  From a PR perspective, it would be a fascinating case study to track the change of opinion and the forces that enabled it.  Most commentators assign the beginning of the change to Ronald Reagan, but one could also say that Barry Goldwater set the scene, even though he was crushed as a presidential candidate.  There were many players working together and independently who help chip away at public opinion.  It will be a career for historians to find them all.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


The Associated Press wire service fell for a hoax yesterday that involved General Electric.  The hoax was done cleverly so the AP wasn't totally at fault.  However, it caused GE to scramble.  In the internet age, crises can erupt anywhere at any time.  There is never a moment in which one can relax.

Smart PR, cont. 

Another example of smart PR that positions an energy company on the side of conservation.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

E-Mail Lesson 

This story from National Public Radio is interesting because it has an email lesson every PR practitioner should know.  The lesson came after a decision by a local NPR station to pull advertising spots suddenly became a national issue.  Let me quote the advice from NPR's ombudsman.  

If nothing else, this incident provides just another reminder for any news executive (or anyone, in reality) to carefully craft emails assuming they could reach the public, as well as the intended audience. That way, there would be less ground for misinterpretations.

This is especially true for those of us who work with the media regularly.  Sloppy habits, poor logic, intemperate remarks, incomplete thoughts can get one into trouble quickly.  As a rule, always write with an expectation that what you say will become public, whether or not it is an email.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Twitter Media Relations 

The communications director for the governor of Florida is using Twitter to talk to reporters with interesting results.  Disputes that used to be handled in one-on-one talks are now 140-character tweets that all can follow.  While some say it is entertaining, one wonders if it is smart.  Calling out reporters and and editors and their stories so publicly can make for bad feelings.  It is also unnecessary.  It seems, however, that the governor and his communications director have determined to make the media an opponent, so public criticism could be playing to their strategy.  Still, I would rather deal with reporters one-on-one.  There is a better chance of initiating a dialogue if one treats reporters with respect and understands that they have a job to do.  

Monday, April 11, 2011

Combating Failure 

This happens often to companies.  They are heroes for a time then suddenly,  failures.  The magic is gone.  Competitors take away sales and market share.  The companies are put on the block for someone, anyone to buy and take off the hands of an unhappy parent.  What isn't discussed is how employees of such failed companies feel and how one motivates them to keep trying when they know they are a disappointment.  Some people have already jumped ship and those who remain either have nowhere to go or are committed to a dying project.  

The first order of business is leadership.  Someone has to stop the bleeding, restructure the business for profit, no matter how small and give it a future.  The leader also is tasked with internal relations -- giving employees direction and hope, even if he has to fire many of them.  And, he has to reestablish relationships with customers to make the company viable again.  It is not a task for the fainthearted.  The leader must become the focus of communications and its font by keeping directions clear for everyone no matter what happens.  It is a time for simple messaging repeated often until the millions of daily activities in a company are aligned with the leader's intent.  From a PR perspective, it is hard work, and it might not be rewarding if the company is unable to move forward, but there is satisfaction if it does.  This is what is facing Myspace.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Amazing Publicity Generator 

This man is one of the most remarkable publicity generators of the modern era.  One wonders how he does it.  He makes it seem so effortless, and the media are accommodating because they know they will get a good story.  It might be because he takes on big challenges like ballooning around the world or, as in the present case, attempting to reach the bottom of the deepest part of the ocean.  Whatever his secret, Richard Branson is in his own class, and he seems to enjoy himself immensely.  Many a PR agency would be delighted to have a client like him.  

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Who Is The Audience? 

This story raises an interesting question.  Who is Google's audience for Android -- the end user or the developer?  One could contend that it is the developer because end users, consumers, care little for how Android works and just want applications that work.  On the other hand, millions of consumers appreciate the various flavors of Android for what their phones can do.  This puts developers in a bind because they don't want to miss the market whether or not Android is in multiple versions from phone manufacturers.  Google is beginning to favor developers by cracking down on phone manufacturers who are making their own versions of Android.  This indicates that Google, at least, has decided developers are the more important audience.  However, by doing so, some charge that Google is backing away from its promise to keep Android an open operating system.  Google may be in a position where it can't keep everyone happy, which is ironic, because if one uses Apple's operating system, one can only code applications to Apple's standards.  Apple doesn't allow variation.  There is such a thing as too much audience accommodation.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Fatal Flaw 

No matter how it is spun, the fatal flaw of nuclear power is waste.  No one knows where to put it and no one wants a nuclear waste storage facility to be anywhere near them.  From a public relations point of view, nuclear power will have an overpowering negative until practical ways are developed to handle irradiated materials with half-lives of 100,000 years.  Billions have been spent in the US trying to develop a facility for commercial use.  Billions more will be poured into research and development.  Still the NIMBY issue will be at the forefront of considerations.  There is urgency to solve the problem because tens of thousands of tons of spent fuel rods are stored throughout the Unites States at working reactors.  The rods can't stay in pools of water forever.  It will take a prolonged public relations campaign to get a US community to agree to a facility, if one ever does.  Once that happens, the government will need to tackle the transport issue -- how to get spent rods to the storage area without going through too many towns.  The real cost of nuclear power is far higher than one would think.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Smart PR 

Here is a case of smart PR that also builds one's future audiences and potential employee base.  The science fair doesn't wipe out Google's faux pas in launching the social media site, Buzz, nor does it make up for the fear that Google is monopolizing the search market.  But, the science fair does have a way of humanizing the company, and it trains a coming generation of scientists in the efficient use of Google tools.  Moreover, it gives global students a way to show their interests and talent.  Great scientists can come from anywhere and the science fair will demonstrate that.  It will be interesting to see how the first fair comes out and the winners.  I wouldn't be surprised if students from Asian countries rank highly. 

Monday, April 04, 2011

Handling A Crisis Well 

Southwest Airlines appears to be handling its crisis well.  It is inspecting its fleet of Boeing 737s for the possibility of cracks in their hulls.  The incident on Friday of a partial roof tear in one of its airborne planes could have been a disaster.  That it wasn't is a tribute to good piloting and the fact that the hole in the plane did not grow larger.   To get the inspections done, Southwest has cancelled hundreds of flights, but passengers do not seem to care.  They don't want to suffer a similar incident.  This is a case in which inconveniencing customers is good PR.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Twitter Stats 

If these statistics about Twitter are true -- and I suspect they are -- then Twitter isn't much of a tool for PR practitioners.  That is, Twitter shouldn't be looked upon as a broadcast medium but a narrowcast to selected audiences.  In retrospect, it is hard to accept that 20,000 users get most of the readers.  That figure seems high.  From a practitioner's perspective, what this study means is use of Twitter depends heavily on audience building -- even more so than blogging.  It is an easy outlet to throw into the media mix, but given the time to do it well, I would emphasize other online media first.  Twitter has become white noise for audiences.

Correction:  Twitter started as a narrowcast medium and evolved into broadcast for a tiny percentage of users.   From a PR perspective, it should be treated as narrowcasting.

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