Friday, July 29, 2011


This essay is a first impression of using Google+ and an estimate of how it might be employed in PR.  Google+ has a long way to go to be a viable competitor to Facebook.  It had a fast start but indications now are that its growth is slowing as the early adopters have already signed up.  There are good features in Google+ and it might eventually prove to be the service of choice, but Google+ has to answer the question, "Who needs another social medium?"  As good as Google+ is, that question is still open.  We should know within a year whether it has taken root or is withering.

The essay is the 120th posted to online-pr.com.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hard-edged Persuasion 

Sometimes persuasion is arm-twisting with threats.  This is one of them.  The Speaker of the House doesn't have time to be a nice guy.  He needs a supporting vote today.  He has been a good fellow for too long with his fractious party members, and he is reminding them to get in line.  It will be interesting to see if they do.  Or, to put it another way, it they don't, the Speaker has lost control of his party, a near-fatal situation and a perception of weakness that will be hard to overcome next year at election time.  In all organizations there is a time to stop talking and to start acting.  Most don't have the deadlines that Congress is facing, so talking can go on for a long time without resolution.  CEOs say that they wish they could act faster than they have, but the inertia of their organizations tied them down.  The same is true in Washington where two views of government are colliding in an ugly way.  It is too soon to know what will happen, but I wouldn't be surprised if Congress misses the August 2 deadline.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Interesting Study 

This study is an experiment that shows it takes only 10 percent of people holding an idea firmly to sway the majority.   The concept is not new to PR practitioners who have long worked with influentials but the percentage may be.  It provides a more accurate guideline for the objective of changing opinion.  However, it doesn't dispense with the need to define the audience and the means by which one can reach that audience.  

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Enduring Misconceptions 

That Texas is still having votes over teaching of evolution is a demonstration of how stubbornly people hold to misconceptions.  It should be a warning to PR practitioners who think it is easy to change perceptions.  It isn't and never has been.  Even when one has total control of communications, there is no way to ensure that everyone is marching in step.  That is both the glory and despair of the human condition.  It is a reminder that one can never rest and even though opinions are crackpot, as they are with creationism, they can still hold political power.  One can never assume that people are reasonable and informed nor can one assume that one's own reason and information are informed.  There is always a chance that you are wrong.  However, when a preponderance of evidence is on your side, you can speak confidently. Just remember that some won't listen.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Craving For Publicity 

The Norwegian killer of 93+ people is craving for publicity to explain his beliefs.  Norway's court system has ruled against him.  There are times when muzzling another person make sense.  This is one of them.  Already much is known about the killer's views.  He has a manifesto and web page detailing his dislike of multiculturalism.  Why should a government and country give him any more time?  One might argue that providing him a platform will show how deranged he is, but there is no right for him to express himself.  He has done enormous damage to the country and its citizens already.  There is little need to provide him opportunity to do more.  Sadly, Norway's maximum jail term is apparently 21 years.  This fellow could harm the country again.

Update:  The Norwegian police have revised the death toll down to 76 and Norway's court is putting the killer into isolation for four weeks to prevent him from contacting anyone.  

Friday, July 22, 2011

Time To Blink 

It is time for Republicans and Democrats in Washington to blink and break the stare-down that has been going on for months.   Neither side is paying attention to the public that wants compromise.  Ideologues make poor legislators and citizens, though they might not pay close attention to what is happening in Washington, at least know what they don't like.  All sides are to blame in this standoff -- Republicans for insisting on no tax increases and Democrats for refusing to cut entitlements.  It reminds one of labor-management fights that were only resolved when companies such as General Motors were near bankruptcy.  There are two views of government at odds -- a minimalist approach favored by Republicans and an activist approach supported by Democrats.  Each has a constituency.  The views will clash in the aisles of Congress until the public resolves generally what it wants to do.  Meanwhile, it is time for deal-making, for putting aside differences and accepting half a loaf.  One wonders if legislators in DC understand that.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Taking Responsibility 

This is a telling observation about Rupert Murdoch.  He apologized but he took no responsibility.  One might ask what responsibility Murdoch took for keeping a newspaper that trafficked in scandal and for which there was never an excuse for failing to get the juiciest details about others.  Murdoch condoned the culture that his newspapers fostered and for that he should shoulder the burden.  Lest one be too censorious, however, it wasn't that many decades ago that reporters acted on the edge of and over the edge of legality in their chase of scoops.  The Front Page was written by former Chicago reporters who knew how the media worked.  And, of course, it has been pointed out that Woodward and Bernstein edged over the line in their chase of the Watergate story.  This is not to justify the phone hacking that Murdoch's reporters engaged in but to put it in perspective.  Someone in command did not let ethics get in the way of scoops and that attitude filtered throughout the newsroom.  For that reason, Murdoch is getting what he deserves.  From a PR perspective, it is a warning to practitioners that culture can rot quickly if leadership fails to pay attention to it.  One can never assume that employees will always act in right ways.  There is evil in the world.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Danger Of Charisma 

As any PR practitioner knows, it is easy to generate news and reputation for a charismatic leader.  The challenge comes when the charismatic leader departs from an organization.  Apple is facing this question, apparently, and Steve Jobs is calling the story "hogwash."  Apple is in a particularly difficult position because the company is largely seen by its devotees and the financial community as a one-man company.  Job's imprint is on every element of its ethos and products.  In fact, Apple's future will be ensured only after Job's leaves and both the company and market discover, if they ever do, that he is not essential.  Jobs is apparently not making transition easy for his board, and there are accusations that the board is too beholden to him.  The proper PR strategy,. of course, is to increase the profile of other Apple executives so there is a comfort in the marketplace about the bench strength of the company.  One wonders if Jobs is allowing this to be done.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It Doesn't Take Much 

It doesn't take much to fall behind and lose one's reputation in the high-tech marketplace.  This discussion of Research in Motion's current difficulties has been repeated dozens of times.  Each time, details vary but the essence remains the same -- a momentary loss of focus on the market leads to a tailspin.   It is a Darwinian existence -- eat or be eaten.  One needs to scan constantly for what competitors are doing, planning and thinking.  Scraps of news are as important as full-blown stories.  From a PR and reputational perspective, one dare never rest.  It seems as if RIMM might have taken its market share for granted -- a fatal mistake.  It now faces a slog to remain a player, probably a minor one, as Apple, Google and others have moved beyond its technology.  The worst mistake RIMM's executives can make is to deny their peril.  I've witnessed that and the results are devastating.  Large companies sink quickly from sight and thousands are put onto the street, not quite understanding what happened to them so quickly.  

Monday, July 18, 2011

Influencers And Reputation 

Here is an example of a technology influencer starting a sea-change in reputation.  One person's opinion is not enough to shift the environment but the more that key opinion-makers express similar ideas, the harder it becomes for the older technology -- Twitter.  Were I Twitter I would be worried rather than observant.  Reputation in technology can turn quickly and the marketplace slide away.  Google has tried several times to launch a social media product and failed.  This time it looks as if it might work.  That can crowd Twitter out if the two media go head to head, especially since Google has far more resources than Twitter.  In technology, one can never rest.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Reputation and Debt 

The US risks its reputation with a looming debt default.  Moody's, the credit rating service, has already put the country on a watch list for downgrading.  The question facing everyone is what would happen if the US does go over the edge.  Would it lose its reputation for sterling credit once and for all?  Could it climb back to a solid rating in the future if it gets debt under control?  No one knows.  Hence, the deep fear among financiers, politicians and others.  The reputation for creditworthiness as a nation is fundamental.  That is why Greece is having so many problems and other countries are in jeopardy.  Market makers no longer believe that money lent to these countries will come back with interest.  No amount of communication can allay that fear other than paying up.  The closer that warring politicians in Washington push the nation to default, the more the markets will get nervous.  It could be devastating.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pricey Reputation 

One of the quickest ways to tamper with a company's reputation is to raise prices.  Netflix is experimenting with that now.    The company has apparently decided after doing its research to live with the outrage of customers who are swamping its call center.  From this distance, it is impossible to say whether Netflix's decision was the right one, but it was instructive for communicators.  Never raise prices without thorough grounding of key customers into the reasons why.  Today, especially, customers have many avenues for expressing dissatisfaction and for organizing to pressure a company.  Perhaps it would have been better had Netflix given advanced warning of what it was planning to do and why, but on the other hand, the company might have reasoned that it would stir opposition before it had a chance to act.  I would have "set the table" before making the pricing announcement, but then, I don't have Netflix's information.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Good Bet 

A few days ago, I bet here that killing a newspaper wouldn't free Rupert Murdoch from controversy.  I'm a lousy bettor but for once, I was right.  Murdoch has more problems than he can handle now with the government turned against him.  To put it another way, once one has lost his reputation, there is little he can do to protect himself.  Murdoch, who made and broke politicians, is now being twisted by the same people who used to court him.  It's ugly but seemingly inevitable.  And, some would say about time.

Update:  Murdoch has abandoned his bid for BSkyB, the satellite TV operation.  He must understand how extreme the circumstances are and the need to protect the shreds of his company's reputation.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fear Of Technology 

This is an interesting discussion of the moral panic that ensues whenever new technology is unveiled to the public.  The fear is that women and children will be jeopardized by the invention.  The article notes that this fear has been constant since the invention of the railroad when some thought the speed of a train would cause a woman's uterus to fly out and the arrival of electrical lighting when it was feared that predators could see into houses.  The latest permutation of the fear  was the California law banning violent video games, a law struck down by the Supreme Court.  From a communicator's perspective, what this means is that technologists carry an extra burden in their messaging.  They need to explain the safety of their products as well as their other benefits.  This is easy to forget in marketing, but fear doesn't go away easily whenever a technology changes relationship to time, space and other people.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hard Message 

No one likes to be told the future is bleak.  That, however, is the message the Obama administration is telling the American public.  Note too that the Treasury Secretary is careful to blame the previous Republican administration for the difficulties the economy faces.  He may be correct on both points, but one wonders what the public will think come election time next year.  The administration and its defenders are careful to point out that with 9.2 percent unemployment, the vast number of Americans still continue to work.  What the administration is discounting, however, is expectation -- the sense in America that things are going to get better and there is opportunity if one works for it.  This is not the first time that the US has gone through difficult times but there are few who remember the last great downturn and they are in their 90s.  The Obama administration has a tough year facing it in terms of communications, and I'm glad I'm not in the position of framing messages for the president.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Death Sentence 

Can killing a line of business preserve the reputation of the overall corporation?  Rupert Murdoch is about to find out.    My bet is that it won't.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Enough To Change A Reputation? 

Long-distance bicycling (the Tour de France) has long been tainted.  Riders have taken every kind of performance enhancing drug or potion available.  That is why the success of this team is important to the future of the sport.   The team wants to prove that one can win on the basis of athletic prowess alone.  And, should it take the prize, it will provide a guide to all other teams that struggle with their riders shooting up.  But, the question remains whether that will be enough to change the reputation of a sport that has been under a cloud for so long.  That is uncertain.  Only time will tell and continued enforcement of strict drug testing.  The Tour de France, especially, cannot tolerate many more scandals.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Coup For Korea 

South Korea has announced that it will have all of its elementary school textbooks completely digitized by 2015.  Anyone who has seen young people lugging backpacks with 40 to 50 pounds of paper will recognize this as a major advance in education.  The US should be asking why it can't do the same.  Digital textbooks will allow South Korea to maintain its claim to be one of the most advanced networked societies in the world.  Other countries should be learning from South Korea, particularly the US, but this country seems to ignore the peninsula.  From a PR perspective, South Korea has much to boast about, and it should.  

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

A Different Company 

Exxon Mobil is acting like a different company with its latest crisis -- an oil spill in a Montana river.  Those with long memories will recall that top management was scarce in crises of the past.  This time the president of the pipeline division was front and center in talking to journalists and explaining the company's actions with regard to the pipeline that has leaked.  An oil spill is never good, but Exxon Mobil seems to have learned its lesson in how to handle crises.  Some good may come out of a bad situation.

Monday, July 04, 2011


It is not often that a 7th-Century invention has relevance in the modern day, but fireworks do.  Today, the Fourth of July, hundreds of thousands of bombs, rockets and shells will go off throughout the United States.  From a device meant to repel evil spirits, fireworks today communicate beauty, awe and celebration.  About the only ones who do not like them are infants whom the loud reports scare into squalls.  It doesn't take long for the young to understand that something magical is happening in the sky. 

Fireworks are communal.  The town gathers to watch them.  The idea that one would set off a display for no one other than himself is selfishness, and anyway, it would be nearly impossible to do so.  It is optimistic to say that the sense of community carries over after a display but those gathered during the show have a sense of togetherness to appreciate what they are witnessing.  Asking fireworks to overcome divisions among citizens is asking too much.  They remind one, however, that it is possible to find a common ground even among enemies.

Our fireworks will explode well after dark in the safety of the town park.  My daughter will be there with her friends and hundreds of other citizens, young and old, sitting on their blankets with their necks craned skyward.  They won't speak much until the show is over then they will reminisce.  Is there a better way to spend the Fourth?

Friday, July 01, 2011

Forget Hope 

Polls are showing that US citizens are losing hope in progress toward job creation.  They see a permanent decline of the country.  There are no words to motivate them.  What they need is work, real work that accomplishes some productive end.  That, of course, is the same need that Greece, Spain, Portugal, Japan and other countries have.  The globe is in the doldrums and may continue this way for months, if not years. to come. From a PR perspective, the Obama administration could not be in a worse position.  He didn't create the downturn, but he hasn't been able to do anything about it.  People want action:  They are tired of speeches.  But, any stimulus will increase the already huge debt staggering the country, so what can the President do?  He is having enough trouble just raising the debt ceiling.  Working in the White House communications office these days must be an interesting assignment.

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