Wednesday, August 31, 2011

We're Not Sorry 

Here is $500 million but we didn't do it.  That's the message that Google sent yesterday when it agreed to give revenues from Canadian pharmacy advertising up to the Justice Department.  It's an odd message.  No one is going to believe that one is innocent when he forks over that much money, and the government made clear that it believed CEO Larry Page knew what was going on. So, we're innocent under the law but our reputation of "Do no evil" takes a ding.  Google is increasingly acting like any other big corporation, and it is harder to believe the company's stands for truth and justice.

An Apology 

We're without internet at home, and I have no access to online-pr.com at the moment so the alert on the home page is out of date.  We got power back yesterday, but we lost water service this morning.  We're camping out at home, but we are in far better shape than communities near us that have flooded.  We hope to have the internet back in a few days, along with cable TV, which also is out.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back, Barely 

Lively times on the East Coast with an earthquake, hurricane, flooding, power outages, loss of water, downed trees and other damage.  From a communications perspective, the mayor of New York and the governor of New Jersey handled their duties well.  They were on the radio and TV regularly.  They went on site to inspect damage.  They were visible leaders.  The after effects of the hurricane are not over -- certainly not in New Jersey, Upstate New York and Vermont where rivers continue to rise and record floods have inundated homes, businesses, bridges, roads and more.  That hasn't stopped the citizens of the three states for praising their leaders' actions.  The acclaim is merited.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Taking A Break 

This blog is taking a break until Aug. 30.  Enjoy the remaining days of summer.

Local To National 

This is an interesting speculation.  It asks if the same way that one communicates locally can be taken nationally.  The question is being asked about Texas Governor Rick Perry, some of whose opinions are controversial with the national media.  From a new media point of view, there is no difference between local and national.  What one says locally is international on the internet.  On the other hand, it needn't be because few may be paying attention to what is said locally.  So, the governor is being "unveiled" to the public at large in his presidential campaign.  This raises a practical issue for PR practitioners.  Can one still control news locally? The answer to that is a wishy-washy yes and no.  It depends on the news.  Years ago when we worked for an international electronics company, the corporation was still under the mistaken belief that it could introduce products in Europe and Japan without spillover into the US.  Of course, it never worked because the internet was ablaze with features, functions and benefits of the new products from the moment the media saw them in Tokyo or Paris.  On the other hand, some of Gov. Perry's opinions apparently were never considered on the national scene until he declared himself a candidate, and client news about local factory production and hiring often never travels beyond a town's TV or newspaper.  So, it is still possible to segment information, but the danger is that one never quite knows when the segmentation can be breached and a local item becomes national.   

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Reminder 

This news is a reminder that no organization, no matter how powerful, is safe.  The idea that Eastman Kodak is only worth the value of its patents is mind-boggling.  Kodak, of course, invented popular photography, supplied the film for the first movies, introduced color into pictures and led the way in consumer marketing for over a hundred years.  Then, in a short span of 20 years a technology Kodak created, digital imaging, destroyed the company.  Kodak has not been able to find an economic model that is as profitable as film.  It is sad to watch the company writhe in death-throes.  One almost hopes that another firm would buy it and put the company out of its misery, but who would want it except for its patents?  As Kodak goes, so goes Rochester, the city that Kodak dominated for so long.  Until Kodak disappears, there is hope, but it is less by the year.  Meanwhile, other CEOs can look at the hulk and remind themselves that they too are only a few steps from where Kodak has fallen.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Writing is a conscious act so it is interesting to read how much of the unconscious slips through, particularly the use of pronouns.    This article should be a tip to practitioners to check their prose for the use of "I", "me", "my" and "we", "us", "our".  The gender and power relationships that show through are notable.  Computer analysis provides a new perspective on writing and a caution to writers everywhere.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


When one thinks of social media, one thinks of interaction with another or others.  From a marketing perspective, however, interaction is not new.  It is just expressed in a new format -- Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.  Thus, when a marketer plans an interactive campaign, he needs to think of all forms of interaction and not just social media.  That is the thrust of this paper and its interactive media planning guide.  There are dozens of ways to interact with others on a one-to-one basis.  Social media are a small but important part of a panoply of communications.  PR practitioners should be aware of all of them.

This paper is the 121st essay posted on online-pr.com.

Monday, August 15, 2011

When Strikes Turn Nasty... 

Verizon, the telecommunications company, has called in authorities to investigate what it claims are "acts of sabotage" during an ongoing strike by 45,000 of its employees.  If so, it is not the first time nor the first company to which that has happened.  Yet, the circumstances can be serious, especially if phone service is cut as Verizon alleges to a hospital and police station.  Strikes are rarely good for a corporation's public image, but on the other hand, they aren't good for a union either when members misbehave.  A strike is a game of perceptions as much as work stoppage.  Each side is hoping to get the public on its side and to gain advantage over the other.  It is a difficult time for public relations.  One needs to justify the company's position against its own workers, but it needs to be done in a way that avoids inflaming the strikers more than they already are.  Company statements usually come directly from negotiators who know what is happening in the bargaining room, and the PR person is on standby to assist when needed.  Meanwhile, one watches helplessly as a company's reputation erodes under a barrage of negative messages.  It is never a good position to be in.

Friday, August 12, 2011

End Of An Era? 

One of the engineers who designed the original IBM PC has declared that it is the end of the era for the personal computer.    If he is right, this revolutionary machine had a run of just 30 years, far less time than the typewriter.  Whether or not he is correct, it is good to recall how technology has changed communications in three decades.  Actually, it is hard to remember how one operated then with electric typewriters, reproduction shops for press kits and press releases, typesetting shops, etc.  -- all functions that have been taken over by the PC and laser printer.  The cumbersome work of PR has been eliminated and one practitioner can do the work of three or four.  It is hard to get nostalgic about the past.  It wasn't productive, and it wasn't as precise as PR is now.  We lived by media directories then that were always out of date.  Preparing press lists was a chore because one had to find out if the listed reporter was still at the publication.  That is not the case now.  It is not yet time to write the obituary for the PC but we should thank the engineers who built it for the wonderful invention that it is.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


The picks for the super-committee to cut the country's budget are looking already like the committee is dead on arrival.  Both sides are sending messages rather than trying to find a way to reduce the deficit.  Look for a standoff that results in automatic across-the-board reductions.  It would be good if the two sides could come together and find a path to bipartisanship, but there is little hope of that.  Each side has too many vested interests plus an upcoming election next year.  The positive message would be hard work and intense negotiation with give on both sides that produces an optimal solution.  In other words, real progress and not sound bites.  The only way that can be done realistically is behind closed doors without the media looking on.  This is one of those times when transparency sows confusion and instant opposition.  It will be interesting to see how the committee unfolds, but there isn't much room for hope or change.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Good And Evil 

This and this are reminders that any media tool that can be used for good purposes also can be used for evil.  All media are neutral.  It is the intent behind them that makes the difference.  Social media were used earlier this year in the Arab pro-democracy movement.  Now, they are being used to coordinate riots.  It is one small step for social media to be targeted against companies and other organizations in everything from disagreement with policies to shareholder revolts.  As good as social media are in reaching individuals, they add to the complexity of communications.  It is one more reason to learn them well now. 

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

How Can This Be? 

Another year, another good upfront market for television advertising.  How can this be with the web, social media, YouTube, Hulu, video games and all the other alternative entertainment media?  It appears that marketers buy TV because they understand it, and feel they can measure it.  Doesn't that strike you as rock-ribbed conservatism?  Meanwhile, the rest of the communications world is plowing ahead and learning how to make new media work.  I used to say that  we would know when the internet is victorious the day that the upfront market for TV goes away.  I'm not sure anymore.  Marketers may be too fearful to part ways with the Boob Tube.

Monday, August 08, 2011


The US is getting a lesson in credibility and reputation, and it is humbling.  No one is sure what will happen in the markets today but at this hour stock index futures are falling and there is a possibility of another butchery similar to last week.  It would be easy to blame the entire mess on dissident Republicans -- the Tea Party -- as some have done, but that would ignore the multi-trillion debt that the US has and is adding to.  The truth is that the US has overspent for decades now and at the same time has allowed itself to hollow out its industry.  Ratings agencies and other countries were willing to overlook that for a long time.  No more.  One might say that the Tea Party has done the country a favor in a perverse way.  The US can now start the hard work of regaining its credibility because it can no longer deny that it has a problem.  There will be retribution for the downgrade, and it is likely the Republicans will suffer it, but no matter who is in charge after 2012, debt will be an issue that can't be ignored.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Perception And Panic 

The stock market is a first-rate example of perception.  Right now, it sees the world headed for further recession so panic rules traders' actions.  Get out, now!  Those able to keep their heads during the rush to the exits have an opportunity to do well.  The rest of the crowd will suffer loss.  When I was in business school, we were taught that markets are rational and reflect all that is known about stocks.  It might be rational to bolt suddenly for the door, but there was no news yesterday that was different from the day before.  Investor psychology is ruled more by fear and greed than by reason in spite of the mathematical models behind trading now.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Fast Growth 

If accurate, Google+ has grown to 25 million users in less than a month.  At that rate, it won't be long before it is a viable competitor to Facebook.  However, it is likely that Google+ growth will slow once early adopters have looked at it.  The challenge that Google+ has is the amount of time that users have already invested in Facebook.  This is the kind of stickiness that has Google continuing to rule search results although Microsoft has spent billions to catch up.  From a communicator's point of view, Google+ hasn't faced the real mountain yet.  It will soon, and messaging will need to encourage Facebook users to give Google+ a try.  Google+ also will need to develop simple tools to help Facebook users transition from one social medium to the other.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Hat Tip 

A hat tip to two colleagues, Mike Cargill and Shade Vaughn, for two articles PR practitioners should read -- this one about optimizing press releases for search engines and this one, a mini-case study for how not to use social media.    Put both on your to-do list today.

Government Sins 

How do you get your reputation back when the government over-reaches?  That is the question these five people are asking now that their fraud convictions have been thrown out.  There is a lingering question whether they might be guilty anyway, and that doubt will follow them no matter what they do next in their lives.  Reputation, once lost, is hard to recover. 

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Price Of Silence 

Corporate CEOs in America were mum throughout the debt ceiling debate.  Legislators are unhappy that business failed to speak up and put pressure on dissident members of the Republican party who held up authorization until last night.  The question now is what will happen to corporate lobbyists when they wander the halls of Congressional offices and look for that next tax break?  Will legislators remember their absence during one of the most contentious debates in recent years?  Is the sky blue?  America's CEOs have a lot of explaining to do.  The price of silence at a critical time is loss of support for future bills CEOs want passed and regulations they want eased.  

Monday, August 01, 2011


I'm half-way through reading diary fragments of Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister for the Nazi regime.  These were originally published in 1959.  Goebbels was a good, perhaps brilliant, communicator who had nearly total control over the media in Germany.  His belief in the Fuhrer was total.  His communications on behalf of Hitler and National Socialism were passionate to the end when he and his wife poisoned their children and committed suicide because they did not want to live without Hitler.  

Why read the words of such an ugly human?  Because Goebbels was a master of rhetorical technique.  He knew what worked to convince the German people that National Socialism was in their best interests even during wartime and famine. His diaries are a reminder that evil people know how to argue well.  Goebbels knew how to stay on message. Throughout the diaries, there are long stretches in which Goebbels seems like a normal human managing the issues of a home country at war.  Then, just as suddenly, there are frightening passages about liquidation of Jews, shooting of partisans in revenge for guerrilla warfare and gutting of justice in service of the state.   All this seemed rational from the perspective of one building a totalitarian society composed of a Nordic race.  It is chilling reading and probably should be obligatory for anyone entering communications. The diaries are a justification for the First Amendment and an example of what happens when free expression is taken away.

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