Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Taking A Break 

I'm taking a break this week.  Have a great New Year celebration.  I'll be back in 2012.

Friday, December 23, 2011


When a person's beliefs get in the way of serving the public, the beliefs can turn evil.  Here is a case.  It echoes what Cambodian communists did to that country, what Stalin did to millions of Ukrainians and Mao to millions of Chinese.   In each case, leadership was convinced it knew better than the people, and in the end, they starved and murdered millions.  How can such monsters exist?  They do and will continue to do so.  They are individuals so in love with their ideas that people are simply pegs to be moved about in order to achieve goals.  Should these pegs be broken, they are thrown out without the least thought or disturbance of conscience.  The only way to stop such ideologues is to take power from them, always difficult to do because power is what they live for.  Kim Jong Il was simply the latest in a long line of tyrants.  One would hope his son is better but there are rumors he is actually worse.  How long will the North Koreans tolerate such people?

Thursday, December 22, 2011


This is interesting.  Microsoft is abandoning participation in the giant Consumer Electronics Show held each year in Las Vegas.  The firm has announced that 2012 will be its last year.  Its reason is that there are many more channels to reach potential customers now.  One wonders what the future of shows such as CES might be, given that there is less need to go to a place to show off new products.  Is Microsoft in the vanguard of manufacturers who will eventually pull out, or is it a one-off whose decision will stand alone?  I suspect many PR practitioners hope that Microsoft is starting a trend.  By all accounts, working CES is stressful and non-stop, and what one gets out of it in terms of publicity might not be so great.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Arrogance Or Inevitable? 

The news of AT&T's failed merger with T-Mobile was stunning even though it was expected.  AT&T put huge resources toward the merger, including a $4 billion payment to T-Mobile should the deal not go through.  From a PR perspective, one asks whether AT&T was arrogant in thinking it could force the merger through or whether failure was inevitable given the changed environment in Washington DC.  In another administration, the merger might have gone through with conditions placed on AT&T for what it could charge cell phone users.  Was there something AT&T missed in its effort?  Perhaps, but it spent hundreds of millions lobbying the White House, the Justice Department and the FCC.  What it did not expect was how adamant they would be.  AT&T also didn't seem to make much effort in building grassroots support for its case.  That might have been because there wasn't much of an argument that it could make to customers.  There would have been more spectrum to use, but somehow customers would pay for the purchase of T-Mobile.  

Whatever the factors for the failure, it was one of the largest PR bungles of the year.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Physics Phlackery 

This story highlights the fact that scientists are not beyond puffery when it serves their interests.  They are human too.  The search for the Higgs boson has produced its share of hyperbolic statements and maneuvering for credit.  And, calling it the "God Particle" is going overboard, even for flacks.  But, scientists, angling for bigger and better machines, will go to extremes like anyone else.  The lesson here for PR practitioners is to approach scientific claims with the same skepticism that we would approach anything else.  It may be more difficult in science because the concepts and math are beyond reach, but that is no excuse for letting an enthusiast in a laboratory claim more than he can justify.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fatal Puffery 

Monarchs eventually lose touch with the lives of their citizens.  It comes in no small part from flattery  that distorts their view of themselves and their responsibilities.  That is why the puffery of this man was fatal to millions of North Koreans.  He was anything but a "dear leader" in letting his people starve.  Clearly, he had an arrangement with the military to keep their support, and they apparently are as corrupt as he was.  One wonders how long the apotheosis of North Korea's leadership can go before the people say they have had enough and put their lives on the line to topple the family.  If other countries are an example, it won't be that many years more.  On the other hand, the geography of North Korea is such that the country's leadership has been able to seal it off from the rest of the world effectively.  Still, I will not be surprised if in my lifetime, the country falls and a reunification of the two Koreas occurs.  Perhaps in the light of reality and not puffery, the North can find a sustainable future.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bold Predictions 

This study from the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism is bold in its predictions and conclusions.  One that caught my eye was the death of most newspapers in five years.with only the largest and the smallest surviving.  If that happens, something that is credible will need to take their place and that something is apparently not social media because the study says most people don't find it believable.  From a PR perspective, loss of newspapers won't be a major challenge.  We will have to work a little harder to find the right media to use, but tools for that are well developed and in the market.  It would help if audiences should find social media to be more credible in the next five years, but that will depend on those who blog, Twitter and make Facebook entries.  There is some serious journalism in social media.  There needs to be more.

As for the other predictions, some I believe and some I don't.  Perhaps the tablet will replace the desktop PC, but I have a hard time believing that.  I have no doubt the desktop PC will die off but laptops are not going away that quickly.   I accept, however, that our privacy is lost, and somehow that is not bothersome.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

PR Challenge 

Here is a multi-year PR challenge -- getting drivers to stop using cell phones.  The National Transportation Safety Board wants it halted everywhere.  Good luck.  This is an issue in which drivers will and do rebel.  I live in a state that has banned cell phones while driving.  I see constantly drivers with cell phones to their ears.  They don't understand the danger, or if they do, they take the risk that driving while talking is safe enough.  The NTSB is in for a long-term PR campaign to instill more conservative behavior.  Penalties and fines will not be sufficient because people will keep an eye for the police while talking.  There needs to be peer pressure, the same kind of mind change that drove people to wear seat belts after years of spurning them.  It would be an interesting campaign to implement.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Great PR, Again 

Here is an example of great PR and a community service at the same time.  Once again, it is from Google.   Why do I cite them so often?  Because the firm does neat stuff repeatedly.  It seems to be in the genes of Google to tackle interesting projects in new and different ways and in the process, burnish the brand.  The upshot is that more people use Google, and it maintains a distance between itself and competitors.  Not many companies can position themselves like this.  Google has made a science of it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Protecting Reputation 

Here is one way to protect a school's reputation -- buying URL's with .xxx extensions.  Universities across the US are buying web site names that could be used by pornographers.  And, well they should.  The pornography industry will use anything and do anything to make a buck.  The cost of protection is a few thousand dollars.  That's cheap by comparison to the headaches that could come from someone using a school's name to sell sex.  One might wonder what has happened to society, but it is no different today than it was in the past except for the presence of the internet.  Perhaps the biggest laugh in the article is the protest from pornographers that they have to spend money to protect their trademarks.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

Reputation And Psychopathic Tendencies 

This is an interesting article on reputation and psychopathic tendencies.  Whether or not you agree with its conclusions, it is worth reading.  A psychopath is a person who doesn't care what others think of him.  Reputation has no meaning.  If the person lies, cheats or steals, there is no feeling for those who have suffered loss because of the psychopath.  Lack of empathy allows behavior that is offensive to society.  The article, more controversially, maintains that great wealth, or the prospect of it, breeds distance from others and an inability to understand what others experience.  Anyone who knows the history of philanthropy will know that isn't necessarily true.  On the other hand, the temptation to transgress social norms is larger when there is a pot of gold in bad behavior.  The main point of the article is important.  Those who distance themselves from society can develop tendencies to transgress society's norms and are a danger.  In other words, reputation is important.

Friday, December 09, 2011


For a leader of an organization to claim ignorance of its activities is a fatal blow to credibility.  Yet, that is the claim that John Corzine made yesterday in Congressional hearings.  He said he didn't know where $1.2 billion of customers' money went when the firm collapsed.  If he doesn't know, who should?  Corzine's situation is tragic.  He went from Goldman Sachs to a senator then governor of New Jersey and finally to CEO of MF Global where his career ended spectacularly.  There is little that he can do to recover from the blow of MF Global's bankruptcy.  His testimony to members of Congress yesterday was in his own words, the right thing to do.  He deserves credit for that, but it won't offset the misery caused by MF Global's liquidation.  From a PR perspective, Corzine is toxic.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Fatal Blow? 

How does a company recover from this?  Olympus is staring at its mortality after a damning report on the behavior of its executives.  Its stock has lost more than 50 percent of its value, and the Tokyo Stock Exchange is threatening to delist the company.  The company has done great injury to a key public -- its shareholders.  Its interim president and the board have indicated they might step down at a time when Olympus needs leadership and clear communications.  It is unlikely to get either for weeks or months while the damage is unwound.  Should Olympus survive, its future executives will have a painful and difficult duty of rebuilding the company's credibility.  It will be a prolonged public relations exercise.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Changing Face Of Journalism 

This is interesting news.  NBC's local TV stations are joining in partnerships with local and not-for-profit news sources to cover their markets.  These are blogs and web sites that have focused on issues in their local communities.  It is about time.  No matter how many staff reporters that a major TV station has, it cannot cover its market well.  TV has never had the reach that newspapers once had.  (Newspapers have shrunk badly in coverage.)  Now there is a chance that NBC stations can break news that hasn't shown already elsewhere.  It also means that PR practitioners have alternate avenues to reach the media that they didn't have before.  Let's hope that what NBC is doing is a model for other local news media. 

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Own Fault 

Business can gripe about Federal and state regulation but much of the time, it is the fault of business that regulation is imposed.  Take this case.  MF Global apparently used customer funds in an unauthorized and illegal manner, thereby precipitating new rules from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.  Other industry participants will complain about onerous regulation, but they need only look at themselves for an explanation.  It is religion among businessmen to talk about free markets, but capitalism can't handle freedom.  When it happens, businessmen run amok.  They need the hand of government to guide their behavior.  Otherwise, the marginal and short-term players drive out those who act responsibly.  That is why it is hard not to get impatient when CEOs preach the glory of free markets.  It is hype and not PR.  If they were in an environment of rabid capitalism, they would plea for regulation.  Wouldn't it better if they were honest?

Monday, December 05, 2011

Perception Vs. Reality 

Vladimir Putin cultivates an image of strength, of a bare-chested athlete who controls the world around him.  Thus, the reality of the vote in Russia must have come as a shock.   Even with alleged vote fraud, he wasn't able to gain an overwhelming majority.  All those photos of him roughing it in the Russian Outback, playing the super-man, haven't gone down well with the public.  One might think he would abandon that approach and work harder at the down and difficult political game of satisfying voters -- i.e., true PR rather than publicity.  Time will tell, but could it be that democracy is finally arriving in Russia?  

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Out Tomorrow 

I'm on the road tomorrow and will be unable to post.  

Pitching Bloggers 

This detailed explanation of how to pitch a story idea to bloggers isn't all that different from pitches to journalists.  Basically, it is get to the point, don't be pushy and be transparent.  Why is it then so difficult for PR practitioners to do that?  Perhaps it is a compelling need to sell rather than converse with the other party.  Or, it could be that PR practitioners actually believe the hype.  They are unable to stand back and look at a story idea objectively.  They lack news sense, maybe because they have never been on the other side of the industry and been buried under a snowfall of press releases.   Read the explanation and decide for yourself.

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