Sunday, August 26, 2012
It's time to take a rest. This blog will be off for the week and back after Labor Day.
Friday, August 24, 2012
Google has done it again with its street-view photos of a remote Inuit village. The firm knows how to get positive publicity and good PR. This series of street-view photos will go with Google's recent shots of the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. Google has become a major source for visual information, essential scenes consumers and others use daily and rarely think about. The company is a tool for modern living. Whatever one might say about Google in its other activities -- its hits and misses and skirting privacy --, one has to concur that Google is making the world a more familiar place. Even though there are those who would rather not have their buildings appear online, most are satisfied to have cameras pass by mounted on a car or trike. And anyone looking up locations is happy to have an image to help guide the search. Some commentators say Google is becoming a giant media company with its recent purchase of the Frommer travel brand to go with its prior purchase of Zagat. Maybe so, but who should care when it is liberating information and making knowledge universal?
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Here is an attempt to generate publicity that not only works but one can't help smile. Donkeys with WiFi in a biblical theme park. It comes under the "what will they think of next" category. One can be sure Moses and the prophets did not have the same advantages nor did they foresee a day when a lad with laptop or cell would be riding down a hill and sending photos to relatives in the US. The theme park operator says it is a way to attract the young to the park. Maybe so, but I suspect grown-ups will take advantage of the system at the same time. The idea is creative, oddball and successful in sparking media coverage. In other words, good publicity.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
The driver-less car is ready for the road. Are citizens ready for the driver-less car? More importantly, are governments and regulatory authorities prepared to vet and license robot vehicles for sale and use? There is little doubt that the technology has arrived and the PR challenge will be to gain acceptance for it. Some consumers are ready to adapt automation right away. Driving is difficult for them. Others enjoy the power behind the wheel. The thought that they can play solitaire on their cell phones while their vehicle motors down the highway at 70 mph makes them shudder. Automated cars are not a new idea. In the 1950s, futurists were predicting them, but they were too difficult to build and they required a metal conductor planted in the highway to make them feasible. Today's robot cars are self-contained, so the time will come shortly when practitioners will be asked to educate citizens on their use and value. I hope I'm still working when it does. I want to be part of the cultural change.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
The Republican senate candidate for Missouri is trying to salvage his run for office while the Party is trying to get rid of him. Both are responding to a self-inflicted disaster when the candidate, Todd Akin, made ignorant remarks on the subject of rape. Republicans are right in pushing for Akin to quit. There is no recovery from the stupidity Akin demonstrated during his interview, and for every hour that Akin remains, he is inflicting damage not only on his campaign but also on the Republican party and the Republican presidential race. It's a trifecta of negativity. It is also a pity because Republicans need thoughtful candidates who show an understanding of all sides of issues and maintain reasonable and defensible positions. Thus far, Tea Party candidates have shown little promise. One can ask where the conservative thinkers are and their influence. They are obviously not in Missouri.
Monday, August 20, 2012
Julian Assange, creator of Wikileaks, is playing to his public. He might be effective in lecturing to them, but so far, he hasn't convinced British authorities. It looks as if he will be staying for a long while in a small room of the Ecuador Embassy. He apparently sees himself as a martyr for freedom of speech, and he might be. A question yet to be answered in a public forum is how many secrets any government should be allowed to keep. The idea of total transparency is incorrect. Governments, as do individuals, have secrets, information that they don't or can't share with the world for the time being. Both should be allowed a degree of privacy to conduct their business and lives. Assange is an extremist in that he denies any notion of privacy for government. However, at issue is not Assange's views but whether he committed sexual assault. For that, he should be extradited and stand trial. If proven innocent, he can then go back to his self-appointed mission, and he can argue at will his point of view. The problem with playing to his public now is that he is trying to change topics. Fortunately, authorities won't let him.
Friday, August 17, 2012
This is an interesting way to put the Olympics in a different perspective. The Guardian published a "Data Blog," a collection of graphs that tell a deeper story about the games and the athletes. There is much for PR to learn. On the whole, practitioners use too few graphs and charts. When they do deploy them, they can distort facts through poor presentation. or "spin." As Edward Tufte says, graphs and charts should make complex data simple and comparative. They should make relevant facts stand out without distortion, deliberate or otherwise. Earnings reports, for example, would be more understandable if graphs accompanied them. Page after turgid page of words can be simplified quickly and delivered at a glance. A barrier, of course, is that newswire services don't transmit them. Why not move, then, to mass distribution of pdfs? One could achieve both mandatory disclosure and better understanding. The web liberated visualization of quantitative data. It's time to use the tool.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
The presidential campaigns of 2012 are proving that social media needn't be social and in fact, are one more publicity vehicle. That is the conclusion of a just-released study. Obama and Romney have turned social media into controlled media -- distribution points for electioneering fodder. One should have expected this. The idea that a candidate would allow free-form discussion and relationship with voters is foreign both to candidates and their handlers. They are victims of "what-ifs." What if someone starts trashing the candidate? What if someone releases embarrassing data about the candidate? What if we do interact with the public? How do we afford the manpower? Instead, campaigns have turned social media into the latest attack ads, candidate's quotes, news from battleground states, etc. It is a legitimate use of media, but not a credible one.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Avon Products Inc was founded as a direct seller of cosmetics partly to give home-bound women a way to earn money. Now Avon is taking that message to other countries with great success. In Africa, particularly, the company is lifting women out of poverty. That is a powerful public relations message for the company and its business model. Avon might not be as desirable a job in the US anymore with so many occupations open to women, but it is viable elsewhere in the world. "Avon calling" has global meaning and global impact.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
What will it take for companies to understand they can no longer be phony? Here is yet another case of a corporation fake blogging about its products. The person who outed them went to some length to discover what is going on, but one should expect that. The web has millions of detectives eager to show up individuals and organizations. It gains a company nothing to be outed except embarrassment. It is far better to be transparent. On the web, honesty is not the best policy. It should be the only policy. Samsung now gets to explain why it hid its marketing efforts, and any rationale is bound to come up short. Actually, it doesn't have to explain. It can brazen its dishonesty through and live with the consequences. Either way, its marketing effort has been diminished.
Monday, August 13, 2012
What just happened in Egypt is an example of courage and forbearance and a message to the public that civilians rule the country. The courage belongs to Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, the forbearance to the generals who have steered the country since the uprising. If the situation holds, citizens are the winners. The generals could have staged a coup. They might have even thought about it. For some reason they haven't -- not yet anyway. Mursi could have lived with the situation in which his power was checked at every turn. That he didn't is a victory for Egyptians. The public relations message of Mursi's move is powerful. With one action, he has moved the country back to a course of civilian leadership. Time will tell whether he can keep it there.
Friday, August 10, 2012
There is no gentlemanly competition in politics. It is tooth and claw and always has been. That is why complaints like this are not credible. If it takes trashing President Obama to win, Romney will do it -- or his proxies in SuperPacs. The sad part of this is that most voters dislike gutter campaigning. It's lousy PR and turns citizens off of both parties. So, why do candidates do it? It works for some voters. And a political campaign is a battle for every vote, every last one, because you never know when you will need it. Besides, it is an outlet for natural antipathy between competing views of the country. Will we ever get to a time when issues predominate over personalities? Probably not. From the beginning, there has been character-driven campaigning, some of it sewer ugly. Thomas Jefferson was behind much of it in the early days and look at the pillar on which we have placed him. Political consultants have history on which to stand, not that history makes much difference. So, Romney will complain. Obama will defend. Everything will be per usual.
Thursday, August 09, 2012
Momma, don't let your children get new computers. I'm the victim of a new machine at work. It's not the machine's fault. It works well. It's the settings that did not carry over from the old computer. The old box was set up for my working style. The new one isn't in spite of the best efforts of the tech person. The problem is that I use Google Drive -- the cloud storage facility -- to maintain personal files. That way they don't intermix with work. But, I need access to them. As soon as I got my new computer, my personal files went missing. My stomach in my throat, I rushed to find help. Try and find help from Google. Worse, the Drive went missing at home as well. I don't know why. There are now gigabytes of critical data resting on a server somewhere in the world, and I have no idea where. No one warns you about this when you sign up for cloud storage. I will work through this, but it's always something.
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
This painfully detailed description of how hackers wiped out a journalist is a horror story. The reporter blames himself for errors, but it also is a condemnation of security procedures at Apple and Amazon. The companies were victims of social engineering that shouldn't have occurred. Amazon, apparently, has changed its rules so it won't happen again. At this time, it is not clear what Apple will decide, but the company needs to do something. That two hackers can take down a person's computer, his devices and his Twitter account is shocking. How many of us are prepared to prevent that? The hackers apparently did it to show off, but it is a short step to malicious intent. Apple and Amazon are now scrambling to regain their reputations for security. The reporter is finding out whether he can recover the contents of his hard drive that held pictures of his infant daughter. The story is a warning to us all.
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
This story discusses an issue PR practitioners have known all along -- one must proactively protect company and brand image. It's about time corporate America is learning that but it took the internet and social media to drive the lesson home. Now, marketers are working to build good information and fan bases for brands before activists smear them. The battleground is in online media, of course, but there should have been a recognition all the way along. We in PR say welcome to those who before pushed us into the background in favor of advertising and promotion. We're glad to receive recognition, but we wish it hadn't taken so long. Now, it is up to PR to show the way, but we have work to do ourselves in understanding the subtleties of the online world and using them to advantage.
Monday, August 06, 2012
Last week, I noted that it was risky for NASA to make a PR film about landing a robot on Mars when the task was so difficult. This morning proves that NASA knows more than I do. Although the condition of the robot vehicle, Curiosity, is still uncertain, it is on Mars and sending back pictures. That is a stunning engineering, scientific and PR triumph for the agency. It is beyond my limited capacities to understand all that went into building and sending the vehicle on its 154 million mile journey. Then, to choose a never-tried, highly complex method of reaching and lowering the vehicle to the surface of the planet is a definition of insanity. Except they did it. Kudos to the agency. May it serve them well at budget time.
Friday, August 03, 2012
The church of journalism has its heretics. Here is one. He follows a line of reporters in major and minor media who have had poor regard for facts. Unfortunately for hard-working and honest members of the media, the actions of a few have smeared the efforts of many. It is a PR disaster for a group that doesn't believe in PR. It shouldn't be, of course, because journalism was never that ethical or honest. It was living on the reputation of Woodward and Bernstein. Within the business, there has been a recognition of reporters who cut corners. As they are discovered, they are fired. But, that is journalism of the last 40 years. Before then, one job of a PR practitioner was to reward those who wrote about clients with munificent gifts. Editors finally put a stop to it because it was embarrassing and it looked bad. In a way, we are returning to the past when journalism was wild and woolly and not always credible. In other words, reporters are like the rest of us.
Thursday, August 02, 2012
This is an interesting case for good grammar in business writing. It is a pity that professionals often ignore its arguments, particularly when writing e-mail. This summer I am teaching managers getting MBAs at New York University. The course is business communications. One student, a bright fellow, argued with me over the need to worry about grammar and spelling in e-mail. He works in a firm, he said, where it isn't an issue. He rejected my counter-argument that poor grammar might work in his firm but it might not be successful elsewhere. We agreed to disagree. The issue of grammar and spelling is simple. It is one's image to another who might not know you. It defines your intelligence and knowledge. It shows respect for the reader. Correct grammar and spelling are good personal PR. I hope this student will see that before he gets into trouble with a boss or client, but experience is the best teacher.
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Here is a risky PR move -- producing a celebrity-narrated video on a Mars landing before the landing has happened. NASA's confidence might be unwarranted given the history of unsuccessful approaches to the planet and since this landing is unusually complex, one could claim the agency's confidence verges on arrogance. Still, if it works, the agency has a PR vehicle it can use for some time to come, and NASA needs one in an era of deep budget cutting. I'm not sure I would have the courage to take such a PR step even with all the engineering simulations and extra precautions NASA has taken to make sure the landing goes well. Of course, if the landing fails, the space agency can always withdraw the video quickly. In a time of stressed budgets, that would be a waste of resources. However, my guess is no one would call them on it.