Monday, July 22, 2013


This blog is taking time off till the beginning of August.  

The Power Of Positive Perception 

PR deals with perception.  How some one or an organization is viewed is a preoccupation of counselors.  Leaders too are aware of what others think.  They know that many have false perceptions of them for the good and some for the bad.  They try to instill the correct perceptions so they can get things done.  The present Pope is a leader who understands the power of perception. His actions of behalf of the poor since he was elected have made world headlines and energized the faithful.  His current visit to Brazil has sent the country into a tizzy.  The Pope knows that his prominence gives him a pulpit to teach the world lessons on morality.  Hence, he is visiting a slum while in the country and he is taking up the cause of the poor in his remarks.  He will get listeners at all levels of society, but it is too early to know whether this will result in action -- better housing, better utilities, health care, nutrition.  The Pope was known in Argentina before his election for espousing the needs of the poverty-stricken.  His actions now have global significance, of which is he well aware.    

Friday, July 19, 2013

What Now? 

Detroit has been a fiscal, management and PR disaster for years.  Yesterday, it hit a new low -- the largest municipal bankruptcy in the US.  Assume you are a PR counselor to the emergency manager and mayor of Detroit.  What do you say?  Detroit will rise again?  That seems a hollow promise for a city that has lost much of its population and is known for block after block of abandoned and wrecked housing.  Perhaps, we will get through this?  Yes, the city will but in what condition when its services barely function and it can hardly pay its police and fire squads.  Any positive statement at this time takes personal credibility and faith in the bankruptcy system to work a fiscal turnaround.  Who has that credibility?  The PR counselor must start with the person to whom citizens and others will listen.  There might not be much of that as pension programs are cut and salaries reduced.  Any change in the image of the city is going to take time -- maybe a decade or more.  And only then will it come about if Detroit finds a new economic base for its existence.  Here is a wish for good luck to all those connected with the troubled town.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Shooting Oneself In the Foot 

If China should find that ethical drug companies were something other than ethical, it will be a case of Big Pharma shooting itself in the foot. Police allege that GlaxoSmithKline PLC used payoffs and "sexual favors" to advance its sales in the country.  It will be up to Chinese courts to prove whether they did or not, but the pharmaceutical industry has apparently been corrupt in the country for a long time.  Assuming GSK was playing the game the way others do in the country, it created its own PR crisis.  It will be a difficult situation to overcome because the Chinese government is making an example of the company.  This raises a serious question, however.  What should a businessperson do when the environment in which he or she works is rotten?  It is hard to keep one's integrity and remain employed.  Company executives are pushing for sales growth.  Customers are looking for kickbacks and other rewards.  It is natural to go along if "everyone is doing it."  The result, however, is what is happening in China  It is better not to play the game in the first place, but try and tell a CEO that.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


You may have seen already the study and recommendations from Edelman public relations for how to handle content generation.  If not, a discussion and link to the paper is here.  It is a praiseworthy effort on the part of Edelman to distinguish public relations from journalism and to play honestly in the media field.  Praiseworthy but more than likely doomed to failure. Few marketers understand how to do content generation such that consumers will read it and take from it a key message.  Marketers want to sell, sell, sell and they will take shortcuts to move product or services.  If that means masquerading copy as a journalistic product, so be it.  Edelman is a large firm.  It might be able to enforce its standards with its clients.  Internal PR staff reporting to marketing and smaller agencies may find themselves in uncomfortable binds.  I wish Edelman well with its standards.  May the firm set the tone for the entire PR industry.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

How Do You Handle? 

When the crowd starts booing at the introduction of your product, you have a PR problem.   That is the issue facing Microsoft with its Xbox One game machine.  Microsoft is a wealthy company.  It can buy as much advertising as it wants.  It could have salted the audience with paid supporters. What it can't change is lingering unhappiness with its policies.  That is, unless it revises them.  Public condemnation of a product can be helpful in letting a company know the depth of dissatisfaction among target audiences.  It can also cause resentment and self-justification.  "They just don't get it."  Either way, it is a PR challenge that should be met with action.  Letting the situation fester is the worst of all possible courses.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Rush To Judgment 

There is no way to know whether George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin in cold blood or out of self-defense.  Many had pre-judged Zimmerman. A jury found him innocent.  The rush to judgment in this case was remarkable but not unprecedented.  There are usually a few trials each year that capture public attention.  PR counselors know about the rush to condemn.  Anyone who has advised companies and/or individuals for any length of time, has experienced the circumstances in which corporations or individuals are hanged well before they get to court.  It smacks of the old saying that "We'll give him a fair trial then lynch him."  There is no way to stop this all-too-human reaction, and little one can do to defend against it.  The media and the government are both prone to condemning, and in this case, their behavior was egregious.  One would think they could learn, but they don't.  Zimmerman is free.  Martin is dead.  There isn't much more one can -- or should -- say.

Friday, July 12, 2013


The last major PC magazine has stopped publishing and gone online.  I'm sorry to see PC World go.  It was one of a series of publications that appeared during the personal computer revolution, and it was a monthly education on hardware, software, networking, the internet and much else electronic.  But, time caught up with it and changing tastes.  The magazine had been shrinking as advertising dribbled away.  Finally, the publisher pulled the plug.  If there is one proof point that the PC era is over, this is it.  The magazine in its day showed the path to better, faster, less expensive client service and computing.  We learned things we never knew we could do from sophisticated word processing and in-house publishing to spreadsheet analysis, image manipulation and databases.  The magazine was the "shelter" publication of the personal computing industry. It is remaining online as other suspended computer pubs have done.  However, for those of us who like old-fashioned paper, it won't be quite the same.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


The CEO of the train line whose derailed oil tankers burned the center of a Canadian town is showing a curious sense of leadership.  He has already blamed the engineer for the disaster but he doesn't know the facts.  He stayed in his office for days before going to the scene of the horror because he said he was better dealing with the crisis from there.  He isn't taking total responsibility for the accident though it was his company's train, engineer and oil tankers filled with crude.  One wonders how he keeps his job.  A PR counselor would have told him to get to the scene right away and work from there.  A PR counselor would have warned him not to speculate as to causes until he knows the facts of the case.  A PR counselor would have told him to take responsibility for his company's equipment that rolled uncontrolled through the town, derailed at a curve and exploded into hellish fire.  Instead, it sounds like he has "lawyered up" or worse, he really doesn't know what to do.  In that case, RailWorld, Inc. needs a new leader.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ripe For Radicals? 

When governments fail their publics, the environment becomes ripe for radicals who propose simple solutions.  What isn't said, however, is that simplicity often leads to more problems, to curtailment of speech and government controls that make things worse.  Witness Venezuela.  European countries have lost their publics for the time being and that is worrisome.  One or more countries could descend into non-democratic regimes, if they are unable to turn around their economic slide.  Government leaders are flailing but they few options other than austerity, and it is that stringency that has cost them support.  The perception is that of captains in a storm lashed to their wheels who have lost control of their vessels and are unable to turn into the wind.  All their passengers want is the firmness of land, but their hopes have died and their trust.  What is needed is for the captains to project calm and purpose while struggling.  European publics don't appear to be getting that, however.  Hence, they are ready to put someone else at the helm whether or not that person understands the situation.  It is a dangerous time.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Nothing Else To Do? 

What does it say about disgraced politicians that they choose to run for office again?  That they have nothing else they can do?  This is the case with two New York pols who exited office because of sexual peccadillos.  One is a former congressman and the other a former governor.  Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer are apparently trying to prove that voters will forget and forgive.  Maybe so, but to those who watch politicians, it presents a curious PR situation.  "Don't remember that man from the past.  I'm different now."  My guess is that both men are remaining mum about their previous exploits to help voters pull a curtain over the past.  Do they deserve a second chance?  Only voters can decide that, but should they succeed, they will prove that there can be a statute of limitations on reprehensible behavior.

Monday, July 08, 2013


The oil and gas fracking industry has met its match in New York.  They have been stopped by NIMBY-ites, a coalition of interest groups opposed to horizontal drilling and rock fracturing.  Thus far, the group is winning against the combined money and power of the drillers.   One can look at this in three ways.  The Not-In-My-Back-Yard groups have more power than one would think or the oil industry has done a bad job of PR or both.  It is easier to organize around a single issue and NIMBY-ites have been effective in doing so, but drilling also is a single issue with jobs and money for poorer sections of New York State. How is it that the economic potential is being frustrated?  For one, interest groups have raised concern about the safety of such drilling with videos of flammable water spewing from taps.  The industry has countered that such incidents are not its fault or are aberrations, but thus far it hasn't found an effective way to counter the visuals.  The industry has to take the time to explain in detail to the public how it will guarantee clean extraction.  Thus far, it has fallen short.  NIMBY-ites haven't won the battle, however.  The issue will remain for years -- as long as gas remains locked in sub-surface shale.  

Friday, July 05, 2013

Just A Little Bit 

Russia is playing a balanced PR game in its decision to allow Edward Snowden to remain in the Moscow airport transit area.  On the one hand, it is giving him ersatz asylum   On the other, it is telling him to go publicly.  It is tweaking the US and not in the same gesture.  One would think that this cannot go on for many days more.  How long can anyone stay trapped in one part of a building with all the difficulties of basic living?  Perhaps Russia is betting that Snowden will give himself up and resolve the problem for everyone.  Whatever the outcome, Putin is scoring perception points against the US without working too hard.  The US looks powerless while more information leaks to the public and allies protest US spying.  What more could Putin want? With just a little bit of maneuvering, he has gained a lot.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

It Was Always So 

This story is amusing.  It seems a magazine editor has admitted that his publication used interns to avoid paying journalists.  It has always been so.  Decades ago when I worked in TV news, the station prided itself on its liberality except in the matters of pay.  Ask for a raise and there "a thousand others out there waiting to take your place."   So, I put in long hours of overtime to earn a wage slightly above that of the poverty level.  The same was true when I started in PR.  Pay was miserable.  However, the difference was that in two years, I was escalated to a decent scale.  I chose to stay in PR, and I'm glad I did.  Money isn't everything, but one should be able to pay bills.  That was my goal then and now, and I don't live a luxuriant lifestyle.  Publishers have never acknowledged the hypocrisy of their stance of speaking the truth and protecting citizens.  Truth should start at home with one's own employees.  Publishing is an economic enterprise and not a higher calling.  Journalists deserve decent wages along with everyone else.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Tire Crisis 

When you are a manufacturer of high-performance tires, the last thing you want is for the tires to fail -- in races -- before millions of spectators. That is just what has been happening to Pirelli.  its tires have been disintegrating and exploding during F1 competition  the largest racing circuit in the world.  Why, no one knows yet, or at least not publicly, but the situation has created a PR crisis for the company.  Why buy a performance tire when you can't be sure that it will hold up?  People who bolt Pirellis on to their Porsches, Lamborghinis or Ferraris expect the tires to give them a good ride and to last under tough conditions.  They are not likely to count tire shredding during races as inconsequential.  So, what must Pirelli do?  The first task is to stop the explosions.  It can do nothing to repair its reputation as long as tires keep failing. Once it has fixed the problem, it ought let the public know the cause and make sure that none of its consumer tires are affected.  Then, it is a matter of time to win customers back.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

A 50-Year Success 

The Zip Code has turned 50.  It seems like it has been around longer than that.  It is obvious today to have numerical identifiers for zones in which the mail is delivered.  It wasn't apparent  in 1963.  The US Postal Service would have drowned in mail had it not been instituted. Today, of course, mail volume continues to shrink, but the Zip Code has taken a life of its own.  Its districts are used to profile residents by demographics.  Zip+4 even allows marketers to determine which side of a street or specific building to target.  It is easy to do research by Zip.  In other words, this one change of putting five numbers on an envelope restructured the way that advertisers and others operate.  Who would have thought that when it was started?  Perhaps a far-seeing postal employee or two.  Even as the post office subsides in significance, the Zip Code will remain as an essential identifier.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Everybody Does It 

EU countries are shocked, shocked that the US is spying on them.  The US response?  Everybody does it.  That may be true, probably is correct, but no one talks about it in polite society, and the newspaper report is an embarrassment for the US.  The question now is whether the Secretary of State and the President can brush off complaints and continue as before.  It is too early to know the answer to that but it is unlikely that many changes will be made to its information collection technology.   Should EU countries be upset?  It is always disturbing to know that someone is violating your privacy.  So, the answer is yes, but in light of practical politics and diplomacy, my guess is that they will accept it and adjust their secrecy practices to make it harder for the US to penetrate their confidential data.  As for the excuse, it is lame.  "Everybody does it" is what convicted felons say to absolve their behavior.  The only answer to that is "Everybody doesn't do it."  The US needs to work on its PR for this issue.

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