Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday 

Black Friday, now Black Thursday Night, is a mystery.  The strangeness is not that merchants want to lure people to their stores right away during the year's heaviest shopping season.  It is that people will turn out with passion and intensity bordering on violence to grab bargains as long as they last.  Is it worth it?  To me, it isn't and never has been.  But, to a large segment of the public, there is a sense of a game about it.  Waiting in line, charging the doors, racing down aisles and stuffing shopping carts full of items.  Black Friday is a form of public relations in that retailers are giving special preference to those who elect to show up.  Some day, a bargain might tempt me into a line, but after decades of not happening, it is likely that nothing will.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Credibility Gap? 

How can one believe a person who fails to pay his taxes but works constantly at self-publicity?  Like this fellow.  He has a long history of rushing to the front of events and proclaiming himself the leader of protesters against racist -- or potentially racist -- acts.  The New York Times exposed him recently, but he sloughed it off and continued on his way.  One wonders why he hasn't been brought up on charges other than a fear among authorities that he would claim them to be racial.  He is a person who sees everything through a racial microscope.  It is a hard way to live because even the smallest slight is blown out of proportion.  The African-American community hasn't been well-served by him, but he is a fact that authorities have to deal with.  Nonetheless, he gives self-publicity a bad name.  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Eve 

It is curious how Thanksgiving has turned into many things that are hardly giving thanks.  There is football, the Macy's parade, the starter gun for Black Friday and hours of cooking.  It is as if Americans take the task of giving thanks as a given.  Now, on to other, more exciting things.  It is a holiday but for the poor saps who work in grocery stores and retailers trying to get a jump on the Christmas selling season.  One wonders what a foreigner thinks about the holiday.  There are plenty of things to be thankful for, including the fact that we are still here and able to render appreciation when relatives and friends have passed on.  It would be nice to see Thanksgiving return to its roots, but that is unlikely to happen.  Nonetheless, Happy Thanksgiving..  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Developing Crisis 

According to a recent study, the average cost of the development of a new drug has risen to $2.6 billion.  This represents a 145 percent increase over the results of a similar study conducted in 2003.  It also is a number that will sink the pharmaceutical industry unless it finds better, faster and less expensive ways to create new medicines.  Drug makers have created a PR problem for themselves.  The public won't stand for the elevated cost of new medicines to the amount of hundreds of thousands a year for dosages.  The government will balk as well and doctors will think twice before prescribing a costly cure.  The pharma industry is putting itself in a box from which it might be difficult to extricate itself.  Part of the industry's challenge is not of its own making.  Rules and regulations have made the development and testing of new pharmaceuticals inordinately expensive.  On the other hand, some in the industry were cutting corners in testing and not abiding by the rules of good science or medicine.  Companies were throwing out negative studies and keeping positive ones to win faster approval from the Food and Drug Administration.  The industry once had an exalted reputation for the miracle cures it produced.  No more.  It needs to slog with the rest of business and to fight PR battles through better operations and potent drugs.

Monday, November 24, 2014


When a successful CEO suddenly steps down without explanation, the first question from everyone's is "Why?"  The United Technologies CEO just quit this way and the former CFO has taken his position.  It was a surprise move, and the former CEO is still young at age 57.  The PR practitioner at UT is fielding calls internally and externally asking what happened?  It must be difficult if the practitioner knows the reason not to be able to give it.  Absent the facts, the sudden departure invites wild speculation, some benign, some not.  Eventually the reason might come out, but until then it is anyone's guess as to why he left.  It is not the optimum way to practice PR, but the former CEO does have a right to privacy.

Friday, November 21, 2014

When Satire Is News 

Two studies have shown that TV satire shows are better in informing the public than the news media.  Certainly, the John Oliver take-down of the Miss America pageant is a brilliant piece of reportage deserving a news award.  What does this say to PR practitioners?  Not much unfortunately.  The satire shows are designed to plunge a knife into the heart of a problem and to twist it viciously for laughs.  It is laugher that educates and is a reminder to the viewer of the event or personage.  There aren't many occasions in which PR would deliberately set out to mock one's client or product.  On the other hand, it would be dangerous to be completely dismissive of TV satire.  There might be creative ways to provoke laughter and still get positive message placement.  It would depend on the issue, the bent of the show and the mind of the comedian who presents it.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Having spent time recently in another country, it is easy to understand how news coverage shifts to the biases of the reading public.  But this is an extreme.  Through control of the media, Russians are being told what to believe and how.  There is no diversity of viewpoint.  Russian TV follows the orders of Putin and provides the images that Putin wants to convince citizens that he is in the right.  As the article states, he is playing an emotional game and appealing to the base instincts of Russians to convince them that there were no soldiers or tanks in Eastern Ukraine, that Crimea belonged to the Russians from the beginning, that Putin is guiding the state with a firm hand.  It is "trust me" writ large over the country's many time zones.  Putin may be a master diplomatist but he also can make mistakes if he lets his arrogance get ahead of him.  It would not be surprising if in the future he invades another country re-create the Soviet empire. As long as the West talks but does not act, he can get away with it too.  If you want to understand propaganda and how it works, look at Russia today.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Despite efforts to protect free speech in a democracy, there are those who believe they can control it.  Consider this fellow.   He believes that by digging dirt on journalists he can control what they write.  His arrogance is astounding but understandable.  He comes out of a business environment where control is everything, and he believes he can direct the media to report as he wishes.  Those who don't he will seek to destroy.  That is the mind of a dictator.  There is no place for such arrogance in a free-speech society, and the criticism that cascaded on him was warranted.  He should lose his job as well, but he won't.  It is a measure of the company for which he works that he can survive and continue in it.  At least he should be muzzled and kept away from the media.  There is no need to hear this dog barking.  And, if that affects his free speech rights, so be it. In a company, one doesn't get to say what he thinks without retribution.  One voluntarily restricts speech to continue to work.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Mind Of A Terrorist 

It is instructive to put oneself in the mind of a terrorist who decapitates victims and boasts about it. He is engaged in an act of negatived publicity, of inculcating fear in the minds of many.  By ignoring the conventions of war and of democratic countries, the terrorist pursues victory in any way he can, no matter how brutal.  The response of the US to the beheading was right.  The US won't be intimidated and will double-down in its efforts to wipe terrorists from the earth.  The terrorists have a distorted vision of power.  They know what they know and nothing will come in their way of pursuing power to effect their vision of what a Muslim state should be.  For that, they are more dangerous than other opponents of a democratic way of life.  They also infect the vision of the West against peaceful Muslims and create unwarranted suspicions, a burden the religious group must carry for the time being.  There is a lesson here.  One unbound by moral and civil conventions descends below the level of beasts.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Positive Raid 

The federal government conducted surprise inspections of the National Football League medical staff on Sunday to see if doctors were carrying illegal prescriptions with them.  Contrary to what one might think, if the physicians were clean, the PR from the raid would be positive, and it would bolster the NFL's contention that it is hewing to the law.  This, however, doesn't apply to the players themselves and what they might be taking privately.  Football is a brutal sport measured in injuries large and small.  Tape and padding cannot protect ribs, knees and ankles from mangling blows.  This is why the federal government has reason to suspect drugs are given to players to get them back into games when they should be benched.  One would hope that the raids are regular lest any doctors bow to pressure from team owners and staff to get star players back onto the field. The doctors themselves must understand that there are long-term repercussions for short-term decisions,and they are influencing the health of the players for the rest of their lives. 

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