Friday, October 30, 2015
PR becomes difficult for a company that has passed its peak in the marketplace and is on a downturn. Consider GoPro. A year ago, it was the video camera to have if one is athletic and wanted to record one's activities. Now it is struggling to make sales and earnings forecasts. and it is branching out to drones to see if it can reignite growth. It seems that it mispriced a consumer-level camera introduced earlier in the year, but more than that, the market for athletic cameras might not be as big as the company hoped. What do you say, what do you do to expand the market? That is the challenge the company faces. It has been moving more into video production as a way to support sales, but that clearly isn't enough. The PR practitioner is faced with unpleasant choices -- flog product that isn't selling or help develop new markets if they are identified or both. Either way, the job is more difficult than promoting cameras during their peak sales period.
Thursday, October 29, 2015
When an organization doesn't know what to do, transparency in its actions can harm rather than help. It becomes clear to observers that the entity is drifting on strange seas. Such may be the case for the Federal Reserve. There are claims that it doesn't know how to handle inflation and is clueless on the progress of the economy. This is the reason why month after month, the Fed keeps interest rates near zero. The US economy isn't reacting to low interest rates as one thinks it should. More money hasn't resulted in faster growth, yet unemployment is down to acceptable levels. The Fed has worked hard to be more transparent in its decisions unlike its mysterious and gnomic declarations in the past, but greater disclosure hasn't resulted in more light and credibility. Rather, it is showing the limits to what the Fed can do to spur the economy.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Volkswagen has done wrong and deserves to be punished, but should it have to endure this kind of pain? The scramble of tort lawyers to find clients has long been disgusting, especially since lawyers stand to gain more from the class action suits than plaintiffs. There ought to be a better way to get justice for victims than ambulance chasing, which is what the bar is doing. Tort lawyers offer no apologies for their behavior. Rather, they defend it as part of the process of getting justice for victims. Maybe so but they are focused more on their payday than the victim's remuneration. These are people who have their own jets to get them around and live in luxury on the percentage of winnings they extract from clients. Lawyers should be well paid to take on such work, but they should not be obscenely compensated. Until there is reform in the law, ambulance chasers will flourish.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Character is often revealed in little things, and it is those small items that people look for. Take, for example, this event. Being told to move from a quiet car is hardly a piece of news, but the way one went is. If Christie had apologized and moved to another train car, there wouldn't have been much to report. But, apparently according to news accounts, he didn't. He barked at his bodyguards and moved less than graciously to another part of the train. Predictably, the internet lit up with comments, some expanding the incident and others simply reporting it. The perception of the way Christie departed the quiet car is the issue. If it smacked of privilege, Christie comes off as arrogant. If it was an error quickly corrected, the public would give him slack. Christie's problem is that he comes off as a bully more often than not, so a good number of the public imagined that he did not go willingly. Whatever happened, this little thing did not help him.
Monday, October 26, 2015
There are eight days to go before the borrowing authority of the US Treasury runs out. The Secretary of the Treasury has sounded an alarm, but Congress is busy. For one, the House has to elect a new Speaker. There is a good chance that authorization will pass in the nick of time but House radicals want to use it for public relations purposes and to condemn the indebtedness of the country. There is a time to protest and a time to get along. This is a time to act rather than holding the country hostage. What isn't clear is whether the radicals understand that. In an attempt to make a statement, House conservatives might be shooting themselves in the public's perception -- an example of negative PR.
Thursday, October 22, 2015
I will be away tomorrow and won't be writing.
Paul Ryan, the future House Speaker if news reports are accurate, has made an unusual effort to be transparent about the job. He doesn't want it if it interferes with his weekends with family or if there is any lack of support among Republican House members. He is determined to overcome the fractiousness that doomed the present Speaker, John Boehner. Ryan's effort to be clear about what he will do as Speaker is the result of an unusual advantage. The House desperately wants him and will agree with just about any of his demands. Most politicians don't get that kind of leg up on an office, but it would be better if they did. The credibility of Congress might soar if its members were open about their intentions to the public. Then again, some of them might never get elected in the first place.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Amazon.com is carrying on a public battle of words with The New York Times. Amazon is outraged over the Time's expose of working conditions inside the company. The Times is standing by its lengthy story. Amazon is breaking the basic rule of never fight with a company that buys ink by the barrel. It would have been far better for Amazon to have said that it is investigating the working conditions that the Time's story disclosed and it would act promptly to rectify them. Instead, Amazon's spirited battle with the newspaper smacks of arrogance and does little good for the company's reputation. Why do companies continue to make this mistake? It might be that the top of the organization has lost touch with the bottom and doesn't know what is happening there. When it is pointed out, the company is stung to the quick and fights back. Whatever the reason, it is a dubious strategy to pick a fight with the news establishment.
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Fox news has removed a so-called expert from its group of regular interviewees because the fellow lied about his background and now is indicted for fraud. The individual claimed to have worked in the CIA for 27 years, but apparently he didn't. He had been a frequent guest on Fox news since 2002. One wonders why no one bothered to check his background. That was both a journalistic and PR cock-up. It wouldn't have taken many phone calls to learn that the fellow was impersonating a former CIA operative. My guess is that Fox news fell in love with the guy because he gave good interviews with just the right edge that the news organization was looking for. So, now Fox News has egg on its face and the news guest is facing jail --a sour outcome for both sides.
Monday, October 19, 2015
Amazon is suing more than a thousand freelancers for their phony reviews of products. Amazon is concerned that such fakery will harm the credibility of its own review system. The suit is important, although it won't stop false statements about products and services. The web is too wild and free for one lawsuit to make a difference. It is the epitome of an unregulated marketplace and a reminder to business people that free markets are not free but need basic regulation. There is no surefire way to control the web. Hence, the lawsuit. Capitalists like to talk about open markets until they have to work in one. Then they call for government control to rid the system of bad actors. There is an element of hypocrisy that is amusing to the skeptic.
Friday, October 16, 2015
It is a constant lesson in business, often repeated here, that no organization or individual is safe in the marketplace. In the last two days, we learned of two more examples of stumbles by major corporations -- American Express and Wal-Mart. This is why CEOs should exhibit a healthy paranoia about their businesses. Some thing or some one really is out to get them. The reputations of both companies are taking a beating and there is little either can do in the short run to stabilize them. It is a major reason why PR practitioners when writing about their organizations should stick to facts and remain modest even when business is going well. Always remember that everything can change tomorrow and the triumphalism of today can stick in the craw soon enough. Even businesses with long-term track records of success like Amex and Wal-Mart have their day of reckoning. No one is safe -- ever.
Thursday, October 15, 2015
It is hard to make a public apology. One would rather hide or turn a situation over to lawyers to defend. It is twice as hard to apologize when one's institution is supposed to be above public scandal and a model for how to live. Yet, here is the pope asking forgiveness for scandals in the Roman Catholic Church. To skeptics, the pope has not gone far enough. To believers, it is painful to watch a popular religious figure abase himself before the public. Pope Francis wasn't the cause of scandal, and some of it occurred before he was elevated, but he is taking responsibility by apologizing. That is what a leader should do. Still, there is damage to the relationship of the church with its members. Some believers will ask why they persist in faith when churchmen can't behave themselves. Others will stop going to the Mass and sacraments. It takes understanding to accept that the church is human and people err. The pope is in a painful position, but he is taking positive steps to rebuild relationships with the faithful.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
The soft drink industry has been under assault for sugar in its colas. There are now proposals to tax the beverages as a way to reduce consumption. This is a long-term PR headache for Pepsi and Coke and the many regional drink makers, and it was made worse by Mexico's example. That country levied a tax on soft drinks and successfully reduced consumption, especially among the poor. There is no evidence yet that it has cut obesity and diabetes, but, it has demonstrated that price is a factor in soft drink sales. As one would expect, the lobbying group for cola makers, the American Beverage Association, disputes the evidence and is working hard to keep taxes from driving up the price of drinks. Time will tell whether the industry is successful, Meanwhile the threat of taxation hangs over the heads of cola makers who are scrambling to introduce drinks without sugar.
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
A long-standing PR headache for pharmaceutical companies has been the price of drugs in the US by comparison to other countries. It is a self-inflicted pain that the companies defend because they say it costs millions for them to discover and produce new cures for diseases and they have as many failures as successes. That is true but it still doesn't stop the drumbeat for lower pricing. Sooner or later, pharmaceutical manufacturers will give in on the cost of their most popular remedies because the pressure will be too much to bear. A combination of government and health insurers will force the issue. Meanwhile, they charge exorbitant fees for some of their drugs and they are getting away with it despite criticism. They know they are on borrowed time and the clock is running out. One would think that one or more of the companies would seize the PR initiative and voluntarily match the price of their drugs worldwide, but so far that doesn't seem to be the case.
Monday, October 12, 2015
Hollywood is notorious for ignoring science in its drive to tell cinematic stories, so it was smart PR to contact NASA for help in filming the current release, The Martian. NASA saw and took the opportunity to help and coincidentally announced proof of water on Mars about the time of the film's release. Most science fiction, like Star Wars, makes no effort to restrain the creativity of the film maker, and that is good in its own way. But, the effort to get the scientific details right adds credibility to a film. So, kudos to the director and to the space agency for working together.
Friday, October 09, 2015
Volvo has publicly assumed the liability for accidents involving driverless cars. This, of course, is restricted to accidents in which the car and its software are at fault and not accidents in which the driver or third-parties caused the collision. This is smart PR on the part of Volvo to get regulators on board to certify driverless vehicles. Although driverless cars have already traveled millions of miles in testing, they aren't permitted on the roads except in a few states like California and Nevada. The onerous nature of getting permits can retard technology and slow the process down. By taking the burden of accident protection on itself, Volvo has in a single stroke made regulation easier to handle. Look for the other auto manufacturers to do the same thing.
Thursday, October 08, 2015
The National Rifle Association has much to answer for, not the least of which is this. That we still don't have good data on gun deaths is inexcusable. Nothing in the constitution bars gathering information, but the NRA in its paranoia has blocked any such data collection. I'm not adverse to guns just like I'm not against driving, but it is sick that we have more stats on auto deaths than from guns. Yet both are involved in the same number of deaths a year in the US. I've long favored a national registry for weapons just like data collection for autos, but here again the NRA says no and Congress listens to it. The NRA proves that an organization with a suspect or outright bad reputation can continue to do business as long as it has supporters somewhere. The NRA speaks to gun owners and mobilizes them against anything that might constrict their free use of arms. They are a minority of the American population but they are vocal. Hence, nothing changes.
Wednesday, October 07, 2015
How costly is a bad reputation? In the data world, post Snowden's revelations about the National Security Administration, it means that data is frozen in the EU. It might have been difficult in any event to continue data transfers between Europe and the US, but NSA's bad reputation for snooping sealed the decision. This means thousands of companies with European operations may have to find another way to transfer personnel data or simply work with it in Europe and not send it at all. The process is bound to be cumbersome and open to legal challenge. Had the NSA not been so aggressive in collecting data, there might have been a chance to convince the courts to allow the transfers. We will never know and Europe has already instituted the "Right to be forgotten" rule, which is hamstringing Google. Still, NSA's reputation did not help.
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
Cue and queue lobbyists for and against this trade pact. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is both detested and celebrated and will be full employment for lobbying and PR firms for months to come. Unions hate the deal because to them it means lost jobs. Businesses support it because it means less expensive and faster ways of engaging in commerce with Asia. Expect to hear a lot from both sides until the crucial vote in Congress supporting or denouncing the deal. And if the trade pact is upheld, the complaints won't go away. Some are still denouncing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which went into effect in 1994. Will it help or harm the US? We won't know for 10 to 15 years after the deal is approved. It will take that long for business investment cycles to be fully implemented. Meanwhile, brush up your foreign languages.
Monday, October 05, 2015
One way to tell whether an organization cares about its reputation is how it behaves. The Islamic State wants to be feared, and it has reduced ancient sites to rubble to show its intent. There is nothing about Palmyra that should offend IS. The muslim terrorists blew up the Arch of Triumph because it was there. Such behavior is an example of negative relations -- power through intimidation. One doesn't set out to win public support but to rule through fear. It works but at a cost to the leaders in time. Eventually the populace will rise in revolt. It might take years or decades but people will seek a way out of oppression through flight or force. Consider North Korea. It rules through its military and concentration camps and by shutting its borders so no one can leave. It was the same strategy the Soviet Union and its satellite states used until their demise. Negative relations work but at a cost. That price is hatred from the citizens and pressure to change.
Friday, October 02, 2015
It's not often a CEO starts his tenure with an apology, but the CEO of United has done so. He is asking forgiveness for the mess his predecessor made of a merger. Note that he doesn't name his predecessor nor does he refer to him in his letter of apology, but it doesn't take reading between the lines to see that he has thrown the previous CEO under the bus. The circumstances in this case are extraordinary. The new CEO has stated publicly that the company has lost credibility with employees who are demoralized and angry. The only way he is going to get them back is through meeting them and listening to their complaints. It seems just about everything went wrong in the combination of United and Continental airlines. The new company spent months planning the integration of reservation systems only to have them crash repeatedly discouraging agents and outraging customers. Five years into the merger, the airline is still stumbling and can't seem to find its way. No wonder he is apologetic. But, that will buy him only a few weeks before reality sets in. Customers and employees are unlikely to forgive a second time.
Thursday, October 01, 2015
How hard is it to communicate through the web? Try a billion times to be heard above the noise. Or, to be more precise 935,950,654, give or take a few tens of thousands. Those of us who have long memories and can recall the early days of the web are gobsmacked by its growth and wonder how anyone can make his way through the welter of new sites and expiring old ones. Having run online-pr.com for 18 years, that makes the site a Methuselah on the web, and probably in the top 1 to 5 percent in terms of longevity. Online-pr.com has evolved over the years as new links supplant old ones and new features such as social media appeared. The site changes approximately 10 percent a year. The entire web might change more than that. It is surprising how many sites wink out of existence without so much as a goodbye. What this means is that several times a year, I must clean links from online-pr.com and add new ones. It is not hard work, but it is a reminder that the web has reached a size that no one can comprehend.