Friday, July 29, 2016


Rio de Janeiro fought for the Olympics to show the world that Brazil has arrived as a country.  Now that the games are about to start, Rio is in a mess and the glory of the games has backfired on the country with filthy water, ill-constructed buildings and a threat of disease.  That together with a government in chaos is a near certainty to reflect on the games themselves as they take place.  The media of the world will amplify the problems.  Every breakdown will become news, every ill athlete a nail into the reputation of the country.  It didn't have to be this way, but Brazil is not ready yet for the world stage and it is demonstrating that in its failures.  Already, teams have abandoned the Olympic village because of inadequate housing and one wonders what the country will do with those buildings once the games are done.  Will they become instant slums or will Rio reconstruct them into something habitable?  Chances are nothing will happen to them since there is a history of rot in facilities used for the games once athletes have gone home.  Third world countries should think twice before competing for the Olympics.  The risk is too great that their inadequate ability to hold  them properly will show them as ill-prepared on the world stage.

Thursday, July 28, 2016


The Democratic National Committee has egg on its face and a damaged reputation.  Hackers (from Russia?) exposed 20,000 of its emails just in time to show the Committee was not neutral in the Presidential primary campaign and was actively supporting Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.  The stupidity of the incident is that the DNC knew its security systems were inadequate.  They were told months before by consultants that they were vulnerable.  The DNC did little about it.  So, today it faces a make-over with its chairman having resigned and others with their jobs in jeopardy.  How could they have thought they were safe when companies and governments around the world are infiltrated by hackers?  It is the height of irresponsibility.  Anyone with any prominence on the national scene should be concerned about maintaining security.  The DNC is an object lesson for those who aren't worried.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Dumb And Dumber 

Asking for a person's password is dumb.  It is dumber to give it.  This, however, is what a pop star is doing for publicity.  If you send him your Twitter password, he will post a tweet as if it is coming from you.  There is no guarantee he will protect your password once he uses it.  One has to trust him.  There is also no surety his collection of passwords won't be hacked.  One can imagine his publicists coming up with the creative idea and selling it to him.  "Hey, wouldn't it be neat if you posted on your fans' twitter accounts?  Let's do it."  Clearly, no one thought this through, including the legal implications of collecting passwords.  Those who read another's tweets now can't be certain they are from the person.  Who knows who is tweeting on another's account?  There are many great ideas for self-publicity.  This is not one of them.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


This is smart environmentalism and smart PR.  Bees are under global stress as it is with the sudden colony collapse syndrome decimating hives.  Building a natural path for them through a city in the form of flowers not only helps them migrate but is prettier.  Humans benefit as much as bees.  Even smarter is that the cost of the bee highway is modest.  There are few construction costs and mostly the expense of flower seeds.  One hopes that other cities around the world emulate the idea.  

Monday, July 25, 2016

Still Going 

This Mars-based machine is a PR symbol for what man can do in science.  It is extraordinary that the rover is still working and even more so that it is performing science on a daily basis.  Everything about the robot is amazing.  It can work in the frigid temperatures of Mars without stopping.  It takes its own photographs, including selfies.  It transmits its data millions of miles to Earth through an antenna that looks absurdly small.  The machine is a work of genius that proves itself daily and is powerful PR for more such rovers to look at Mars and its once and perhaps present water.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Away Friday 

I will be away on Friday and will not post.  I'll return Monday.  

How Times Have Changed 

There was a time when Kellogg could market its Special K cereal as "nutritious", but that is not true any longer in the UK.  Dietary guidelines have changed and so too the messages one can send to consumers.  There was a time when one could say just about anything on a cereal box and get away with it.  Now the labelling has to follow strict guidelines from both US and UK regulators.  One might be tempted to say this is unwarranted government intrusion into the companies and food they produce, but there is no way for consumers to know what they are eating otherwise. One point is certain.  PR practitioners and marketers no longer have the room to be creative with words like "nutritious" and "healthy".

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


One wonders where Melania Trump has been that she could think she would get away with lifting part of her convention speech from Michelle Obama.  With the internet, it is harder than ever to get away with plagiarism.  This is especially true when dealing with celebrities whose every action is scrutinized by the public.  It wasn't long after Ms. Trump concluded her speech that a "gotcha" posting was made, and it blew up on the internet.  Now it is fodder for the mainstream media as well.  It is one more example of the real personalities coming through the veneer of the campaign, and in these small instances, the public will make up its mind whether it can support a candidate or not.  The pity of it is that it did not have to happen.  One speechwriter could have given her a powerful testimony to her husband without stealing words from another.  It is a PR disaster and red meat for journalists who won't soon give up asking about it. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Ghostwriter's Revenge 

The danger of self-publicity and aggrandizement is that those who support your effort can turn on you.  Consider this case.  Donald Trump's ghostwriter for his book. "The Art of the Deal" has given a tell-all to The New Yorker magazine that is devastating to Trump's image -- even considering that Trump is known as an egotistic blowhard.  The Trump that emerges from the narrative is a sociopath focused solely on himself and disregarding the needs and rights of others.  He is a man incapable of telling the truth and able to believe his lies almost immediately.  Notable among his prevarications is that he believes he wrote "The Art of the Deal" when he had almost nothing to do with it.  I've seen this sort of individual in my career.  In the heat of selling, they make up facts that they later come to believe are true.  It is a common enough failing.  The objectionable part of lying is that it can extend to nearly everything one does, and this is the picture of Trump that comes from the narrative.  The article should be enough to bury Trump as a candidate but for one truth Trump was able to tell -- few people read The New Yorker.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Price Of Reputation 

BP has put a final number to the cost of cleanup for its oil rig blowout in the Gulf -- $61.6 billion.  The hard part for the company is that it isn't going to win back its good standing even with the payout.  Regulators and governments will take a close look at its drilling projects and operations for years to come.  The firm won't get an easy approval on anything.  Call that the price of reputation, and it is worth billions more than the final cost of a faulty well.  BP is working on its standing.  It is advertising its concern for safety, probably in the hope that most consumers have forgotten the incident or can't remember which oil company caused the mishap.  Once wishes the company good luck but it is unlikely to make much difference. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Banking On Transparency 

This former Fox news anchor is hoping to get her sexual harassment case tried in public.The titillation and revelations are sure to embarrass Fox and its chief, Roger Ailes and could cost Ailes' job.  Transparency works on her side of the case, as I'm sure her attorney has told her.  Whether or not she settles or wins, the damaging information is out there for the world to see.  This is why Fox news will work hard to bring the case to arbitration where allegations remain secret.  The case is an example of how lawyers use the media to their advantage and why over the years programs like 60 Minutes have depended on the tort bar for many of their juicier stories.  Even if a defendant is innocent, he is smeared before a trial begins.  His reputation is in tatters.  Is it fair?  No, but that is how the system works.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

When Silence Is Golden 

We expect members of the Supreme Court to speak from the bench through their opinions.  Otherwise, silence is golden.  That is why this Supreme Court justice is being hammered from both the right and the left for commenting on the election race.  She broke the code of silence by discussing Donald Trump.  In her interview, she thrust herself and by extension, the court, into the middle of politics.  This broke the perception that justices are above the messy, day-to-day business of governing  There is no doubt about her feelings, but typically justices keep their emotions to themselves unless it deals with the law and constitution.  Justice Ginsburg has committed a PR gaffe, and her fellow justices are tainted by it as well.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Pokemon Go is sweeping the nation and millions are playing the game in just eight days since it has been released.  The game and public reaction have all the hallmarks of a fad.  Fads usually come and go fairly quickly.  The public embraces a consumer offering en masse then tires of it and moves on.  In this case, a hard core group of players will remain and the question for Niantic will be whether to keep supporting the game.  There is no good way to manage a fad.  It blows up like fire in dry tinder.  One is under immediate pressure to support it and to stay abreast of its popularity.  The mistake companies can make is to assume a fad will remain at its peak.  They gear up for it only to watch its popularity fall   Pokemon Go may last for days, or even weeks at a fever pitch, but it will subside soon enough into just another game.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Perception V. Reality 

There are places in the US where unemployment seems embedded, but the reality is that the idle choose not to take available jobs  -- like lawn mowing.  That work is reserved for immigrants who don't mind doing it.  Where I live, nearly all landscapers are Italian but the workforce is Hispanic -- day laborers who congregate at prearranged spots and hook up with passing trucks.  A perception of unemployment is offset by the fact that jobs are there and workers are taking them -- just not Americans.  It is one more reminder that issues are rarely black and white, and one should do research to clarify what is happening before writing or speaking.  Sometimes it is a matter of observing the environment and asking questions.  It is easy as PR practitioners to get lost in a web of issues and to take pat answers for starting points.  It can be difficult to find reality in a circumstance.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Dead Company Walking 

Here is a zombie company whose death is weeks away, if not days.  The company was built on fraud and its misdeeds caught up with it.  The heart of the company was a hagiographic publicity campaign focused on its magnetic CEO, Elizabeth Holmes.  When the facade cracked, the ugly truth spilled out to smear not only her but vendors and employees.  It is unlikely she will perfect her technologies while working outside of the company she founded.  Her best choice now is to retire from the scene and from Silicon Valley and start over somewhere else, if anyone would touch her.  The flame-out might not have happened if she had been more open about the troubles with her products.  But, she was secretive and her lack of transparency allowed a bubble to expand until it popped.  She is not the first to have done this, and she won't be the last, but she is an object lesson for PR practitioners.  

Friday, July 08, 2016

The Washington Monument Ploy 

Legislators in New Jersey haven't come to an agreement to raise the fuel tax in order to pay for road and bridge repair.  In response to inaction, the governor has shut down all non-essential road and bridge projects in the state.  There are hundreds of them.  This is an old political and negotiation tactic, which was -- and maybe, still is -- known in Washington DC circles as the Washington Monument Ploy. When Congress threatened to cut the National Park Service budget, the agency immediately made preparations to shut down the Washington Monument.  This would create ill-feeling and political pressure from tourists on the Mall -- something Congress does not want.  The Park Service learned to protect its money through tricks like that.  The governor of New Jersey is no less a student, but he has gone one step further in the tactic and turned political pressure on the New Jersey Statehouse to its highest level.  The betting is he will get his way.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Negative PR 

China is using negative PR to defend its role in the South China Sea.  It is telling the Philippines and the world that it will not stop building bases on the tiny islands there to project its control.  it has dismissed the international court's decision over its right to build these military bases even before the court has ruled.  It has warned the US to sail carefully in these waters.  It has said it will not sit idly by when there are provocations such as foreign warships passing too close to its possessions   China's belligerence has deeply upset countries bordering the South China Sea, but there is nothing they can do.  They are too small and weak. Negative PR isn't designed to win friends, but it is fashioned to warn people that an organization or individual will not tolerate actions against it.  It only works from a position of strength, which China has in abundance.  No one wants to go to war with China, so it is getting its way.  That is the result of negative PR.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Slap On The Wrist 

Hillary Clinton received a slap on the wrist from the FBI yesterday but no recommendation of charges against her for her misuse of an e-mail server.  This fed immediately into a campaign message from Trump that the system "is rigged."   Make no mistake.  The public will be tired of hearing about Hillary's carelessness soon enough because the Republicans will thrash the message endlessly.  Hillary will apologize and say, "Let's move on."  Given the Republican candidate and his ego, the media might give her a break and do as she requests.  It is hard to say that Bill and Hillary Clinton were too dumb to recognize when they were flouting the law and perception.  They are bright people.  So, why do they persist in putting themselves in harm's way by using private equipment and making impromptu visits to the Attorney General?  One conservative commentator summed the impression by writing, "Laws are for little people."  This might be the message that the Republicans will send over the coming weeks -- a perception of arrogance on the part of Hillary and Bill that would be hard to accept in the top office.  But, for the fact that the Republican candidate with his preening and narcissism is even worse.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Too Far 

ISIS has gone a step too far in its effort to communicate terror to the Islamic world.  Blowing oneself up in the parking lot of the sacred site of Medina strikes at the root of what it means to be a Muslim.  Maybe now, those who subscribe to the arch-conservative beliefs ISIS proclaims will understand that it is not a religious sect but a terrorist group. Every bombing against Muslims is a step away from gaining acceptance from them.  The horrific Baghdad carnage, which cost the lives of 175 people can only embitter both Sunnis and Shiites.  Bombs are indiscriminate.  America can't say anything to ameliorate the situation.  We stand accused of killing hundreds of civilians through drone and bombing attacks.  We can excuse ourselves by saying it wasn't deliberate, but that rings hollow to a survivor who has lost a child or spouse.  There is no good answer to the Middle East's angst other than peace.  All sides have to choose to get along and work hard at communicating with each other.  That hasn't happened for more than a thousand years.  It will be hard to start now.

Friday, July 01, 2016


In Washington DC political circles, perception is called optics, and this is a case in which the optics were bad.  Former president Bill Clinton visited the Attorney General of the US while waiting in their planes on the tarmac at the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport.  The visit was described as friendly with no discussion of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mail kerfuffle, but it looked disgraceful.  Some critics are pointing to Bill Clinton as the primary offender here.  He should know to keep his distance when there is an investigation involving his wife.  That he didn't smacks of indefensible ignorance or arrogance -- law and perception don't apply to him.  Other critics are pointing to the AG.  Loretta Lynch should have known not to have taken the meeting as innocuous as it might have been.  There are politics involved in the flap.  Republicans are looking for any way possible to slow Hillary's march to the White House. Hillary, of course, doesn't need this flap before she is nominated as the Democratic Presidential candidate.  However,she put herself into the mess by deciding to use her own server for her State Department e-mails rather than the officially designated system.  Chances are good she won't be charged, but the optics of that situation are similarly bad.

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