Monday, October 31, 2016
Halloween is a curious celebration whose initial intent is lost in mists of time whether a pagan harvest celebration or a Christian feast for the recently departed. Today it has no meaning other than to dress up and make the rounds asking for candy if a youngster or partying if an adult. Retailers have used the holiday for selling sweets and all sorts of gimcrackery. It is amazing to see the junk on store shelves, most of it to be used once and never again. There is no public relations purpose behind the holiday. One won't find organizations making their vision one of ghosts and goblins. It is pure publicity -- hype that motivates young and old. If one were to stand back and think about it, the day makes no sense other than it is what is done on Oct. 31. One point Halloween supports is the irrationality of humans.
Thursday, October 27, 2016
I will be away tomorrow and will not post. Back Monday.
General Motors must be bursting with pride over the naming of Buick as a most reliable car brand by Consumer Reports. This category has in recent decades belonged to Japanese makes. That an American vehicle could equal and outdo most brands is an amazing coup. It is the best publicity GM could get. The company has been advertising its quality awards lately and they are numerous. It is proof that Americans do know how manufacture quality cars. So, Kudos to GM and may its accomplishments show up on the dealer's lot when consumers come to buy.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
PR practitioners are thought to be liars. They cover up sins of executives and celebrities and the malpractice of a business. That the majority of practitioners are honest confounds the media particularly. Now comes a study of lying that demonstrates why it is dangerous and why it is better to tell the truth, no matter how difficult it is. The research determined that those who tell small lies sooner or later graduate to big ones because their brains adapt to untruths. Aggregation of small lies de-sensitizes the brain. Falsehoods become a normal way of living and operating. Soon enough one barely notices he is lying, and he can still say he stands for truth. This, however, puts a person in a compromised position. Eventually, a lie will be discovered and the individual put on the spot. The tendency then is to tell an even bigger lie to get out of trouble. And, so it goes. This is why PR practitioners call for transparency from the beginning. Telling the truth destroys the need to build a pyramid of prevarication and to defend the indefensible.
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
The California National Guard is demanding repayment of enlistment bonuses given to soldiers a decade ago. The Guard says an audit discovered that many soldiers had been over compensated. If that weren't embarrassment enough, the soldiers had served on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan and are now being told to give the money back. The lame excuse from the Guard is that it must recoup the dollars under the law. It is illegal to absolve the soldiers' debts. If the Guard had been doing its job 10 years ago, none of this would have happened in the first place. The error of its incompetence is being taken out on the backs of soldiers it recruited. There are better ways to handle it. For one, it could have sent up a trial balloon. "We might have to collect bonuses from soldiers unless Congress absolves us from the current law." That alone might have done it. Instead, it followed the law narrow-mindedly and put itself in a dumb position.
Monday, October 24, 2016
Booz Allen Hamilton, the giant government contractor, has to survive bad PR again with a former employee found to have 50 terabytes of National Security Agency information in his possession. The individual has been arrested, but that doesn't help Booz or the NSA in determining how much of the massive amount of material reached the public or foreign powers. Booz and the NSA must now review security procedures to determine where one or the other, or both, slipped up by allowing the individual to keep a top secret clearance. Booz can't afford another major breach like this one. Even if the individual was hoarding information and never released any of it, the danger to national security was huge. The major question for both the consulting firm and the agency is how to spot rogue employees before they damage security. Background checks are in depth and thorough but that doesn't tell one whether a person will remain trustworthy. This is an area where a bit of paranoia is a proper attitude.
Friday, October 21, 2016
Here is an article calling for a name change of "psychiatry" to "mental health". The writer's argument is that too many negatives are associated with the traditional name while "mental health" carries no similar burden. He cites similar name changes throughout the world and positive outcomes for having done so. From a PR perspective, if a name change works, then one should do it but not place too heavy an emphasis on a new moniker. It is possible that the new title will become tarnished like the old. If negatives about a name come from the actions the name describes, there is a good chance a new name will eventually become debased. Or, to put it another way, calling a person a "waste manager" doesn't change the fact that he is still a garbageman. True PR works to change the underlying attitude.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Samsung has a distance to travel to be a PR-oriented company. According to this story, it tried to bribe a Chinese man to keep his video of a burning Galaxy Note 7 out of public view. The man understandably refused. The question that remains is how can a major, international company be so dumb? The burning phones have exposed a deep quality problem, which Samsung must address immediately if it is to remain a credible supplier. Rather than trying to suppress the news, the company should concentrate its efforts on solving the battery problem for the next generation of devices. Nothing can done for the Note 7. Samsung's behavior in this instance is a demonstration that proper PR is not a given no matter the size of a business. One must always be on guard for arrogance.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Hillary Clinton swiftly disavowed and condemned the bombing of a Republican campaign headquarters in North Carolina. This is exactly what she should have done. Even the slightest delay or hesitation would have been a PR disaster for her because it could be interpreted as sympathy for the miscreant. There is plenty of room for controversy and jawboning in races for political office, but violence is beyond the pale -- or should be. Other democracies have witnessed unjust use of power to influence the ballot box, but it is rare in the US. This campaign has descended to the lowest form of name calling and personal abuse. It is already one of the worst in memory. Wrongful acts would shred the last vestiges of civility.
Monday, October 17, 2016
Dairy farmers have disposed of 43 million gallons of milk in the first eight months of 2016. Dumped, flushed down drains, siphoned into sewers. They have done so because they can't get a decent price for their product. This kind of waste is a problem for the United States. Tens of millions of starving people around the globe would welcome the milk in some form -- as cheese, as cream, as butter, as powder -- but we have no way to get it to them. It is a world-wide PR problem -- over-production in one country and insufficient supplies in another. Rather than dumping milk, there should be a system to distribute it or its processed forms quickly to countries where it is needed. This could be done at cost and Federal and state governments should provide the shipping. Global food waste is a failure of major proportions for which food producers and countries should be held accountable. It has been said often enough that the world has the food it needs but not the distribution of it. Hence, there are countries where abundance is tossed and nations where people starve. It makes no sense.
Friday, October 14, 2016
This is a good example of defiant publicity. The New York Times lawyer is telling Donald Trump's attorney to go ahead and sue the newspaper for libel, but Trump won't win. The letter schools the attorney in libel law and in the crude vernacular says, "Screw you. We'll see you in court." The plain language is not that of a typical lawyer. One can detect the hand of the Time's editorial department in its argument and posture. The missive, in other words, is intended as much for the public as it is for Trump. The Times is daring Trump to sue. The result would be a "slam-dunk" win for the newspaper and a further revelation about Trump's predatory behavior towards women. Trump, in other words, would be left in a powerless, sputtering rage and the Times would come off as a champion of women everywhere.
Thursday, October 13, 2016
McDonald's has announced that its clown, Ronald, is taking a vacation until the hysteria of evil clown sightings goes away. The panic this time seems to have started in South Carolina and spread through the country. It is not the first time this has happened. The question is why parents and children become so alarmed by clowns. What is it about pancake makeup, costume and oversized shoes that engender fear? Perhaps it is the anonymity of the person. Perhaps, ersatz clowns are trying to scare people. Whatever the reason, it is interesting and a PR case study of how quickly fear can sweep a nation. The panic will subside in time but in the meantime real clowns are hurting for business. They have been swept up in the uncontrollable emotions, and they can only wait until calm reason returns.
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
A house divided against itself cannot stand. This saying describes the PR disaster engulfing the Republican Party, which is repudiating its standard bearer for his comments on women. With less than a month to go, the party has fractured in the worst way and support for Trump is a litmus test for decency or lack of it. It is a sad situation for the party, but Democrats are thrilled. They have a chance of gaining both houses of Congress and the White House at the same time. If so, pent-up legislation will sweep through the Federal government quickly and the President will have a chance of appointing several Supreme Court justices over the next four to eight years. An era of divided government will come to an end. Republicans have little time left to consolidate their position without Trump, but they will have years to dig through the wreckage and ask themselves how to prevent such a disaster again. Meanwhile, Trump will return to his status as a businessman, perhaps no worse off than when he left it. His reputation will be in tatters, but that may not extend to his dealmaking.
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Tiger Woods announced his re-emergence to professional golf then just as quickly withdrew from the first tournament he was to play in 14 months. He said he realized he was not ready, and he needed time to work on his game. Woods is 40 and doesn't have many more competitive years left. His skills fell apart when his body did. He has had both knee and back surgeries and it was painfully obvious before he left golf that his magic was gone. This created a PR problem for fans and the game. TV viewership declined and no one rose from the ranks to take his place. The sport has become ever more competitive with golfers trading places at the top, but no one staying for long. The dominance that Woods had over the golf is gone and might never return. The sport needs a Palmer, Nicholas or Woods to differentiate itself. It needs a personality that looms over all and creates excitement on the links. The game will idle until another one comes along. It might wait a long time.
Monday, October 10, 2016
Happy Columbus Day or happy Indigenous People's Day. This Italian-American holiday is being transformed. States and cities are voting to commemorate peoples living in the Americas before Columbus. The argument is that the lands were settled before Europeans arrived and Columbus launched the predatory behavior that decimated aboriginal populations, enslaved them and slaughtered their women and children. In a meeting between civilizations, there was no melding. It was conquering with the negatives that implies. Yet, one can argue that the countries that arose from the ashes of native tribes are greater than what the Incas, Aztecs and other indigenous nation states could have achieved on their own. The vast number of indians were engaged in subsistence living. They understood the land and largely lived in harmony with it. Europeans, on the other hand, brought the belief that man was to subjugate the earth, its living things and its minerals. Greed was at the core of their experience. So, whether you celebrate Columbus, native tribes or neither, recognize the points of view toward this controversial holiday. It is a complex communications mixture for which there is no middle ground.
Thursday, October 06, 2016
I will be away tomorrow, Oct. 7 and will not post.
True PR is what a company does and not what it claims without backup. This then, is an example of true PR. Blue Origin demonstrated an emergency escape system for its New Shephard rocket and crew capsule, and as an added plus returned the reusable booster to a perfect touchdown. The company wasn't expecting the rocket to land safely as it did, and mission control was thrilled when it settled upright on the desert floor. The entire sequence was recorded and sent to the world for all to see that Blue Origin is a serious player in space flight. It let the successful test speak for itself. The rocket with capsule fired, climbed to tens of thousands of feet, the crew cabin separated and floated to earth on parachutes while the booster kept itself upright as it retreated back to land then fired its rockets to stop its descent. It couldn't have been better, and it is true PR.
Wednesday, October 05, 2016
The CEO of Boeing and the CEO of SpaceX have both claimed they will be the first to Mars. Such chest beating makes for good publicity but it ignores the reality of the situation. For humans to reach Mars and return safely requires much more than powerful rockets. The psychological and physical challenges are enormous. For example, how do you provide air, food and water for astronauts for a full year? How do you protect them from solar radiation? How do you select individuals who will live in claustrophobic isolation for a year? How do you repair machinery should something break? No one will win an award for getting an individual to Mars unless that individual returns safely to earth. Hype around a Mars mission has been growing in recent months, and NASA is part of it, but the budgets are not there. The reality is that a Mars mission is decades away, if ever. There is no particularly good reason for man to travel to Mars. Robotic missions have told us much of what we want to know about the barren and icy planet. There is a limit to going places because they are there. Outside of earth, there is no good place to live in the solar system.
Tuesday, October 04, 2016
A town facing the cost of a $10 million parking structure has decided to use the services of Uber. At a cost of $167,000 a year, it can pay for subsidized rides for 60 years. The town of Summit, NJ, has created a clever PR solution for its citizens. It helps them travel the last mile from home to station and is saving money at the same time. One wonders why other municipalities have not been as successful in finding creative solutions for transportation. Granted that this is a test and could fail in the execution, but it is has an undeniable flair.
Monday, October 03, 2016
This opinion piece discusses a "Lehman Moment" in relation to Deutsche Bank. A "Lehman Moment" is a time when the entire credit system seizes and participants stop making loans because of uncertain counterparty risks. It is what happened when Lehman failed in 2008. It switched the system from trust to panic and was a singular moment when the core principal of banking was exposed -- trust. One has to have a reputation of trustworthiness to participate in global banking. Lehman had it and lost it. Deutsche Bank is teetering and the banks of Europe are fragile. Trust and reputation are at the core of public relations. PR seeks to protect both by telling the positive story of institutions and individuals. It isn't "spin," although some would call it that. It seeks to marshal facts that support the claims one makes for oneself. The best PR is truth presented persuasively to build trust and reputation. There is fact-bending among unscrupulous PR practitioners, but the majority try to do an honest job. They are regularly challenged by the noise of the marketplace and a public that doesn't want to hear, but they keep at it because they know what can happen.