Friday, December 23, 2016

Until Jan. 3 

I'm taking a vacation until Jan. 3.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.  

Thursday, December 22, 2016

An Odd PR Crisis 

It is safe to say that Ikea, the furniture and home furnishing store, is the only chain in the world having this problem.  Teenagers infiltrating its stores and conducting overnight sleepovers is an odd PR crisis.  Any number of things can happen and none are good.  The chain is right in trying to end the trend before it gets too far along.  So far, 10 of its stores have had illegal sleepovers and more teens will try.  They are motivated by a YouTube video, which shows two teenagers prowling the store at night when the store is closed.  An Ikea spokesperson said it was no fun being in a store with its sensors activated, but that is unlikely to stop daring teenagers.  Ikea might have to expand security until the urge to sleep overnight in it stores passes away.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

PR And The Past 

New York Life, Georgetown University, Volkswagen are but three of several institutions grappling with their history.  New York Life revealed that it wrote insurance policies on slaves as property.  Georgetown learned that its founding fathers had slaves that they sold to keep the young college afloat.  Volkswagen dealt with the use of slave labor in its factories during World War II.  Each instance is a public relations challenge.  How are the institutions going to handle it?  How will they atone today for deeds of long ago.  There is no easy answer.  Whatever one does is hardly enough for the descendants of those enslaved.  All three have taken the first step and researched the past to reveal the truth.  It is not clear in every instance what the second step should be.  Georgetown has initiated several programs.  It is unclear what New York Life might do.  Volkswagen seems content with a thorough research and making findings public.  There are no rules or protocols.  Hence, each institution can respond in its own way.  Whatever they elect to do, the past is present in PR programming.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


Do people pay attention to what a CEO posts on a blog?  Yes, they do.  Tim Cook's blog entry for employees at Apple sparked media discussion.  The journalist's story projected the messages farther than the original target.  And, it lent additional credibility to the posting by affirming what the CEO wrote.  Often, CEOs feel they don't have time or interest in feeding back to employees through blogging or tweeting.  They would rather do a town hall or other live session, but it is difficult to arrange those on a regular basis.  Social media can serve well in the interim.  Why don't more CEOs blog or tweet?  It was not built into their routines as they rose in management.  They are not used to it and don't see the value.  The more that immediate communication moves into social media, the greater the need for CEOs to adapt.  Secondary communication will never take precedence over primary but it has a power of its own that savvy CEOs should be exploiting.

Monday, December 19, 2016

An Act Of War 

Islamic terrorists are daring the Russian government to get into a pitched battle with them -- and they have succeeded by killing its ambassador to Turkey.  The shooting was an act of war -- a public statement of enmity, a challenge.  Putin will almost certainly not back down from the punch in the gut.  The terrorists are foolhardy in their belligerence.  They blow themselves up in an effort to kill others.  They kill indiscriminately.  They rape and pillage and justify all of their actions in the Koran.  Peace-loving Muslims are horrified, but there is little they can do other than to cooperate with authorities in isolating radicals and turning them in.  The more that acts like this happen, the greater the burden on Islamists to prove they belong in the 21st Century and are not throwbacks to AD 700.  The communications gap is growing by day, and there is an urgency to stop its growth and close it.

Friday, December 16, 2016

PR And Fake News 

Facebook is undertaking a campaign to combat fake news.  It is a belated recognition that false stories on its web site were influencing people in negative ways.  Some commentators accused Facebook of throwing the election to Donald Trump because it had not policed fake news to that point.  Facebook understandably rejected that claim but it accepted that phony stories are a public relations issue for the company.  So, it has put in place machinery and human judgement to root out the trash and keep bonafide stories.  Is it perfect?  No. Nothing can catch fake news 100 percent of the time.  But, if Facebook can reduce false stories by a high percentage, it will make a stride toward protecting its users.  That in itself would be good PR. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Nurture V. Management 

This is an interesting essay about women in management.  Essentially, the author says that most women choose the "Mommy TracK" rather than the corporate management ladder. Professional women are beating the publicity drums for more women to stay in the company environment, but they are having a tough time getting colleagues to listen.  What the activists have missed is that Motherhood is a profession as great as anything that a corporation could confer on an individual.   Many women choose not to divide their time between the office and home.  To them, the home is more important.  Kudos to them.  That, however, leaves professional women gnashing their teeth because the upper ranks of management are dominated by men. There is no easy answer for this.  Some women can split their time successfully.  Some can't.  There should be no shaming of those who choose not to remain in the corporate ranks.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Public Insulation 

President-elect Donald Trump wants to slash the F-35 fighter program because its cost over-runs were out of control.  Chances are he won't succeed even though the fighters cost $100 million each.  Why?  Because Lockheed Martin, the builder of the aircraft, has carefully spread work across many Congressional districts and insulated itself from public criticism.  No matter that the fighter is 11 years overdo and the lifetime cost of the fleet will exceed a trillion dollars.  The program is pork, especially at a time when much cheaper drones are taking over tasks such as picket duty and air-ground attacks.  Although the F-35 build has been a scandal for more than a decade, Congress keeps pumping money into it.  Fortunately, it is likely the last manned fighter that will ever be built and given its cost that is a good outcome.  The military-industrial complex has been out of control for decades and it is time to rein it in.  If Trump can cut the cost of the F-35, more power to him.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


How does an organization fight anonymous complaints about it?  Consider this case of attempted suicide at Amazon.  The company said nothing about it and that upset anonymous commenters in its workforce.  Even if Amazon had done so, it was open to criticism over its Performance Improvement Plan, which puts stress on its employees.  Amazon ignored the situation and the commenters, which only made things worse.  There are gripers for whom nothing is good enough, but to dispatch anonymous complaints without investigation is dangerous to reputation.  One should take negative feedback seriously.  If Amazon gains an aura of a worker's hell-hole, it will have troubles in years to come fleshing out its workforce for high-volume periods such as the Christmas holidays.  That will damage its drive to reduce delivery times.  

Monday, December 12, 2016

Bending Facts 

It is rarely good for a start-up company to bend facts about its technology.  That, however, is the case with Magic Leap, an augmented reality business that purports to have artificial images blend with real-life.  Think of a tiny elephant being held in the palm of one's hand.  Magic Leap is apparently behind in developing its technology for either business or consumer use.  It is getting by with a huge venture capital investment and with spin -- telling everybody how disruptive the technology will be when perfected.  Meanwhile, it continues to make YouTube videos that use its technology, except in one case a fabrication that it used for recruiting engineers.  Part of the company's problem is that it chose a fiber optic system that it can't get to work.  That is always a peril of a start-up.  Magic Leap is apparently secretive about its work, but putting out videos of its success without backup is not a good sign.  Maybe venture capitalists are used to this approach, but it ought to give potential investors the willies.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Abusing Customers 

Airlines today are in a curious marketing position.  They are seeing how far they can abuse their customers and get away with it.  How else can one explain United Airline's decision to charge for overhead bin space on its planes?  Flying has become an exercise in discomfort unless one is willing to pony up extra dollars for leg room, for example.  Having flown United recently, I can testify to the absurdly cramped spaces that the airline packs people into.  Anything to increase revenue.  This is opening an opportunity for other airlines to steal traffic from the majors through providing a better flight experience.  Several have tried and failed to date, but that doesn't mean it is impossible.  The major carriers are alienating their customers and acting as if they are the only option available.  That is bad PR and sooner or later, it will haunt them.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Curious Metric 

The "Waffle House Index" is a curious metric of hurricane severity.  Waffle House is a chain of restaurants in the southeastern section of the US that stays open 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.  Its executives gauge the severity of storms before landfall and announce which ones will close for the duration, if any at all.  Disaster responders have used this as one indication of the damaging nature of a coming storm.  The media picked up on it and the Waffle House Index has become part of storm reporting.  It is testimony to the planning and logistics of the Waffle House managers that its restaurants can stay open during all but the worst storms.  As such, it is a PR coup for the company and its goal to remain open at all times.  

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Bold PR 

Google has announced that in 2017 100 percent of its power needs will come from renewable  sources -- wind and solar.  That might not seem to be much but the size of the commitment comes into focus when one reads that Google is purchasing 2.6 gigawatts of power a year.  That's enough to keep a good-sized city running, and it is more than some US utilities produce annually.  Google far outdistances any other user of renewable energy.  The company's action is an example of bold PR.  It believes in global warming and it is determined to do something about it.  What could be better than to run its gigantic servers on wind and solar.  Google is featured often in this blog because it pursues a range of break-through PR activities that serve society.  It is a role model for corporations.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016


We have entered a time when politicians lie without being condemned.  It is an era of post-truth.  For many reasons, PR practitioners should be concerned and frightened.  We depend on accuracy to maintain credibility, but when others prevaricate without being called for it, it puts us in jeopardy.  The truth might not be as forceful or colorful as spin and standing by facts might make one look foolhardy.  It takes courage to maintain a scrupulous hold on evidence.  The temptation is to lie and join the crowd.  Doing that makes us instantly of no use to the media nor to other stakeholders.  We become part of the fog that distorts debate over issues.  We are communicators without morals adding to noise levels but not serving as guides to the facts.  Let politicians perjure themselves.  Eventually, their lies will catch up to them.  We should continue to stand by facts come what may.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Cooperation And Crime 

It took four years and the cooperation of dozens of law enforcement agencies to bring down an international computer crime ring.  The malefactors had victimized people in 180 countries and reaped hundreds of millions of dollars by one estimate.  This take-down has a lesson in it for the legal community and that is the need to work together, the need for proper relations among agencies to focus on crime and eschew backbiting and bureaucratic infighting.  It is not a matter of who gets the credit for bringing down computer crime.  It is whether it is done or not and people are protected.  With so many agencies involved, there was inevitably miscommunication and misdirection in the process of tracking down the thieves.  International authorities will get better over time as they concentrate on disrupting botnets but not if they stress local concerns over world-wide fraud.  Cooperation requires a world-view, exactly the opposite of the populism and nationalism sweeping western countries.

Friday, December 02, 2016

PR And Earthquakes 

Oil exploration companies have pumped wastewater into deep wells in order to dispose of it.  This has caused earthquakes in states like Oklahoma and Kansas.  The tremors were not large but they were frequent and they did damage to buildings.  Once Oklahoma and Kansas put regulations on wastewater disposal, the quakes began to drop.  While correlation is not causation, the link between regulations and declining tremors is too large to ignore.  This is why exploration companies should show good PR and find other ways to get rid of oil/gas well water.  It won't be easy, but it is necessary.  Continuation of earthquakes could easily put the energy companies out of business in both states.  Citizens won't stand for continuous rattling of their houses, wall and foundation cracks and brick falls. A new and safe method of wastewater disposal would be a PR coup for the company that comes up with it.  

Thursday, December 01, 2016

To Mars, To Mars 

NASA and rocket vendors like SpaceX are beating publicity drums for travel to Mars.  Never mind colonizing the moon.  What America needs is an 18-month round trip to the red planet.  The problem with the hype is that it ignores mental and physical challenges, such as astronauts losing vision during extended periods in space.  The lack of gravity and exposure to electromagnetic rays do bad things to the body.  NASA knows this but assumes it will be an engineering challenge to be overcome.  Another issue is cost.  It will take tens of billions of dollars to build a rocket, a capsule and deep space propulsion.  Then it will take millions more to design and build suits suitable for excursions on Mars.  Finally, NASA will have to figure out how to keep astronauts healthy physically and mentally.  In light of these challenges one wonders why NASA isn't satisfied with the current robotic program that is examining Mars.  Deep space is meant for machines that can go where humans can't. Hype doesn't change physical facts.

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