Friday, December 22, 2017

Time Off 

I'm taking the week between Christmas and New Years off.  Happy holidays to everyone.  

They All Had PR 

It is good for PR practitioners to remember that PR and marketing do not guarantee survival.  All these technologies had PR and marketing plans.  They didn't live.  There are numerous reasons for their failure. They did not adapt to the marketplace no matter how good they were.  It is a sobering thought.  In my career, I've seen a number of products introduced with enthusiasm only to gutter out in time.  Some happened through lack of resources.  Others tanked because their creators and managers fell in love with their handiwork and could not be flexible.  Still others were the wrong product for the market. Business is risk.  One gambles each time he moves in the marketplace.  Strategy and planning reduce chance, but they are not enough because they deal with unknowns.  At some point, one makes a decision and plows ahead or fails through analysis paralysis.  There will be more technologies that fail in 2018, and someone will write an obit at the end of the year.  It is a poor way to be remembered.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Chronic Crisis 

Chipotle is fighting yet another case of foodborne illness.  This time it occurred in one of its Los Angeles restaurants.  The firm is in a chronic crisis caused by some kind of failure in its logistics.  There should be no way that contaminated products slip through its system, but they are.  The chain will need to investigate again what went wrong.  Was it restaurant specific or food delivered to the restaurant?  If it was restricted to one building, how were edibles being handled?  Was there a storage problem, an employee foul-up such as failing to wash one's hands?  If the fresh vegetables were carrying a bacteria, how did it get there?  Did it happen in the field, at the time it was being picked, in transportation?  Ideally Chipotle will discover a root cause and fix it once and for all time.  But, so far that isn't happening and the chain has had a loss of reputation as a result.  There is no worse PR than for a restaurant to poison its customers.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Poor PR 

Homeopathic medicine, a quack approach to health, has poor PR.  The FDA is now set to start regulating it.  The administration pulled no punches with its decision. 

“In many cases, people may be placing their trust and money in therapies that may bring little to no benefit in combating serious ailments, or worse—that may cause significant and even irreparable harm because the products are poorly manufactured, or contain active ingredients that aren’t adequately tested or disclosed to patients.”  

Why is it that segments of the public continue to trust so-called therapies that have no basis in scientific fact?  There is a lack of logic in many people's minds.  They posit their trust in modern day medicine men who prey on their credulity.  They need to be protected from themselves.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Failed Campaign 

In spite of best efforts of authorities, people continue to text and drive.  Or, they are reading their e-mail with their heads down.  Or, they are yammering on the phone while steering through traffic.  Nothing transportation agencies and law enforcement have done has stopped people from using cell phones while in control of a vehicle.  There is no doubt it is dangerous.  Accident statistics prove that.  But, people continue to divide their attention between the road and screen.  Authorities are left asking what kind of PR campaign combined with enforcement is necessary to get drivers to stop.  There is no easy answer.  It's an issue as stubborn as smoking.  It is essential, however, for the message and behavior change to get through. While campaigns till now have failed, they can't stop.  At some point, texting and driving should be as serious a negative as running a red light.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Perception Turns 

Robert Mueller has been a relentless investigator of Russian meddling in US elections and held in high respect.  Now, with one act, the perception has turned to that of a man out of control.  This stems from the seizure of thousands of transition team e-mails from the GSA.  Such correspondence is not considered part of a government agency and was supposed to be destroyed.  Mueller discovered that it was still intact and hauled it in.  There now is a worry that any potentially prosecutable offenses might be thrown out due to tainted evidence.  Mueller would defend himself by saying he was just doing his job.  But, one can over-reach, especially in the law.  There is great danger in the power of prosecutors.  They can wreck lives in their zeal and have.  Mueller is close to being reckless, as the author of the article says.  He has maintained positive PR until now.  It would be unfortunate if he loses it through his own actions.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Who knows? 

Omarosa Manigault Newman is leaving the Trump administration.  Was she fired or did she choose to go voluntarily?  The first reports were she was escorted from the building and left shouting in anger.  Her version is the opposite.  The answer is who knows?  This administration is riddled with falsehood and lies.  One can't believe what anyone says.  The absence of truth starts at the top and radiates through the staff.  There is no effort to stick by facts or to tell the truth.  It is a sink of the worst kind of communications and PR.  It is a say-anything, do-anything organization without ethics.The executive branch is a moral vacuum. While it might have worked for a short time, the American public has caught on, and Trump's popularity ratings are the lowest of any president at this point in office. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017


Some Silicon Valley heavyweights are now admitting that its denizens were starry-eyed optimists when it came to creating and introducing new technology.  They saw only the good side of humanity and failed to think about those who would do evil.  They were rudely surprised by Russians meddling in US elections, by neo-Nazi declarations, by pornographers, by others who choose to live outside the boundaries of society.  One could almost forgive them for their naivete.  Technologists from the beginning have only seen the good side of their labors.  They had to learn the hard way that humans are flawed and will misuse hardware and software to their own benefit even if it hurts others.  They know now and they are working diligently to edit out inflammatory material from their social media.  They still aren't comfortable with their new role, but they recognize the responsibility they have assumed with the success of their systems.  It has been a hard-won maturation.  

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Without End 

Google has a PR nightmare without end.  It is its war against scammers who continually find new ways to rank high in search engine results.  When the company closes one door with its algorithm, the shysters find another and pile in until Google gets wise and shuts it.  They are then off to other tricks as they find them.  There is no point where Google's search engine is perfect and stops scammers permanently.  There is always a crack somewhere and the fly-by-nighters will find it.  The company's reputation depends on producing good search results to queries and if it doesn't, people will stop using it.  Hence, Google can't ignore con artists.  It must do its utmost to smoke them out and get rid of them.  It is an onerous task but essential.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Long Time Coming 

President Trump has signed a directive to NASA to send men back to the moon and  eventually, Mars.  It has been a long time coming.  Man hasn't been to the moon since 1972, and Mars is a gleam in the eye of space adventurers.  The directive will mean little without money.  Sans funds, the document is little more than a publicity stunt. It will take multi-billions to return to the moon and many more billions to reach Mars and return safely.  NASA hasn't had that kind of cash in decades.  It has been reduced to unmanned probes.  That hasn't been bad.  We have learned more about the solar system from instrument packages than we could have known with humans.  But, it is time to have a presence on the moon as a place to understand the deep complexities of space and its effects on the human body.  What we learn on the moon might get us to Mars but to little after that.  The solar system is hostile to life but for earth.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Well Handled 

A budding but incompetent terrorist set off a pipe bomb in a New York subway this morning.  Authorities handled the incident well and over-communicated, as they should have, the particulars of the event to ease public concern.  Only three people were hurt, apparently none seriously except the perpetrator who was burned and is in the hospital.  Fortunately, New York emergency respondents had recently rehearsed what to do in the case of a terrorist attack so they were ready.  The lesson here is that crisis handling and communication don't work well on the page.  One needs to run through everything that needs to be done from securing a scene through transporting victims, communicating to the public and collecting forensic evidence.  It won't be the last time this happens.  The next incident might  be serious.  It is good to know that New York is ready.

Friday, December 08, 2017


The greater fools are bidding up the price of Bitcoin by the hour.  It is not going to stay that high and might even be breaking as I write. Some are going to get hurt badly, but that is the outcome of all mania.  The Dutch Tulip Bulb bubble ruined thousands of investors.  Bitcoin is no different and wise Wall Streeters have been counseling people to stay away.  Yet, many are not.  They see instant riches and they crave wealth.  it is crowd psychology and there is no communication other than supportive that the audience will listen to now.  Criticism is rejected out of hand.  Anyone who isn't on board with the mania doesn't understand or is a hidebound conservative.  When the price fever does break, and "I told you so" is ringing in their ears, they still won't listen but will go on to the next surefire way to riches.  Some people are gamblers always on the hunt for the next big thing.  They rarely win.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Fake PR 

The internet has made one type of fake PR easier to do.  That is putting names onto phony comments to the FCC.  The Federal Communications Commission has been deluged with opinions for and against net neutrality.  It turns out many of them were made up with names stolen from databases.  Unfortunately, one of the taken names was that of a reporter who blew the whistle on the ersatz grassroots campaign.  The result of the fake PR is that FCC commissioners can more easily ignore the public reaction to their voting.  The campaign backfired.  The problem is larger than a government agency.  It means any solicitation of public opinion is open to distortion and falsehood.  One cannot simply count comments for and against and arrive at a public sentiment.  There needs to be stricter standards for asking the public what it thinks.  

Wednesday, December 06, 2017


President Trump's apparent decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital isn't going down well with Israel's neighbors.  They are frothing at the mouth even though Jerusalem has been the de facto capital of the country for decades.  Trump is about to cross a line that will turn Palestinians against him since they claim Jerusalem as well.  Symbols matter to ordinary people.  Jerusalem is a symbol of heritage for Zionists and so too Palestinians, although the Jews have a longer claim.  Anywhere but the Middle East it probably wouldn't matter.  In the millennial enmities of the Arab-Israeli world, it does.  As long as the US Embassy was in Tel Aviv, the fiction of Israel's capital endured.  Once the embassy is moved to Jerusalem, the make-believe can no longer be accepted. There are other situations like this where communications gloss over reality.  Notably, there is Taiwan whom the US has never recognized because Beijing claims it as one of its provinces.  It makes no difference that Taiwan has been its own country for decades.  Diplomatic language and understandings make for odd bedfellows, but they endure when it suits the world to use them.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

The Ultimate Crisis 

There is, perhaps, no greater crisis in the life of a company than its CEO dying by his own hand.  Suicide leaves many unanswered questions about the executive, the executive's family life and of course, the company.  Even if the CEO leaves a note, it might not stop the fear that the company is in trouble.  The communicator and surviving executives' first duty after expressions of sorrow is to assure employees,vendors and customers that the company will continue.  If the company is in difficulty, it is time for a take-charge leader to guide the company out of it.  If it isn't, the assurances should be that the company will continue on its present course for a time.  Suicide is an extreme act.  Usually circumstances are dire to cause a CEO to take it as a way out.  It might be depression, hopelessness or frustration, but whatever the root, it leaves everyone associated with the company hanging with their own dark fears.

Monday, December 04, 2017

The Tax Bill 

If the Republican tax bill irresponsibly takes from the poor and middle class and gives to the rich, as is widely reported, the party will have a major communications problem in an election year.  How do you explain to constituents that you have worked on their behalf?  It is an issue tailor-made to put Democrats back in power, especially with a wildly out of control President.  It will be interesting to see how Republicans spin  implications of the bill and what they do, if anything to clean up sections that are unintentionally hurtful.  They won't have much time given demands of campaigning, and there is a good chance Democrats will block them from making the bill better. The communications practitioners on both the House and Senate side will be working overtime trying to find messages that make a bad bill palatable.  If on the other hand, the bill is not so damaging, senators and congressmen will still have a major communications challenge to turn around the conventional belief in time to be elected.  Either way, I wouldn't want to be a Republican operative now.

Friday, December 01, 2017

One Word 

Sometime words matter to a point where there is news if one uses a one or not.  This is the predicament the pope has put himself in.  Western media expected him to tell authorities in Myanmar to stop persecuting the Rohingya, but he didn't.  He instead called for general peace and reconciliation.  His critics are battering him for it.  It makes no difference that he is visiting the Muslims' refugee camps and spotlighting their dire needs.  He kowtowed to the sensitivity of Myanmar power brokers, they say.  The pope did not need to get himself into this vise.  He could have stayed away.  However, he is not one to back down in the face of poverty and distress.  He called for solutions to the migrant crisis in Europe and he led the way in spotlighting their terrible situation.  He is known for his concern for the poor.  So, he didn't use the word Rohingya.  He still got his point across, but he has taken a reputational hit for not saying it.

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