Wednesday, December 26, 2018
Japan is risking the world's condemnation by announcing it is taking up commercial whaling again. The country is self-imposing limits on where it will fish but that won't mollify international authorities and conservationists. Whales have reached a consciousness among the public that equals elephants or lions. We don't want to see them hunted any longer. The days of Herman Melville are long gone and anyway, whalers were never upstanding citizens of the sea. Ship captains were careful to stay upwind of the vessels and their great iron reduction pots. The Japanese don't whale for oil but for food, but that makes little difference. Look for many protests and disruption of the ships at sea.
Friday, December 21, 2018
This is a growing PR problem for Amazon.com. Sellers on the giant's marketplace are being scammed by competitors with dirty tricks, some of which are outrageous. Amazon, in an effort to control misbehavior, has applied rigid rules that do not take into account the circumstances of each wronged vendor. It is a case of unbridled capitalism meeting bureaucracy, and it "ain't" pretty. The challenge for Amazon is that deception is so pervasive it cannot deal with every case without automation, but robotics overlook the actual for what appears to be the case. This is especially true when competitors put phony reviews on a vendor's web site then get the vendor kicked off for the practice, which Amazon automatically blames the vendor for doing. It seems no one at Amazon had anticipated such a dirty deed. One could chalk bad behavior to small players but it risks putting Amazon into a poor light with vendors it needs. Amazon has built a fortress of rules and protections for customers. In so doing, it has created a headache for itself.
Thursday, December 20, 2018
Johnson & Johnson has taken a significant hit to its reputation with the upholding of a $4.7 billion verdict against it for asbestos in its baby powder. The company has been advertising proclaiming the purity of its talc and recommending that people visit a web site where there are medical and scientific reports backing its assertions. Even if the verdict is set aside on appeal, the company will take years to win customers back. One wonders if it is worth it. It didn't help that records from the company surfaced memos in which its own managers cautioned about trace elements of asbestos in the mineral. The plaintiff's case could be built on shoddy science but that makes little difference now. The damage is done and J&J will have to deal with it for years to come.
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
There is little better than a good, well done publicity stunt. Here is one.. The "emotional support chicken" is a gag from Popeyes and it is available at the Philadelphia airport. The box made into the form of a chicken with a head and tail holds three-piece chicken tender meals. This comes at a time when more people are claiming the need to carry on board emotional support animals from potbelly pigs to hamsters. The situation has gotten so out of control that some airlines are forbidding most pets from taking to the air. Those who rely on the animals might think Popeyes is mocking them, and they wouldn't be far wrong. However, for every irate passenger Popeyes might lose, there will be plenty more lined up to get the box.
Tuesday, December 18, 2018
A family-owned firm in Michigan is giving its workers $4 million in bonuses, averaging $20,000 per employee. It is the CEO's way of thanking them for their labor in building the company. Not many public corporations would do this. They have investors to think about and plenty of uses for funds other than giving them away to the rank and file. It is great PR for the company and deserving of the media attention it is getting. It would be wonderful if more firms treated their employees this way. Perhaps workers would stay put rather than jumping to another job that offers a dollar an hour more.
Monday, December 17, 2018
The White House and Congress are moving toward another government shutdown, this time over Trump's demand for border wall funding. Voters are opposed to it overwhelmingly and they will blame Trump if the shutdown occurs. This is as the President wanted it in his White House tantrum with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. The situation already is a debacle and the mess will be complete if it isn't delayed or straightened out by Friday. The question is whether the President will be a man of his word and will veto any budget bill that does not have $5 billion in it for a wall. He is so inconsistent that it is difficult at this point to know what he will do. That may be a good negotiating tactic but brinksmanship is poor PR.
Friday, December 14, 2018
Google has announced that it won't sell its facial recognition technology for the time being as it works through technology and policy questions. That is an ethical stance since facial recognition is hardly perfect and false positives are a problem. Also, dictatorial countries are using it to track citizens and invade their privacy. It is a self-interested position because Google understands it will create a hurricane of protest if it does merchandise the software. Resistance will come not only from the outside but from its own employees who had not been quiet about the company's previous work with the Defense Department. It is an instance where necessity and virtue meet. Google can take a bow for being public-minded but it shouldn't be too deep. It wouldn't have won under any circumstance.
Thursday, December 13, 2018
There are times when a short-term fix generates long-term problems and this might be one. To solve a housing shortage in Los Angeles County, the board of supervisors has approved a vast development on raw land. The problem? It is wildfire country and Los Angeles and its environs are particularly susceptible to conflagration. The county might be setting itself up for a future crisis. Communications from the scientific community have been ignored, and promises of developers accepted. The lure of new homes and jobs in building them appears to have been too much to resist. Should fires come in the future, the board of supervisors will deal with them at that time. But, that does not negate the loss of property, possessions and even, life. It is suspect government relations.
Wednesday, December 12, 2018
The Trump confrontation with Democrats in the Oval office was a reality show. By that, I mean it was an in-your-face argument meant for the entertainment of an audience. There were no chairs thrown, no fisticuffs, no mediator keeping parties apart but the video of the President of the United States berating Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer was what Trump wanted to energize his base. He got it but at the diminishment once again of civility. Debate in the US is not as pointed as it is in the UK where Question Time is an hour of insult and jeering. Although some feel there should be unfettered public discussion, it would be necessary for politicians to prepare the public for it. Trump's brashness only served to paint him more as a spoiled child who will bully anyone to get his way. It was a bad example of communications and it has almost certainly solidified Democrats against him.
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Time Magazine has named journalists persons of the year. It has been a tough time for them with a war on media from multiple sources, not the least of which is the White House. There is an insidious attempt to derogate any fact that is not compatible with one's image of himself or one's personal belief. Good journalism is good PR. It is reporters and editors striving to do their jobs in the best way possible -- finding and reporting facts of events and individuals. Their success brings credibility to them and to their media. Boot-licking articles help no one but those in power who want to see themselves portrayed in the best light possible. The world has taken a swing to strong, conservative leaders, nationalists who don't like to see negative stories about themselves. Journalism's job has been made more difficult, if not impossible in some countries where reporters literally lay their lives on the line. They deserve recognition for the work they are doing. One wishes it weren't so difficult.
Monday, December 10, 2018
Elon Musk is asking to be sanctioned by the government with his blunt comments. He says he doesn't respect the SEC, and he maintains he can do what he wants with Tesla since he is the largest shareholder. Daring regulators to take action is unwise communications. They are likely to look for an opportunity to unseat him as CEO. Musk is an unguided missile and his relations with the government have never looked worse. He might well discover in the near future that one should get along with regulators as much as possible. It is basic government relations. Instead, he now sounds and acts arrogant and unapologetic.
Friday, December 07, 2018
Every one of these products had publicity and glowing marketing materials. It made no difference. They died. There are many reasons for the failures. Some were redundant. Some were aged out. Some were absorbed into other tech. Some failed because the market wasn't there. Some missed their price points. It is instructive to read lists like this because it is a reminder -- if one needs one -- that there are limits to publicity, PR and marketing. They can do only so much to boost an offering and help it establish itself. Veterans in the communications business understand that. That is why advance preparation is so important. Rather than flinging a product onto the mercies of the marketplace, one should take the time to understand if demand is there. Google especially dumps beta ideas to the public to see if they stick. Many don't. It's wasteful and eventually they end up on the In Memoriam list.
Thursday, December 06, 2018
This is good PR because Corning has the technology. It is not spin. It is fact. Corning's Gorilla Glass is being readied for a future with foldable phones. It is already being made paper thin and bendable and it retains scratch resistance. Corning showed off its ultra-thin glass to the reporter and let her tour the test "kitchen" where it is made in furnaces fired to 1800 degrees. She was understandably awed by the process and wrote a puff piece. That makes sense to anyone who has watched glass being made. The crucibles, fire and manufacturing process can fill one with wonder at the ingenious skills of man. Corning is showing what it does every day, and that is PR enough.
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
In marketing and PR listening to the public is one of the most important steps, especially when they close their wallets. Here is a case in which an industry outstripped demand and is facing an inevitable downturn. Home builders need to construct affordable housing and they haven't done so. Householders need to moderate greed when selling their abodes, and they have yet to moderate asking prices. The effect is a slump, which won't be dismissed easily. The pain will endure until all sides understand that growth won't return at today's prices. First-time buyers are nearly shut out of the market, especially with higher mortgage rates. Those fortunate enough to have bought low and sold high are gone. Contractors and householders now are sitting on properties that aren't appreciating. The best they can do is to wait or to sell for whatever they can get.
Tuesday, December 04, 2018
We noted here that Waymo is confronting an ugly reality by putting safety drivers back into its self-driving vans. Here is another post-hype letdown that is worse than autonomous vehicles -- Bitcoin. The commentator opines that the value of the cryptocurrency is approaching zero. It costs too much to mine and those digging it out will cease operations. This is a huge come-down from the days not so long ago when a Bitcoin was worth $20,000 or more and there was a frenzy to get in on the digging. Skeptics aplenty cautioned investors to stay away from it because it isn't a store of value but only an expectation. Its worth depends on the number of people who want it. After the hype, Bitcoin is settling into ignominy. Greed-driven investors are counting losses, and there is a good chance it will never come back.
Monday, December 03, 2018
The Chinese scientist who edited human embryos to make them HIV resistant is now a pariah in the scientific world. Scientists worldwide condemned his action and the Chinese government has shut down his work. There has been a consensus to avoid tampering with human embryos until more is known about the effects of doing so. It is peer pressure, but it only goes so far. If a rogue decides to push technology to its limits, he can do so. There is nothing the scientific community can do. It bridles at the notion of government control over experiments, but as this case shows, there is nothing to stop someone from throwing over conventional agreements. It also shows that once technology is developed, it can and will be used for better and for worse.