Friday, November 15, 2019

Self-made Crisis 

Google has a crisis on its hands that it alone has created.  It has gone into partnership with Ascension healthcare to codify and store the large medical chain's records and the information of millions of patients.  It has apparently failed to tell its own people or the public what it plans to do with all this private information.  Now, there is a whistleblower who raises serious issues that the company has yet to explain.  It didn't need to be this way.  Google could have prepared the ground for the partnership with abundant internal and external communication.  Why it chose not to do so is unknown at this time.  Perhaps it feared it would be barred from operating if the word got out too early.  Now the company is being forced to defend itself and is the target of a HIPAA investigation.  Maybe next time it will know better.  

Thursday, November 14, 2019


The nation's largest milk processor has gone bankrupt.  Dairy consumption continues to drop and the company couldn't hold on.  Clearly advertising and PR haven't worked.  The question is what to do now?  There are still millions of milk drinkers, and they expect to find the product on supermarket cold cases.  The market might need to devolve into regional co-ops that can handle reduced volume and still make a go of it.  Creativity might not be able to overcome a shift in consumer opinion. The milk mustache might be on its way out as a symbol.  One wonders what farmers will do.  They have been consolidating herds for decades under the idea that bigger is better, but if there is a smaller market, it isn't.  The milk industry is living in turbulent and uncertain times.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019


When Apple launched its credit card with Goldman Sachs, they didn't foresee this.  Should they have known that their credit algorithm scores men and women differently?  If not, they do now and they have a black eye, which will take time to heal.  It's a public relations debacle for the companies and the only answer for it is to get into the system and repair its flaws.  Even that might not be enough.  Consumers are sensitized to the inequity of the black box and they are looking for any hint of unfairness in credit limits.  If Apple and Goldman Sachs fix the software, in time people might forget the initial insult, but it won't be soon.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Free Speech 

YouTube now says it has no obligation to host anyone's video.  Defenders of the First Amendment are criticizing the company.  What they forget is that newspapers, the essence of Free Speech, have never had an obligation to run anyone's copy or photo. Editorial decisions remain with the periodical.  Always have and always will under the law.  YouTube is acting more like a newspaper.  The conditions are different, of course.  YouTube is a service for those who want to post video and for channels that make their money from availability.  YouTube is not a manufacturer of content.  Still, newspapers have the decision to run opinion pieces or not.  So does YouTube.  Look for more pullback as the company complies with privacy regulations, as it fights porn and as it tries to control lies and misinformation.  For most people, the new terms won't mean much, but for those who skate close to or over the lines YouTube has set, it could be the end of their involvement with the service..

Monday, November 11, 2019

Military Burial 

I was out of the office for two days last week to attend a funeral and military burial.  The flag ceremony at the gravesite is deeply affecting and full of symbolism as is the playing of taps that precedes it.  The country is communicating its thanks to the family and friends of the deceased.  In the precise and rigid movements of the soldiers, there is a message of reverence and dignity.  In the formal presentation of the flag to the family, there is restrained grief in words spoken and left unsaid.  The whole ceremony is formulaic, drilled down to the fraction of an inch, but it is precision that communicates so loudly.  It doesn't take away pain, but salves it somewhat and I am thankful to have witnessed it.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Smart PR 

Hilton DoubleTree hotels have scored a PR coup -- the first fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies in space.  NASA is performing an experiment with a tiny stove on the space station.  The question to be answered is if anything can be baked in zero gravity.  No one knows what form the cookie dough will take or whether the astronauts can get it locked into an armature designed to hold it.  It might float around in the stove bouncing lightly off the walls.  It might swell into a cone or a ball.  The astronauts will know soon enough.  Meanwhile, Hilton can take credit for supplying the ingredients for the test.  "The first cookies in outer space."  The company has an opportunity to explain what happened and to highlight its participation.  It is smart PR.  

Monday, November 04, 2019

Et Tu, McDonald's? 

Who would think the CEO of McDonald's would be fired for a relationship with an employee?  It happened, and he is gone, waiting for severance.  It shows a healthy concern for public relations and perception on the part of the board.  It also forestalls power plays and favoritism on the part of the CEO.  The board took the right action, even though Easterbrook was successful in turning the company around.  There is no room anymore for skirt-chasing from a position of power.  There never should have been.  But, the intoxication of the rank turns heads. It is sad for McDonald's, but someone else will take over soon and the company will move on.

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