Friday, July 31, 2009

The Power of Reputation, cont. 

Just last year, it was important to be part of Formula 1 racing if one wanted to sell cars. This year, it isn't. Now it is critical to be seen as "Green."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Zero Latency 

This article raises an interesting question. With computer response becoming faster, the marketplace is moving toward zero latency -- instant response to events. What the article does not discuss is zero latency with respect to company reputation. How does a company protect itself instantly from rumor, innuendo and outright falsehoods? How does a company respond instantly to a crisis? The speed of the internet is so great that even an hour or two is too much anymore to stop damaging information from spreading globally. Zero latency might have advantages for marketing, but it also has disadvantages that PR practitioners, especially, need to understand.

Reputation Killer 

This is the second consultant for medical device company, Medtronic, who failed to disclose that he was on the company's payroll. Whether or not Medtronic told the doctor to keep his compensation secret, it looks bad for the company. One would expect that Medtronic would urge its physician consultants to be transparent. Instead the company has been put in the position of trying to catch up after the fact.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Don't Blame PR 

Here is a case where PR is maligned unfairly. It is hard to believe that a British DJ used a PR counselor to make the statement that WiFi signals are affecting his health. It is more likely that the DJ used his own microphone to make his case. The article is accurate in stating that the news organizations that carried the story are bone-headed and poor reporters of science. It would be nice if once in awhile the media would be more accurate in the use of the term "PR."


Miscommunication with a regulator can be painful. That is apparently what happened to Mylan, a generic drug maker. In defense of Mylan, it is hard to believe that the company would have declared an "all clear" without someone in the FDA nodding assent. It appears that there might well have been miscommunication within the FDA too. The lesson here is to doublecheck everything with a regulator before going public. One never knows when a press release might boomerang.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

State Reputation 

How does a state live down this reputation? California may be on the verge of bankruptcy but New Jersey leads the nation in indictments of public officials. Curiously, few citizens of New Jersey seem to worry about it, but ultimately, it is a problem. Companies may think twice about their presence in a state where officials have their hands out. New Jersey's first step in recovering its reputation is to put an end to corruption. That may be a decades long task but it is an essential one. This will require change down to the local municipal level, which will be difficult indeed. Or, citizens can choose to live with a sleazy reputation as they have for decades.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Controlled Speech 

This is an interesting article on the impact of Presidential words. It seems Obama is learning he cannot speak his mind freely because the ramifications are larger than he expects. An example of that is the fracas he stepped into last week when he commented on the arrest of African-American professor, Henry Louis Gates. Part of Obama's challenge is his immaturity as a leader. He had little experience running an office before he became President, so he wasn't aware of how far his words would carry. He is learning quickly.

From a PR point of view, there is a penalty when a leader's words are misconstrued or taken literally. That is why a practitioner should urge caution when, for example, a CEO wants to comment on topics. There are times when it isn't worth the trouble it can create. On the other hand, leaders should not disappear in office either. It is a question of disciplined speech -- hewing to essential issues and letting others pass without comment. For some leaders, that is easy. For most, it isn't. It is hard for leaders to understand that high office actually limits one's ability to speak out, if one wants to be effective.

Friday, July 24, 2009


This bit of news from the advertising world causes one to wonder. Why haven't upfront sales of TV advertising time disappeared in an era of online? Because old habits die hard. Neither media buyers nor networks are ready to abandon a process that has worked well since the 1950s. PR practitioners are not much different, however. Many of us continue to focus on major traditional media at a time when editorial staffs are shrinking and online has become a major outlet for news. We are in the same transitional period as advertisers. Still, the idea of buying time months ahead for TV shows that have diminished audiences strikes one as sillier than pitching stories to fewer reporters. At some point, the upfront market will wither to inconsequential importance, but it may be years yet. At some point, PR practitioners may be focused more on online placement than traditional media. That too is years away.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

One-Trick Pony? 

This is an interesting analysis of President Obama's leadership style. He seems to be a president who knows one way to get things done -- talking. Now, the worry is that he will become over-exposed, and people will stop listening to him. Political persuasion takes many forms, including hardball moves that may be in order to get legislation through. For example, the President can tell recalcitrant congressmen that he will veto any bills favoring their districts if they fail to go along with his wishes. Then, he has to back up his promise. Obama is still new to the office of President. There is time for him to learn, but unfortunately, he is pushing a centerpiece of his presidency now -- healthcare legislation. It will be instructive to watch him over the coming weeks to see how he cuts deals and keeps legislation moving. Political PR is messy and one doesn't always want to know how it works.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Doctors Need PR Too 

Doctors need PR of a direct kind. They need to learn how to relate. Requiring patients to sign "no gripe" agreements is a temporary fix at best and won't work in the long run for physicians who are rude and off-putting. Medical schools teach students how to deal with patients, but it seems some doctors forget -- or never learned. It is one more sign of the come-down for doctors in society that patients talk about them publicly. When I was young, a doctor was still "god" and set apart from mortals. Now, they seem more like skilled craftspeople who are struggling along with everyone else to make a living.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


It is increasingly difficult for companies to get away with this kind of compensation, but there are still companies doing it. With bloggers tracking pay packages, there is greater transparency, even with arcane forms of remuneration. One wonders when companies are going to understand that compensation is a flashpoint for stakeholders and moderation is the order of the day.

Monday, July 20, 2009

End Of Disposable Culture? 

This opinion is interesting because if environmental activists have their way, we are facing an end of disposable items. We live in a culture of disposables from packaging through products. It would take a huge shift in manufacturing and retailing to build goods that can be recycled and actually are. The PR challenge of persuading industry and the public to think of recycling in everything they buy is large and lengthy. It will take decades to reach a society in which most, if not all, used goods are put back into the manufacturing stream. Retailers like Ikea may have to change their business model or be penalized for failing to do so. Manufacturers may have to change materials they use in products. Municipalities will have to recycle more than they do. In other words, the message has to reach every level of the logistics chain and be effective. That is a huge task that will cause economic dislocation for every participant and a need for persuasive messaging.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Good PR 

This diagram has been making the rounds on the internet for the last few days, and it is a classic example of a good PR tactics. Rather than talking at length trying to explain how complex the proposed healthcare bill is, just show it in an illustration -- a chart so confusing one would spend an hour or more just to trace the lines. It is an old trick but still effective. At the time of writing, Democrats haven't responded to the diagram, as far as I know. They're working on passing the bill as fast as they can before any more opposition rises against it. It didn't help that yesterday the Congressional Budgeting Office said the bill will cause an increase in overall healthcare costs rather than containing them. The diagram may prove a tipping point yet for Republicans.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Behavior Change 

This article is a reminder that behavior changes take time in organizations, especially if the organization takes on a new mission. Fighter pilots actively resisted flying drones when they were first put into service. They fly them today remotely, but many still don't like them. They want to be in the cockpit of a jet and putting it through the sound barrier. The Air Force's mission with drones is critical to the support of ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, so pilots are coming around slowly. Changes like this take years to accomplish with unrelenting persuasion and pressure. That is why so many mergers and acquisitions fail. Neither the acquirer nor the acquired are ready to change. The role of internal PR with a new mission is essential, but it isn't enough. It takes time to convert minds to new realities, and some never do.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Corporate Speak 

Here is a case of "corporate speak." Why not say what they are doing -- selling the magazine for whatever they can get for it, which won't be much. At least one analyst has speculated that McGraw-Hill will let BusinessWeek go to someone for a dollar. Imagine what the reporters and editors of the magazine are feeling these days. When the magazine is sold, it almost certainly will undergo a reduction in staff. That will make it harder to get corporate messages out to the public.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


President Obama's choice of a new Surgeon General yesterday was symbolic and smart. Dr. Regina Benjamin is a doctor who has long served the rural poor and is vocal about the need for healthcare for everyone. Obama, of course, is determined to reform health care this year with a bill that already is bogging in Congress. The choice of a person who has personal knowledge of health care delivery at the bottom of society provides Obama with a visible sign of commitment. It is good PR for what he is trying to do. The Surgeon General is a post without power except that of persuasion. It is in itself a PR job. If Dr. Benjamin wishes, she can add a powerful voice to national debate and support for healthcare reform.

Monday, July 13, 2009

PR And Social Media - Essay 

This essay discusses tactics for using social media in PR work. It is a distillation of several points of view, but in the end, what you do is not all that different from media relations. The challenge that practitioners face with social media is fragmentation. There are millions of Twitterers, Facebook Users, bloggers, etc. It is not easy to know where to go and whom to approach. It requires constant monitoring and searching to find influentials.

The essay is the 102nd on online-pr.com. As always, I look forward to your comments and suggested revisions.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Not The Way To Do It 

This is not a way to build trust and credibility. A quick succession of senior executives is a sign of internal weakness and is confusing to stakeholders.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

PR Battle 

Here is a titanic PR battle in the making. Sit back and watch it unfold.

Getting Even 

As you know, with the internet customer service is more important than ever because angry customers can get even. Here is an excellent case of that, which United Airlines won't live down anytime soon. Even if the airline decided to pay for the damaged guitar, the injury to its reputation has been done. And, there are two more songs to go, if the airline fails to compensate the musician.

Thanks to my colleague, Mike Cargill, for finding this.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Good Idea 

The US Army is testing a way to improve its manuals by using a wiki. It is placing the manuals online and allowing users to comment on them and suggest changes. This is smart PR. It is saying to the troops that they know more about how the Army should run than the original manual writers. Every corporation has policies and procedures that could use the same wiki-style critique. For that matter, every communications department has written and unwritten procedures for practitioners that could use updating. I hope the Army test is successful. It can lead the way for the rest of us.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


Apparently no one told lawyers and CFOs that sneaking filings into the Securities and Exchange Commission under the wire on a Fourth of July weekend is the same as dropping a press release late Friday night. The blogger who caught this thinks it might be a one-time aberration, but I bet that it isn't. In any event, it doesn't work because all filings are public and sooner or later, someone will read them. It is not like the news business where masses of press releases are dumped daily with little attention being paid to them. Still, waiting to the last minute to file doesn't say much for the transparency of the companies involved.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Now They Tell Us 

In January when the President of the United States was pushing for the massive stimulus bill few were talking about the implications of the debt the country was taking on. Now it seems the media among others have wakened to the fact of $11 trillion of IOUs.

The mounting debt is an example of how shortsightedness can make matters worse. It is especially true when it comes to legislators. The Democratic Congress was eager to spend money. There was something for just about everyone in the stimulus bill. Now, to pay for it they will have to cut, but that won't be easy even with the President's formidable powers of persuasion. No elected official likes to take money away from constituents. Look at the paralysis in state governments where by law, officials have to balance the budget. States like California and New York are deadlocked. It is now becoming apparent that the stimulus bill might not have been such a good idea.

The lesson for PR practitioners is obvious. Short-term tactics and messages are foolhardy, even in a crisis.

Friday, July 03, 2009


Even major news gathering organizations can make dumb PR mistakes. Note that the Washington Post was outed by a blog.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Daring Move 

Wal-Mart is marching on its own in its decision to support employer-paid health care. It is a daring move that has upset peers in retail and in most of industry for that matter. But, the company is so large it can take a contrarian position and make it stick. Why Wal-Mart has decided to break ranks is not entirely clear, but it obviously has good reasons for doing so. Economically, with its huge employee population, the company will be able to negotiate better deals for health insurance than smaller competitors.

From a PR perspective, the company's position is forward thinking and guaranteed to put it in a better light. Even if in the end employers don't have to provide health insurance, Wal-Mart will have gained a reputation for concern for employees. This is a huge change from a few years ago when the company was accused of exploiting its workers.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Living On Luck 

If the airline business weren't as poor as it is now, Boeing would have lost many more orders for its new and troubled airframe program. The company is straining credibility and trust with its customers and investors by a more than two-year delay in building its new 787. It seems that everything has gone wrong from management through insufficient numbers of fasteners and inability of subcontractors to turn out parts on time. The travesty raises a question of how far a company can push its stakeholders before they give up and go elsewhere. Fortunately for Boeing, there aren't many other places for customers to go. It may not be this way for much longer, however.

From a PR perspective, the program has been a botch for quite some time. Boeing had painted a bright picture of the new technologies and materials in the plane that save weight and fuel, but it is clear that it hasn't yet grasped how to manufacture with them. I wouldn't want to be the corporate communicator tasked with explaining the latest delay.

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