Friday, October 30, 2009

The Speed Of Error 

This article examines how quickly erroneous information can spread across the internet. It concerns a misquote of Supreme Court Justice Scalia by a local newspaper. The misquote was swiftly picked up and cross-posted in several blogs without checking. All but one of the bloggers assumed the newspaper was right. It took one who went back to check the actual videotaped remarks of the Justice to find out that the so-called quote wasn't correct at all. The article points out that bloggers assumed the burden of accuracy was on the original source. It isn't and shouldn't be. Fortunately for the Justice, the error was caught in time before it spread too widely. What happens to those for whom errors are not caught? It is a lesson to PR practitioners to be vigilant and to react quickly when mistakes start circulating online. It should be a lesson for bloggers as well, but it probably won't be.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Below PR 

This fellow makes a good point about crass advertisers for whom anything goes in an effort to sell. These are people who are below public relations in that they have little respect for their audiences. They play on elemental fears and desires. On the other hand, their approaches do work or they wouldn't be using them. And, PR does play on emotions as much or more than the intellect. Still, it seems that few PR practitioners would want to serve the kinds of boorish marketers who run ads like these.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Publicity Dumb 

There are good publicity stunts that harm no one and dumb ones that backfire. This one backfired. Perhaps I am overly sensitive to these old-fashioned efforts to raise awareness, but there seems to be more of them now, and they appear to fail more often. It is a measure of the desperation of marketers that they are doing anything to get attention. I wonder if there was a PR shop behind this idea. I hope not.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Search and Social Media 

Search engines are catching up with the need to track social media. Last week, Microsoft's Bing announced it would search Facebook and Twitter. Now, Google is about to track real-time information from social circles. This is important news for PR practitioners because it will provide a closer view of what people are thinking. Do not be surprised if one learns that in their daily lives, most people don't think about or discuss issues. That, however, is good to know because it shows the challenge communicators have to get people to pay attention. Clients need to know as well what they are facing when they try to raise awareness. Search engine results can provide a microscopic baseline of opinion and perception.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Beyond Persuasion 

Anyone willing to die for a cause is usually beyond intellectual and emotional appeals. Even if apprehended in time, which in this case they were not, there is little chance that one can turn the individual around. It brings to mind other political groups, such as Japanese soldiers in World War II who were willing to die for the Emperor. One wonders why and how they were convinced in the first place. They were victims of cultural forces that persuaded them in a manner that allowed for no questioning. One does what one is told whether or not the order is moral, ethical or humanitarian. This kind of sickness pervades every society at one time or another. One can only hope to stop it before it gets out of control. Halting it can only be done by force. You get them before they get you. It is an unpleasant consideration for one who believes in the power of persuasion.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Were They Thinking? 

Stories like this go under the heading of "dumb." If true, there was a lack of adult supervision when this idea came to fruition. Any PR practitioner with a dash of common sense would have argued against such a marketing move. One hopes PR wasn't involved in any way. It is unfortunate that marketers in a desperate effort to do anything to raise awareness go overboard. These are difficult times, but that doesn't absolve one from thinking.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Political Powerplay 

The decision to slash the compensation of executives whose companies received bailout funds is a political powerplay designed to appeal to the public. The public will like it and agitate for compensation reduction for other CEOs as well. Missing in this coup de main is any sense of what the marketplace establishes as compensation for top executives. From what little I know, it is a great deal higher than what the pay czar has set. This will have two outcomes. CEOs will try to pay back government loans as quickly as possible to get out from under government control. Top executives will not readily step up for the CEO position should any one of the CEOs step down. While cutting CEO pay appeals to the masses, that doesn't make it the best public relations.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Not Enough 

If this poll is accurate, it is a reminder that sometimes being against something is not enough. One needs to communicate a positive agenda as well. Perhaps the Republicans will learn that if they fail to win big in the elections next year.

Great PR 

One story like this is enough to make a product. It is great PR and almost certainly came from the PR department of General Motors. Note that the anti-hijacking service is not available on all GM models yet but will be in a few years. Do you think that everyone will take the service when it is offered? Is the sky blue?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Corporate Embarrassment 

Having one of your senior executives arrested is the height of corporate embarrassment. That is what happened to IBM. The executive was indicted on insider trading charges for leaking confidential information to a network of hedge fund operators.

There is little a company can do about something like this. An organization can train its people in the need for integrity, stress the need to keep information confidential, hammer the principle of honest dealings, but all that might not be enough. Ultimately, it comes down to the actions of individuals and when they fail, especially at a senior level, the entire company is smeared. IBM will get through this, but it will hurt for a while. The incident is a reminder of how vigilant one must be when handling confidential information.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Right On 

This essay on the First Amendment and freedom of the press is on target. There isn't and shouldn't be a special class of journalists protected apart from the rest of us who are not. That the government is moving in this direction is unfortunate and probably unconstitutional. It is a matter to which the courts will be drawn sooner rather than later. While the FTC's rules on revealing whether one has received consideration for items discussed in blogs are welcome, they should apply to everyone in every instance. Transparency rules are not only for novice journalists. The internet has made journalists of us all. It is true that most of us don't yet understand the need for transparency but neither did early newspaper writers of the 18th and 19th Century who were covered by the First Amendment. We have entered a new world, and it takes time to understand how to operate in it. Government should be patient until the public understands differences between good and bad journalism.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Navy PR 

Here is an example of US Navy PR, and it is effective too. New York City will be possessive of the ship throughout its life and each time it visits the city, there will be photos, stories and remembrances.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


It is hard to change the culture of a company and succeed. Here is a fellow who tried and failed and in the process, wrecked a company. CIT, a former client of many years ago, was never a fast-growth or trendy business, but it was a solid one. It provided essential funding for tens of thousands of middle market and small businesses. The present CEO decided that wasn't enough and set about to spur growth. Of course, he took on the trendy businesses of the moment that were fated to collapse along with the rest of the market. Now CIT is edging into bankruptcy and the CEO is quitting. What will happen to the company? It is too early to know, but there is a cautionary lesson here. Change culture carefully. The process of creating a new company out of an old one is a slow task. Superimposing growth onto an old framework is dangerous.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


The passage of the health care bill in the Senate Finance Committee is a lesson in the art of persuasion. It is a long, slow craft and art combined and frequently messy. It took months for Senators to hammer out a bill and for all the work and negotiation, only one Republican signed on in the end. It is too easy when communicating to think that a campaign is all one needs to convince people of a position. It is more than that and always has been. There was plenty of one-on-one arm twisting in the Committee and give-and-take before the outline of a bill was hammered out. It is no different in most aspects of dealing with the public. So, while we measure exposure and awareness based on who publishes a story from our press releases, let us not kid ourselves that we are persuading the public. We are simply presenting information. Persuasion comes later.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Joe Consumer 

This article predicts that the next census data will put an end to the average Joe Consumer. Of course, there never was an average consumer. It was a useful fiction that marketers adopted to get their work done. What the internet and immense data collection have shown is that when one looks closely at the public, every individual is unique with specific tastes and desires that shouldn't be lumped with everyone else. It is possible now to appeal to that uniqueness through the communications media we have today. In other words, mass markets were never mass except in the minds of those who were communicating. This was a failure of theory that only now is being corrected. Public relations is more individual relations.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dumb PR 

There are times when efforts to protect one's reputation goes beyond the pale into dumb acts. This is an example. The Washington Redskins are trying the patience of fans and earning a reputation far different than they would like. There is no good reason for what they are doing. Football teams depend on their fans and expressions of support or dismay from their fans as well. It's time for the team to relax and let matters be. There will be protests and there will expressions of support. Squelching protest will only make it stronger, as the Redskins will find out.

Friday, October 09, 2009

What Now? 

Here is a story that should alarm the President. Troop morale on the battlefield is falling. Soldiers are beginning to wonder why they are in Afghanistan. It doesn't help that the White House continues to consider whether to add forces to the fight or not. The President as Commander in Chief has to be concerned about the fighting spirit of his military. If it is indeed falling, more problems will occur that will make the situation all the more dangerous. It is one more reason why the job of President is not enviable.


Here is a measure of how far the reputation of the United States has fallen. It is also a warning about the amount of debt this country can assume before other countries react. The US is approaching that limit. Should the US lose its role as the international currency, it will be more difficult for the country to run up debt as it has been doing. Maybe that is good, but the White House doesn't want to find that out.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Protecting Their Own 

This story is an example of a group protecting its members even though there is good reason for one of them to be dismissed. Representative Rangel has been an escalating embarrassment to the Democrats for months, but he also is a senior member of the House. And, because the Democrats are in power, they can shield him from calls to step down. There are times when having the power to stay in place is better than public relations. This is one. Rangel thus far has show little contrition for his failure to report income and pay taxes. From a PR point of view, he is a disaster for the Democrats, but he and they don't care. They can get away with it. That's good enough.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

About Time 

News that the Federal Trade Commission has ordered bloggers to disclose when they are paid is overdue. Unfortunately, some bloggers will ignore the rule and get away with it because there are too many bloggers and not enough regulators. What will happen is that the FTC might monitor the largest sites while ignoring the smaller ones until there are complaints at which time, it will investigate and level fines. From a transparency point-of-view "pay for play" sites are a disgrace, but they are also part of human nature. It is up to PR practitioners to sort through blogs and to work with bloggers who are honest and open. Here too, some practitioners will take the easy way out and get away with it. Of course, if and when they are caught, they will claim everyone engages in "pay for play."

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Losing Outlets 

News that Conde Nast is shutting down four magazines is sour for PR practitioners. The magazines -- Gourmet, Cookie, Modern Bride and Elegant Bride -- were targets for product and services news. Now, PR will have to move elsewhere to get news out. But where? That is the challenge practitioners will need to solve. In some cases, there are not good outlets online to supplant what has disappeared. In others, like food and wine, there are ample sites, but they might not have the reach of Gourmet. Practitioners work harder to achieve less these days.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Corporations and Facebook 

This study of how corporations use Facebook is a random survey of 33 companies in the Fortune 100 ranked by revenue. The objective of the research was to determine how well companies are using the social medium. The answer is not well -- not yet, anyway. There is an indiscriminate use of brand logos by employees and fans and a plethora of individual pages -- sometimes 30 to 40 or more in which a company's logo will show. With one exception, there appeared to be no organized effort on the part of the companies to use the medium in order to maximize brand presence. This is the time that corporate communications departments should be getting involved in setting policy and providing resources for employees and fans.

The study is the 106th essay posted on online-pr.com.

Friday, October 02, 2009

A Thousand Words 

There are times when words fail in communications by comparison to pictures. Take this case. One could have written a treatise explaining why one car is safer than the other, but the photos make the case more quickly and dramatically. They also validate decades of engineering that has gone into making modern autos safer, even though cars are smaller today. Photos like this with a caption can be an entire press release and should be.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

A New Trend 

This article is about various interests in Los Angeles who are hiring journalists to cover their news because the local newspaper is not covering them adequately. You can add business journalism to the mix. The number of reporters who cover business is falling and leaving a gap that isn't being filled. It is happening at exactly the wrong time with the economy in recession and people needing to know where, if anywhere, there is an uptick. An example of how badly business news journalism has fallen is the Washington Post, which has buried its business news on three pages of the first section of the paper and hardly covers the business community in its circulation area at all. What this means to PR practitioners, of course, is that we have to work harder to get company news covered, but we don't have the luxury of hiring our own reporters.

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