Friday, May 29, 2015


China is in the midst of a stock bubble, and there is rising fear of the consequences when it bursts.  Millions of Chinese might find their savings disappear.  At least one board of directors has cautioned investors against speculation.  This raises a question.  What duty, if any, does a board or a CEO have to dampen irrational exuberance?  Companies will release information when there are unusual moves in their stock price to let the markets know that nothing has changed.  But, should a chairman of the board and/or a CEO publicly caution investors that they have bid a company's shares too high?  It shows that a company is watching out for the investing public and concerned that they avoid getting hurt in a price correction.  One can make a case for and against speaking out, particularly if the stock buyers are speculators seeking to make a quick buck.  This is when the investor relations department earns its pay.  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Credibility Impaired 

How does an organization maintain its credibility when this happens?  The world of professional soccer has been turned upside down with the indictments of vice presidents and executive committee members for graft.  The president, Sepp Blatter, has been left untouched, but the charges stop at the door to his office.  It is clear that FIFA needs to do its own internal investigation and become transparent, which it isn't now.  However, it is unlikely under Blatter to do so, since he runs the organization with an iron hand and has been deaf to criticism.  The actions of FIFA have opened other questions such as players throwing games and gambling on their outcome.  The impression left with outside observers is that FIFA is rotten to the core.  Some say they are not surprised by the indictments.  They knew all along that FIFA was crooked, but it was left untouched, as if a city state.  FIFA faces years of repair to its reputation, and it might have to change its entire leadership to become credible again.  

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Pope And Politics 

The pope's pronouncements on the environment and the poor are not sitting well with Republican Catholics.  Once upon a time -- a few hundred years ago -- this might have put the pontiff in a political bind, but no longer.  Popes today have the ability to speak their minds concerning moral issues.  The present Holy Father has been more vocal than his predecessor to the delight of many and anger of others.  Normally, one would say that it is risky PR to take an unpopular stance, but for religious leaders it needn't be.  They can, if they wish, rise above daily dealings and concentrate on long-term implications of the way the public thinks and acts.  In fact, religious figures who have descended into politics have done themselves and their followers a disservice.  There is no doubt that they possess secular power through their preaching that shows in the ballot box, but they have often been on the wrong side of the facts.  This Pope thus far has avoided politics.  He has called upon all secular leaders to pay attention to the migrant situation in Europe, and he is about to make a major pronouncement on the environment and the need for human stewardship of it.  There are those who are already dismissive of his ideas, but he is hard to ignore.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Strategic PR 

Japan is joining war games being held by the US and Australia.  The move is significant since Japan has long forsworn the military.  The move also is PR targeted toward China and its ambitions in the South China sea.  There is no doubt that China is expansionist, and it is willing to use military action to get its way.  This has put all the island nations of Asia on alert.  While China says it is protecting territory it has long claimed, its neighbors beg to differ, but they are powerless themselves to halt China's growth.  Japan is only just now beginning to expand its military after 70 years of self-defense forces.  Taiwan has designed defenses to repel China should it attack but it has little offensive might.  The Philippines have neither solid defense nor offense.  All these countries are dependent on the US to help and carry the day.  Hence, the war games and a military message to China.  There will be more of these in the years to come.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day 

It is an irony that we celebrate Memorial Day with sentiment and thanks.  Those of us who remember leaving the military during the Vietnam conflict recall that finding a job was not easy.  We were "baby killers", bent and warped by daring to join rather than resist. Looking back, one might say we were not treated badly, but we were.  I had to bury my service on my resume even though I put in nearly four years.  I would not bring it up in interviews because that stopped the process.  Since then, there has been a 180 degree turn in public sentiment.  Part of that is due to the all-volunteer services.  We let others do our fighting and we thank them for that.  That is not healthy in the long-run because the public gets out of touch.  One can dislike the draft but it brought ordinary citizens to the reality of warfare and reminded them that citizenship means more than grilling burgers on a day off.  On this Memorial Day, I salute those who served in spite of public sentiment.  It was doubly hard for them.

Friday, May 22, 2015

PR For A Major Culture Change 

This is PR for an ongoing,culture change.  Some day, not far into the future, a car will drive itself.  The public is not ready for it -- yet.  They need to be by time the first robotic cars reach dealerships.  Major automakers are edging into the technology by providing elements of self-driving without offering the whole package.  Thus we see lane guidance, rear driving sensors to prevent collisions, automatic braking to avoid striking another car.  Only a few companies are striving to provide the whole package -- notably Google whose bug-like vehicles self-drive at a speed of 25 mph.  It is interesting that none of the major auto manufacturers have entered into partnership with Google.  That is either NIH (Not Invented Here) or caution.  Google's cars drive 10,000 miles a week and have had 11 accidents -- none the fault of the car.  The idea that one can safely sit in the driver's seat and text, chat on the phone, watch a movie, scan through one's e-mail is still too new to transportation agencies and law enforcement.  But that day is coming quickly.

Thursday, May 21, 2015


Osama Bin Laden understood the value of propaganda.  That is why until the end of his life he urged Al Qaeda to continue to attack US targets.  The value of showing US weakness was greater than capturing a city or territory in the Middle East.  The US has been the leader in trying to rid the world of terrorists, and to show that it could not through spectacular assaults was success.  It would provide terrorists with the hope that they could win in the end.  It would demoralize Americans and their allies.  It might convince the US to leave the Middle East as the Soviets did before them.  Bin Laden didn't live to see his wishes carried out, but the files retrieved from his compound paint a picture of a determined enemy.  Instead, Bin Laden himself became a propaganda symbol of the progress the US has made in warring with terrorists. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Ride-sharing services, such as Uber, are causing a collapse in the taxi medallion market.  It's about time, and publicity about medallion holders being hurt is expected.  The dirty secret of medallions is that they forced artificial scarcity.  That caused the price of owning one to rise out of reach of almost all taxi drivers.  Medallions were going for a million each in New York City not long ago.  A driver working 14 hours a day, seven days a week for the rest of his life still couldn't afford to own one.  The original idea for shields was to regulate the market for passenger safety and to provide a solid income stream to drivers.  Neither objective worked well, and the artificial monopoly took a life of its own,  One might not like the way Uber operates, but if it serves to bring the cost of medallions down, that will be enough.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Apparently the police warned the manager of a Waco, TX restaurant about having rival motorcycle gangs on the premises.  The ensuing rumble left nine dead and a state of chaos the police had to break up.  Now, 170 bikers are charged with capital murder and the restaurant is shut for the time being.  One wonders what the restaurant manager was thinking.  It couldn't have been good for public relations to have swaggering gang members downing beers among regular customers.  The ensuing melee was a mortal danger to diners who are unlikely to return.  There is a chance that the restaurant will go out of business, and if it does, the company only has itself to blame.  There are times when refusal to serve customers is a matter of safety.  This was one.  At very least, the manager should have ordered that weapons be checked at the door.  

Monday, May 18, 2015


Appearances lend to or subtract from credibility.  That is why this ABC anchor is in trouble.  He should have known that by donating to the Clinton charity he was compromising the perception of objectivity that reporters try to maintain.  He also should have known that failure to disclose the significant sums was putting himself in the crosshairs of the Republican Party's wrath.  So, what does he do now?  ABC says that it stands by him, but by his own admission, he can't report on Republican candidates during this campaign season.  How could such an intelligent individual made such a gaffe?  He probably didn't think much of it when he wrote his checks.  He has been close to the Clintons for a long time.  If he survives this uproar, one can be sure he will be more careful in the future.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Fact Checking 

Leave it to political campaigns to turn fact checking into a weapon.  And when the fact checking doesn't go their way, they make up facts to use in TV advertising.  Political campaigners are often people who believe the end justifies the means.  That politicians go along with them says something about the moral rectitude of candidates.  Fact checking should be non-partisan and a tool to get to truth.  It has turned into a cudgel to hammer opponents.  Perversion of purpose makes it unreliable and voters should be wary of claims.  Yet, campaigners will continue to use fact checking as long as it serves their purposes.  Fact checking is a fundamental step in PR and not because we slander opponents.  Rather, we don't wish to be rejected by the media for lack of accuracy.  It is a defensive tool for PR, and that is as it should be for political campaigns.  Too bad it isn't.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

What's In A Name? 

It seems the cable television/internet industry is trying to shed its name -- as if that will make up for decades of poor service.  The industry's main conference, previously called "The Cable Show"  is now "The Internet and Television Expo.  It is as if the cable industry suddenly got rid of its coaxial wires strung past millions of homes in the US.  A name change might work within the industry -- although that is debatable -- but it is unlikely to gain much credence with users.  The first step in a new moniker should be a service change -- i.e., better response overall to cable customers.  Were that to happen, a name change might be easier and might actually work.  PR isn't in a name.  It is in action.  The cable industry still has a long way to go to improve customer service.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Smart PR 

Dodge has engaged in smart PR for the introduction of its newest muscle car, the Hellcat.  The company dribbled details about the auto to enthusiasts and let them speculate about its performance.  And guess they did.  The company kept up the game until it revealed that horsepower broke 700 for the rubber-burning machine. It also released viral videos that furthered speculation.  The cost of the program was negligible by comparison to buying TV spots and it reached its target audience like a rifle shot.  The company built engagement with the brand whether or not an enthusiast could afford the $61,000 to buy the Hellcat.  This is far from the day when one called in the editors of auto magazines and did a reveal.  However, it appears that it will work well only in some instances.  For mainstream autos without huge performance statistics, dribbling information is likely to result in yawns.  Still, Dodge has shown the viral way for muscle cars.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


It is harder now for a reporter to get away with a biased interview.  Consider this.  Bloomberg's political editor, Mark Halperin, went too far in trying to test presidential candidate, Ted Cruz, on his Hispanic background.  The internet erupted in outrage over the questions Halperin was asking.  Halperin, for his part, is left with a black eye as a reporter with a twisted "liberal" bent.  Many felt that Cruz would not have undergone a grilling had he been a Democrat.  That remains to be seen.  But, it is true that Halperin's questions were demeaning.  From a PR perspective, Cruz came out of the interview rather well.  He wasn't defensive.  He gamely answered most of the questions.  Halperin later apologized for conducting the interview in the way he did.  Perhaps this episode will insulate Cruz in the future when others want to question his heritage.  If so, a negative will have become a positive.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Wise Advice 

This is wise advice on the use of e-mail.  I've taught business school students for several years using the same principles.  The problem is that many never learn, and they create problems for themselves.  E-mail works on the KISS principle -- Keep it simple, stupid.  Messages should be complete but short and sent just to those people for whom it is intended.  Long message strings should be cut back, or if they are necessary, summarized.  One point I drummed into my students.  E-mail is never private, whether or not one puts a warning at the end of a message.  I've always taught that one should write so anyone can read the missive without repercussion.  It is amazing how many people forget that even now and get themselves into trouble.  E-mail needn't be bland.  One can express oneself forcefully but it should be done carefully with the intended audience firmly in mind as well as the secondary audience that might see it.

Friday, May 08, 2015

PR And History 

A total of 187 Asian scholars are calling on Japan to admit its wartime atrocities against neighbors and allied countries.  Their PR effort, done by open letter to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has not yet succeeded.  Abe is resistant to apologizing for crimes such as putting Korean women into prostitution to serve its soldiers.  Nations, such as China, which suffered terribly under Japanese control are not satisfied with a general acknowledgement that Japan was in the wrong.  It is understandable that Abe, who is struggling to reignite Japan's growth and make it an important force counter-balancing China, does not want to dredge up the past.  Yet, the past has bearing on the present, even though it was 70 years ago. For Japan to white-wash its past is a symptom of a culture that has yet to understand and deal with the actions of its military during World War II.  As Japan slowly re-arms, it needs the lessons of the past to help it better handle the future.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Gone And Forgotten 

There is nothing one can do in PR or marketing to save a business that the public no longer needs.  Consider, for example, the one-hour photo processing industry.  There are just 190 stores left in the US, and one wonders how they hang on.  Business is Darwinian.  With the demise of film, so too came the demise of film development.  As the article notes, the same holds true for video stores and news stands.  Chances are that most, if not all, video stores will be gone in the next five years and one-hour photo processing even before that.  It is a cliche in business to talk about buggy whip makers that did not survive the rise of the auto.  We have our own buggy whip businesses with the advent of digital photography and streaming video.  

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Politics 101 

A first step in political campaigning today is to secure your web site names.  That is why this mistake by a former high-tech CEO is a howler. It comes under, "What was Carly thinking?"  She is running for President on her business experience, but she failed in a basic requirement.  That opens her to mockery from the outset of her hunt for the White House.  A political campaign demands attention to thousands of details, any one of which can sink the candidate.  Carly is starting off well behind and her web page error isn't going to help her catch up.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Ethical Dilemma? 

When should a reporter become part of a story?  Some say never. That is why this journalist is causing angst among purists.  Sanjay Gupta is a neurosurgeon and reporter for CNN.  He has a habit in crises of pitching in and helping the wounded, especially when there are no other qualified medical staff available.  From a medical perspective, it is just common sense that he do so.  From a news standpoint, he becomes part of the story that might overshadow the news of suffering and tragedy.  Aside from the obvious question of why he is a TV reporter in the first place, Sanjay Gupta has a duty to provide care in the wake of disaster.  That trumps journalistic ethics, but at the same time, critics point out that his relief work should not be the story.  They suggest a solution:  Provide care but don't report on it.  That is possible, of course, but CNN might object that Gupta is not telling the whole story.  There is no easy answer.  CNN wants his expertise and is willing to accept and promote his medical work.  Editors grind their teeth in frustration over intrusion of a reporter into the news.  

Friday, May 01, 2015

Publicity Tool 

Watch this video and think of the publicity value of having a hololens and augmented reality in publicity events.  For example, in a new car introduction, one can isolate sections of the vehicle, such as the drivetrain and project them before an audience in a way that they can walk around and examine the image.  In a drug announcement, one can show each section of the body that the pharmaceutical affects.   An electronics presentation can show the innards of the device and its packaging.  The hololens is still in Microsoft's laboratory, but the demonstration shows that it is approaching practical use.  If and when it is released, publicists and marketers will have a powerful new tool for communications.  

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