Tuesday, May 31, 2016

No Good Answer 

In war, there comes a time when there is no good answer to the safety of civilians caught in the crossfire.  Ideally both sides will let non-combatants leave the war zone before clashing.  It doesn't always happen.  Consider this case.  Despite communications that announced the government's effort to retake Falluja, people remained in place.  There is no way of knowing at this point whether ISIS forced them to stay or whether they chose to do so out of a false sense of security.  Whatever the reason, they are caught now in a vicious battle that will continue house to house with the town being left in ruins. Many will die by the hands of both sides.  Victory for either side will seem like defeat.  War is the result of a breakdown of communications.  Diplomacy is only in the muzzle of a gun. Both sides strive to compel the other to listen and accept demands that neither can abide.  Resolution comes only through killing until one side or the other admits defeat.  It's ugly, but it will never go away entirely.  Man is accustomed to conflict, and there are those who would rather shoot first and ask questions later.  Pity the people caught in the middle.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Maintenance And PR 

Subway systems in Washington DC, New York and Boston are in trouble due to deferred maintenance.  Problems are affecting riders, and PR has turned bad.  Managers should have known that repairs made as needed were the better way to operate than waiting until a line had to be shut temporarily.  In fact, they did know, but budgets have been slashed over the years by politicians who listen to riders' gripes about cost.  A better approach to PR would have been to educate the public and politicians about funds needed to keep a system running.   Allowing tracks, tunnels, escalators and platforms to deteriorate until repairs are forced upon the public is guaranteed to tick off riders who don't understand.  One place to educate the public is in the cars themselves through use of signage and advertising.  Riders have time during a ride to digest a message.  In decades of riding the New York subways, I have yet to see any PR explaining the need for maintenance.  It is past time to educate the public.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

When PR Turns Bad 

Marissa Mayer took over as the CEO of Yahoo with a promise to turn it around.  The media adored her and gave her heaps of positive ink.  Now, four years later, the press is ugly and she is widely being touted as not up to the job.  It is a hard come-down for her, but she can't be worried about negative media.  She still has a job to do.  Shareholders are unhappy, and her first duty is to them.  Yahoo might be beyond retrieving in the Darwinian marketplace of the internet.and if that demands selling off the company in pieces, so be it.  She must face the tough decisions and make them or find herself on the outside while others make them in her place.  Her reputation also depends on the right action.  Should she take a wrong step, it will be hard for her to work again as a CEO of another company if she desires to do so.  At this point, she doesn't have a lot of time left and she can't afford more missteps. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


From everyone's favorite TV father to an aged, bleary-eyed sexual predator, it has been quite a come-down for Bill Cosby.  It is also a prime example of the power of perception.  The public projected onto the man the wise father act that he delivered on TV.  There was nothing at the time to gainsay the image he had.  Now decades later, an ugly truth is coming out.  He apparently assaulted a number of women, using pills to disable them before he acted.  If proved true, and the trial will test the facts, Cosby faces up to 10 years in prison.  This one case, however, doesn't include dozens of other women making claims against him.  Even so, had that reached the public during the time he was on television, it would have been devastating to him.  It is surprising that it didn't.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


This is what happens when an entrepreneur fails to put succession and communications plans in place.  The executive suite of Viacom is in a mess with lawsuits flying and challenges to the mental competency of Sumner Redstone.  It has to impact the media and entertainment properties below and to leave employees guessing who will win and what their guidance will be.  At very least, it has interrupted executive decisions as to the course of the company.  And, it was all unnecessary had Redstone himself when he was still firmly in charge put an orderly succession process in place and communicated it to the board and senior executives.  So now, the ugly scene will play itself out in court before the public and both the companies and employees will suffer.  It is sad when things so basic are ignored. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Get What You Paid For? 

When one commands $285,000 a speech, he must be a great rhetorician or perceived to be one at the nexus of power.  That is what former president Bill Clinton is charging and people are happy to pay.  He has earned millions since he left office. He is an expert at the art of public speaking, but it is unlikely that this is the reason why people are willing to pay so much to hear him.  There is a good chance that he is returning to the White House as First Husband upon whom Hillary Clinton has already stated she is going to put in charge of the economy.  But still, does that make a speech worth $285,000?  Perception is at issue here.  Another person can deliver the same speech in the exact same words and barely command a speaking fee.  Bill Clinton is perceived to be at the center of power and hence, worth the price for his words.  Even so, I wouldn't pay it.

Friday, May 20, 2016


When a country is in free-fall and the leader is acting like a dictator, the use of power can be a distraction from daily living.  This is the case in Venezuela.  President Maduro has ordered military exercises rather than fix the economy, and there can be no doubt that he is also threatening the opposition that seeks to remove him.  Maduro has been a disaster for the country, which is consumed with inflation and the absence of everyday goods.  The message he is sending to the opposition is that he won't go easily, if at all, through the ballot box.  He is trumping up minor issues to major threats and accusing the United States of trying to remove him.  While it is true that the US has put him on list of countries that are a threat to national security, it is hardly credible that the US is going to invade the country.  So the military exercises are a false sense of alert designed to distract citizenry from the hard lives they lead.  It is cynical propaganda at its worst.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Too Much Of A Good Thing 

Conservationists in Northern Europe are facing a dilemma.  Their efforts to save the white-tailed eagle has been successful, perhaps too much so.  The eagles are now preying on other species of endangered birds.  This has raised the distasteful suggestion that the eagles need culling.  As one might expect that could lead to a PR disaster with eagle defenders pitted against guardians of other bird species.  There is no simple answer to the problem.  Eagles are flesh eaters and they will find it in one way or another.  They have taken to attacking ducks on their nests and geese during their molting season.  They have been linked with declines in certain bird populations because of their appetite.  Conservationists must now work through the problem or let nature take its course and find its own balance whether or not other endangered birds survive.  It is difficult choice.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Smart PR 

The AFL-CIO unions are engaged in a smart PR move.  They are tracing the wage pay gap between CEOs and average workers and making it public.  There is no better way to highlight inequity than making it transparent.  This does not mean CEOs will forgo pay raises in years to come but it increases pressure on them and their boards to show performance for the pay CEOs are getting.  It also protects the average worker from wage reductions that would increase the pay gap between the bottom and the top.  There is a new SEC rule that requires the proxy to show the gap between CEOs' pay and average workers.  This plus the unions' study should continue to highlight pay inequity and begin the glacial movement to reducing the gap between the bottom and the top.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

When A Lie Becomes Fact - 2 

It seems both the Democratic and Republican parties have presidential candidates who are twisting truth to make a fact out of a lie.  Now it is Hillary Clinton's turn.  She is insisting that using a private e-mail server for her correspondence when secretary of state was allowed under the law.  As Factcheck.org finds it, that is a lie.  Yet she persists in telling it so it can become a harmless point in her campaign.  It is increasingly unlikely the government will take action against her, but the fact remains that she violated guidelines and engaged in e-mailing that exposed government secrets.  Why can't she admit the error and beg for forgiveness?  There is no justification for clinging to a lie other than a disregard for truth.  If she can lie about this, what else is she capable of twisting?  From a PR perspective, she has taken a perilous course.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Sad Propaganda 

Propaganda to have any effect needs to have some seeds of credibility.  That is why this North Korean propaganda is so sad.  The tour leaders of the infant hospital could not hide that everything was dated and exposed nevertheless for a media show.  The effect is of propaganda that is cynical self-delusion on the part of the North Koreans.  They are fooling no one but themselves, and apparently, they don't understand that.  For who among the citizens of North Korea will ever see the media reports that came from the press tour?  Since none of the reporters were fooled by the staged show, there was no chance that the external media would report the "mighty advances" of the North Korean regime.  If the North Koreans were smart, they would stop these media tours, and let things be as they are.  However, few would assign a high degree of intelligence to North Korean leadership.  

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Public In PR 

Public relations recognizes that the public decides on the reputation and validity of individuals and businesses.  That is why this failed experiment was an act of public relations.  Joe's Crab Shack tried to do away with tipping but the public would not go along. The reason for the failure is partially due to a mistrust that the restaurant chain would pass along slightly higher prices to servers and kitchen staff. That cynicism is well founded based on the behavior of corporations over the years.  So, Joe's is cutting back on the number of restaurants with a no-tipping policy.  It makes no difference that Joe's staff was better paid as a result of no-tipping.  Customers want to retain the right to determine who gets tipped and how much.  The oddity here is that other restaurants have successfully implemented a no-tipping policy, and there doesn't seem to be a diner's revolt for doing so.  Could it be that the socioeconomic status of citizens makes the difference?  It will take time to find out.  Meanwhile, the public is speaking and Joe's is listening.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Green And Not Green 

The ecologically conscious citizen wants an electric car in order to stop polluting the atmosphere.  But, it turns out that not all battery-powered vehicles are clean.  In fact, some are no better than a gas engine.  How can this be?  The source of electricity to recharge the car's batteries has to be taken into account.  In some parts of the US, coal-fired plants are spewing enough carbon dioxide into the air to make up for the lack of pollutants in an electric vehicle.  The irony of the situation is that citizens are feeling good about themselves for choosing to go all-electric.  They are making a public statement that they are concerned about the environment and are inviting others to join them.  They don't want to hear that their efforts have gone for naught and that they are green and not green.  It is a reminder to communicators in general to make sure of the facts of a situation before promoting it.  The surface might seem plausible, but beneath facts might be contradictory.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Tough Task 

In an emergency, it is easier to gain cooperation of the public.  People want to help.  Once the emergency is past, people want to go back to their daily routines.  That is what makes this action difficult to sustain.  Citizens of California have just lived through a wet winter and are ready to drop water restrictions brought on by five years of drought.  The governor is saying California will be a dry state from this point on and emergency rules must become permanent.  It will take a prolonged PR campaign to gain near universal compliance and some people and organizations will resist to the end.  Perhaps the only way to get rebellious citizens in line is through public shaming.  Tagging someone as a "water waster" could hold that person up for peer pressure.  No one likes a dead lawn and brown plants, but if one is in the situation together with millions of others, it becomes easier to bear.  The governor is counting on that.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

When A Lie Becomes Fact 

A lie repeated often enough can become a fact if enough people believe it.  This appears to be what is happening in this case.  Donald Trump has repeated in the media several times that Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, called him a "genius."  At issue is translation of an ambiguous Russian word.  Language experts agree that the word does not mean "genius" but perhaps "colorful" or at most, "bright."  Since most Americans don't speak Russian and don't have access to the press conference where Putin talked about Trump, they have only Trump's translation to go on.  It appears clear that Trump has escalated the meaning of the word to a falsehood,and he is getting away with it.  How is it that candidates can engage in such self aggrandizement?  Perhaps Adolf Hitler said it best: “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”   Trump is not Hitler, but he has a low regard for truth telling.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Poor PR 

Whether justified or not, shooting a captured attacker in the head is poor PR.  No wonder the Israeli defense ministry is bucking public opinion and putting one of its own soldiers on trial.  The video of the service man apparently shows an unprovoked incident where the trooper levelled his gun and drilled a Palestinian.  Israeli public opinion has turned against Palestinians because of their continuous attacks on Jews, but the situation is complex.  Palestinians are confined to a near ghetto existence having been kicked off the land over decades.  Israel claims the territory as a divine right.  The two sides have not agreed on anything and are pitted against each other.  Israel wins the face-off with greater resources but it can't stop Palestinian attacks.  Hence the occasion for mistreatment of attackers is an ever-present threat to the rule of law that Israel supports.  To sustain its image, Israel cannot afford to stoop to the level of the attackers, but that is hard to do.  Each incident where a soldier is out of bounds is a blow to the country's image.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016


We're moving the server and will be off the air for a few days.  We hope to be back by next Monday.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Politics And PR 

Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil is proving the need for PR in politics.  She is doing it through losing nearly all of her supporters and impending impeachment.  Apparently, Ms Rousseff has a volatile temper and icy condescension that alienates those whom she needs to govern.  It doesn't help that she is a political neophyte elevated to the highest office through the machinations of her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who, it is thought, could control her and see to it his agenda could be carried out.  Whatever the reason for her ascension from a career in the bureaucracy, she was thrust onto the national stage without the rough and tumble of elections and the need to build a base of support.  She has insisted on her way or else.  She lashes out at those who oppose her and uses vulgar language when she is angry.  She has isolated herself deliberately from politicians on every side.  It is little wonder her impeachment is moving forward.  She has the wrong temperament for higher office and disdain for relating to the public's representatives.

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