Friday, June 30, 2017

Fit Response? 

How does one respond to a tasteless bully?  Maybe this is enough.  I've written here recently that President Trump ought to be barred from using Twitter, and his most recent tweets prove the case.  He has divided his own party with his motormouth and his stooping to the lowest of insults.  It doesn't pay to get into a shouting contest with him.  He is the President after all and he has a large pulpit from which to speak.  On the other hand, silence might mean acquiescence.  Perhaps the best response might be an expression of sorrow about his behavior and for the country.  Here is the hope that after four years of his tart tongue we get a President who is civil in tone.  We need it.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Quiet PR 

Sometimes it is best to remain quiet and go about one's business. Here is a case in which a company could have spoken out but decided against it.  Lyft has been given a valuable opening with the troubles that have beset Uber.  The company could mock Uber and openly invite Uber's drivers to defect, but it hasn't.  The CEO has decided to remain out of the fray and to continue to pursue his business.  It is refreshing that a company can act this way and it is better PR in every respect.  There is no need to taunt competitors when they fail.  Rather, one should consider that it could be my company next.  Lyft has a dedication to values and ethics that Uber missed in its rapacious effort to grow.  It might be that Uber now fades away, and Lyft will be the benefactor.  If so, the company won't be seen kicking the carcass of a dead company.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Cleaner Than Clean 

If you go after a President or one of his people, you need to be cleaner than clean. Otherwise, you are out.  The media might tolerate mistakes when they involve a CEO, but not the leader of the United States.  CNN has no love for Trump and probably would like to see him impeached, but it can't be caught publishing "fake news" about the President, his cabinet or his advisers.  So, it took the resignations of three of its journalists.  PR practitioners might wish that to happen more often but most errors in the media are not as prominent on the national scene.  Still, there are reporters who raise hackles when they call and put companies on edge.  They don't go away or get any easier to deal with over time.  One must deal with them and correct their errors.  Call them the media relations practitioner's guarantee of employment.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Too Little Too Late 

The manufacturer of the cladding that burned on Grenfell Tower in London has now discontinued sales of the material.  This is an example of too little too late.  A number of news reports have discussed a prolonged argument against the cladding because of its lack of fire proofing.  Yet, it was used anyway to deadly effect.  Arconic, the maker, has a PR crisis on its hands of its own making.  The company knew the product was flammable, and it recommended that it not be used beyond the range of fire ladders.  It must have known that it was installed on towers in London.  Why didn't Arconic speak up?  This is a crisis for which there is no good solution.  An apology for the death of 79 people is hardly enough.  There is a chance the company will go bankrupt as the matter is hauled through the courts, and that is as it should be.

Monday, June 26, 2017


Some people should be kept away from social media for their own protection.  The President is one of those and so is this fellow.  Their postings are egocentric, frequently false and just plain dumb.  Rather than building a following, they appeal to a narrow class of readers, and they are mocked by the majority.  Already, Trump's tweets have been used against his position on Syrian immigrants in court.  True to form, neither Trump nor Shkreli seem to be aware of the damage they are doing to themselves.  They persist.  If they were to listen to communications counsel, they would be told to hang up their twitter handles and stay quiet.  But, they don't hear.  Their over-confidence gets in the way.  So, we watch them sink themselves day by day and we wonder how they will respond to their ultimate fates.

Friday, June 23, 2017


Search engine optimization has become a specialty within marketing and PR.  There are good and bad ways of doing it and techniques need to change constantly to keep up with Google's immense algorithms.  The article discusses a number of methods, both black hat and white hat means of guiding the search engine.  What is significant in the story, however, is the comment that it takes at least six months now to optimize a link in Google. This is a long time, especially for companies looking to push down bad news about themselves.  Read the whole piece.  It is a good summation of the field.  

Thursday, June 22, 2017


Travis Kalanick has been dumped from scandal-ridden Uber, and it is an act of CEO accountability.  Board members and investors determined the rot in the company's culture extended from the top and came from an atmosphere of growth at all costs.  It made no difference whether executives made suggestive remarks to women and bent rules as long as the company continued to expand at a breakneck pace.  Kalanik still has board defenders but investors are opposed to him returning as a CEO after his leave of absence.  He will retain a board seat but that is all. Uber now has to find a path to profitability while it continues to grow worldwide.  It also needs to stop bleeding in the US where Lyft is taking market share.  It's a hard task for any CEO, especially one who will need to replace executives who have already left the company.  There is no guarantee Uber will be successful, but at least there is a chance that turmoil in its ranks will end.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Personal Touch 

A good deal of public relations is still the personal touch, the effort to meet people face to face and to hear them out.  Politicians understand that and they make every effort to get down to where people live and work.  I witnessed that recently when Congressman Jimmy Panetta presented World War II medals to my 100-year-old aunt who had served in England and France.  He talked with my aunt for 20 minutes although he was on a tight schedule.  His focus was on her and not the photographers in the room, of whom I was one.  He related his own service in the Army to her and she to him.  My aunt was a nurse who cared for soldiers wounded in battle as well as POW's.  Panetta served as an intelligence office in Afghanistan. The time Panetta spent with her solidified a relationship with others in the room who are voters as well.  He didn't have to show up.  My aunt could have received her medals in the mail or through one of his staff, but he took the time and the personal touch.  It was great public relations.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Clear And Present Danger 

Britain is cracking down on militant speech in an effort to slow terrorist attacks.  It is considering regulating the internet.  In the US, the Supreme Court struck down a North Carolina law banning sex offenders from social media.  It cited the First Amendment.  This is the difference in speech between the two countries.  It will be interesting to see what happens when a US militant web site is banned and it sues to the Supreme Court.  Will the body of nine men and women take the British point of view, especially if the site calls for violence against the US and its citizens?  The Court's view of the First Amendment is broad and deep. We hear from radicals on both sides of the political spectrum.  This hasn't prevented calls for self-censorship at Google and Facebook who are moving against hate speech on their systems.  They are dealing with worldwide views of speech that are less broad than the US.  However, what is happening in China with government censorship won't happen here.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Suspect Publlicity 

President Trump is meeting with high-tech executives to get ideas for how to reduce government expenditures.  It will be a photo-op, but the practical results of the meeting are likely to be slim.  The principle reason for this is that that tech executives have little knowledge of the functions and operations of government.  It is easy to throw around concepts and bright thoughts, but the actual doing is much harder and in some cases, impossible.  It takes money -- lots of it -- to put in systems that reduce the number of employees in a service delivery vehicle.  The government doesn't have available cash to spend on such automated operations.  Secondly, it takes time to train employees in how to use new systems.  That will take months, if not years.  The Trump administration doesn't have that kind of time.  So, let the photographers snap their shots of the tech leaders but understand that it is suspect publicity.

Friday, June 16, 2017


When Jack Welch ran GE, he was hailed as the CEO of the Century. Now that his successor is stepping down, there are questions about how Welch ran the company and whether he accidentally set up Jeff Immelt to have troubles.  The truth is that when Jack ran the business, it was a finance company with manufacturing.  When Immelt took over and after the financial markets crashed, he had to turn it back to a manufacturing company that also did financing.  It was back to the future for Immelt and GE's stock suffered.  Now the new CEO coming in has said he is going to evaluate all of GE's units to see which will stay and which will be dumped.  It seems he will make GE into a sharply focused manufacturing conglomerate to better compete.  Welch was accurate when he said his success would be determined by how Immelt would grow the company in the next 20 years.  He couldn't have foreseen the effects of 9/11 and 2008 and how those events slammed GE.  He was realistic enough to know that the future was tenuous.  His legacy years later is not what it once was.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Charity Marketing 

This is an interesting take on philanthropic marketing.  It seems photos of poor and starving children and adults are not as effective as pictures of success.  Expressions of hope are more powerful than images of hopelessness.  It seems counterintuitive but data apparently show that people are motivated by the application of money.  There seems to be a bit of Missouri in the average giver -- "Show me."   People want to see their gifts used for charitable purposes rather than just collected.  This is a lesson for nonprofit marketers and one they should be testing.  Does it hold true for every charity?  Are there exceptions? Should one retool entire marketing campaigns?  There is a need to move cautiously because there are thousands of charities in need of help, and they are all competing for the same dollar.  If a campaign turns off one's base of givers, that could be fatal. Nevertheless, ignoring a potentially better way to market is dangerous as well.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

No Safety 

When violence descends into an orgy of killing, communication fails.  Consider this example.  Mexican citizens were slaughtered at the hands of a drug cartel and authorities felt powerless to stop it.  When government does nothing and allows renegades to roam, leaving is the only safety -- if one can do that.  In this case, few could get away.  The article pins the blame for the terror on the US Drug Enforcement Agency.  The DEA gave the telephone pin numbers of the leaders of the drug cartel to Mexican authorities.  Predictably, the action was leaked, because Mexican authorities at that time were corrupt from top to bottom.  There was no reasonable or persuasive means to get around gang members with weapons.  The jackals were rapacious and bloodthirsty.  Force is the only means of communication in instances like this and power was lacking.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


Can you have consensus when only 23 percent of an electorate has voted?  This is the conundrum Puerto Rico faces after a plebiscite on the question of statehood.  Although the final tally was greater than 90 percent in favor, anti-statehood voters had boycotted the ballot box.  From a communications perspective, the vote was a failure.  It hardly shows agreement among Puerto Ricans that they should change their status from a territory to a state.  That is only the beginning of the issue.  Puerto Rico is broke and swamped with debt.  A half-million citizens have fled the island already to the US and those left behind are subject to ruinous taxes to make up for the budget shortfall.  Why would Congress accept the territory as a state at this time?  The governor of Puerto Rico needs to do some serious PR both in his homeland and in Washington DC in order to make his case.  

Monday, June 12, 2017


I just returned from two weeks in California visiting relatives.  What struck me during the sojourn is how jejune the newspapers are there.  Even the mighty Los Angeles Times is a shadow of what it was.  One wonders how much longer the print medium can sustain itself in the face of the internet.  Based on what I read, it can't be much further into the future.  The newspaper industry is in a death spiral.   It cuts staff to slow expenses, but in doing so, it cuts news and by slicing content, it continues to lose frustrated readers, and by doing that, major advertisers abandon print.  The missing columns of news are an incentive for readers to look elsewhere online and once they have adjusted to reading that way, they don't come back to "bird-cage" liner.  Publishers understand this but they are hamstrung by their big presses and complex distribution.  Despite brave pronouncements, such as the Sacramento Bee's slogan of "160 years of independent journalism," the newspaper industry is too sick to defend itself.  Look for more to abandon daily editions and to move online.

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