Friday, June 29, 2018


Puerto Rico has introduced a bill in Congress to become a US state.  One wonders if this is a dream or a real possibility.  Puerto Rico has terrible PR and the island is a ruin since the hurricane savaged it in 2017.  Should it become a state rather than a possession, it will quickly hold its hand out for rebuilding funds, something Congress might not want to give.  There is good reason for statehood, however.  Its citizens are US citizens although they cannot vote in presidential elections.  There has long been migration to and from the island to the US mainland.  The island has been a US territory since 1898, and has tried before to muster votes for statehood.  In its present condition, it might be time for a 51st state to be created.  There is a long way to go, however.  One shouldn't expect Congress to pass a resolution quickly, especially with its Nativist philosophy at the fore.  The possession has a great deal of work to do in lobbying and PR before it can advance.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Time For PR 

The Supreme Court's decision yesterday to strike down mandatory payments to public employee unions was a blow to the unions, which depend on a consistent flow of money to survive.  The leaders must now persuade public servants to join their ranks and fight for better wages and benefits.  It is a time for PR -- what your union is doing for you. The campaign must be unrelenting because new employees enter the ranks constantly while older ones retire.  The unions must also remind their ranks daily of the value of staying together and dealing with government.  It is not going to be an easy task, but the unions' future depends on it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Not You 

The Comcast Disney fight over Fox assets might get more bitter as days pass.  Comcast is determined to have Fox for its content and networks.  Fox doesn't want Comcast, however, because it is concerned a merger will be disallowed by the government.  Disney and Comcast are engaged in a multi-billions bidding war.  Comcast is looking for new funding.  Disney has upped the ante.  Lost in all this is the fate of Fox employees.  They are helpless bystanders to the wrestling of giants.  They know in the end someone will own them and their business lives will change.  Meanwhile, there is little PR and employee relations can do to ameliorate fears and rumors.  Hallway gossip is speculation while everyone waits for Comcast's next move, if there is going to be one. It is not a good working environment, but it is a reality.  There are limits to communications and transparency and this is one of them.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

One Error 

This is a reason why accuracy is of utmost necessity in the media and in PR.  The picture of the crying toddler as her mother was detained turns out not to be what it was thought to be.  The little girl stayed with her mother and was not ripped away as everyone thought.  With heightened attention to border issues, it gave a perfect opening for critics to claim the media was merchandising "fake news."  The mistake diverted attention from the fact that more than 1700 minors were being held away from their parents.  PR practitioners know -- or should know -- not to make unforced errors like this.  The media can correct the record and wipe egg off its face.  PR often cannot without losing the trust of reporters and journalists they deal with.  There is no substitute or getting it right the first time.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Boxed In 

Sometimes an organization is boxed in and cannot speak when it should.  This is especially true of personnel matters.  Consider the case of an African-American, female astronaut who was slated to spend a lengthy period of time on the space station.  She trained and was ready to go when NASA cancelled her mission without explanation.  Months later, she still doesn't know why she was barred from the space station and NASA isn't talking.  It doesn't make NASA look good but there might not be anything for the agency to say that wouldn't cause controversy.  Fortunately for NASA, the astronaut, Jeanette Epps, is not making an issue out of the denial although her brother is.  In NASA's defense, other African-Americans have visited the space station and completed missions there.  Epps was supposed to take on a long-term role, the first for an African-American woman.  So, she now is in limbo working on earth-bound missions and she doesn't know when or if she will make it into space.  Meanwhile, NASA is silent and letting the situation fester.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Publicity Stunt With A Purpose 

IBM is a master of the publicity stunt to demonstrate capabilities of its hardware and software.  Here is the latest effort.  Apparently, the machine held its own against debate champions in an argument over "whether whether space exploration should be subsidized, and whether we should increase the use of telemedicine."  The stunt was designed to gain maximum awareness for IBM's work in artificial intelligence, and it is similar to Watson and its win at Jeopardy.  The company has set lofty goals for its machines.  It wants to achieve the ability for humans to converse with the software over matters about which there is no clarity.  In other words, the machine can infer arguments based on incomplete data.  That will be extraordinary progress should IBM reach it.  The publicity stunt for such a feat should be amazing.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Tide Can Change Quickly 

Last January, Microsoft was only too willing to discuss the company's work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Today, it is downplaying its efforts and removing mentions of ICE from its communications.  The tide turned quickly with the onset of the government's now-ended practice of separating children from their migrant parents at the border.  Microsoft's employees were furious about the situation and the company was the target of criticism.  This is a lesson.  Make sure customers you are going to reference are less likely to become controversial.  Microsoft should have been aware that border issues are combustible.  There had been anger aimed at ICE well before the service started to take children away from parents.  It would have been better to keep the contract quiet.  It's too late now.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Good PR Though Late 

Charleston, SC is apologizing for its deep involvement in the slave trade nearly 200 years ago.  It is late but still a good step to acknowledge its error.  Nothing can change the fact that nearly 100,000 slaves passed through its market.  As the article notes, "Forty percent of Africans forcibly brought to the US set foot on American soil here. In fact, some 80% of African-Americans can trace their roots back to Charleston, says the International African-American Museum."  The town oozes Southern charm but its city hall was built by forced labor.  Its grand old mansions were maintained by slaves.  Its kitchens filled with slave cooks.  Its gardens tended by slaves.  One might say a formal apology is not enough for the ugly past, but it is a formal statement of sorrow and words have some effect.  Charleston is building a museum of slavery to reveal its past.  That also is overdue but a step forward.  Both actions are good PR.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Crisis Of His Own Making, Part 2 

As if Trump's border difficulties aren't enough of bad PR, he is doubling down on Chinese tariffs in another public relations and economic blunder.  As noted yesterday, the Trump Administration will long serve as case studies in maladroit public relations and governance.  Both his critics and his supporters are left wondering from day to day what new outrage will be effected or announced.  Understanding the scope of the damage to allies and the country will take time and will be the province of historians in years to come.  Meanwhile, American citizens are helpless but for the ballot box, but that is months and years away.  We will learn in time how resilient the economy and international relations are, but for now they are taking daily blows. It shouldn't be this way, but it is.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Crisis Of His Own Making 

President Trump has stepped into another PR crisis of his own making.  This time it is the separation of families at the border.  Trump claims it is a Democratic law and the Democrats should change it.  Impartial observers say the prior law has nothing to do with splitting children away from parents.  Condemnation of the action is nearly universal.  Yet, the administration continues.  It seems this White House is unable to get and understand public opinion.  It bases action on a small -- and getting smaller -- base of supporters, and it makes up facts as it goes along.  There is no excuse for taking children away from parents whether or not they are illegal.  The administration would have it that the children are being protected while their parents are being processed in the immigration system.  Try to tell sobbing boys and girls that.  Trump is going down as a prolonged case study in bad PR.  

Friday, June 15, 2018

Good PR 

When you have scheduled the world's longest flight of 19 hours and 9,000 nautical miles, one of your concerns should be passenger comfort.  It is a long time to be sitting in a seat.  That is why this is good PR.  Singapore Airlines is redesigning seats in economy to be roomier and more comfortable.  It is something one wishes other airlines would take for a model, but they are more concerned for the bottom line than the person.  Admittedly, if the carrier tried to ferry people in the usual Airbus economy seating, they would probably lose passengers and be dealing with medical problems from people sitting so long in agony.  But still, they are making an effort and that might be enough.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Publicity Stunt 

The venture capitalist calling for California to be divided into three parts might  be serious but the idea smacks of a publicity stunt that has made it to the ballot.  There are so many things wrong with the proposal that it hardly bears discussing.  Perhaps the most salient argument is what to do about water.  Southern California today depends on water being shipped from the northern part of the state.  If it were separate, quarrels would erupt over how much water Los Angeles could get.  It wouldn't be pretty.  The next is political power. California today is the most powerful block in the House of Representatives.  Divide it into three and its strength will diminish..  Then there is the tax base that would be divided unfairly because of population centers in different states.  One is waiting for the proponent to declare the tripartite division a joke, but he probably won't.  The idea makes a mockery of initiative voting.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Corporate Power 

Amazon and Starbucks have just shown their corporate power.  They got the Seattle city council to roll back a tax increase that would have cost them tens of millions of dollars.  Amazon did it by blunt force.  It stopped work on one of two corporate towers it is building there and said it wouldn't complete the building if the tax went through.  It was a naked threat, and council members got the message.  They voted to repeal the tax before it took effect.  From a PR perspective, it was mixed.  The tax was going to shelter and care for the many homeless in the city.  On the other hand, it would have greatly increased the cost of doing business in the city and it was punitive.  Amazon and Starbucks had a duty to protest. Had either company a bad reputation, there would have been less likelihood the council would have changed its mind.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Stepping In It 

It seems a CEO can't say anything without catching some flack. Consider this case.  Twitter's CEO posted a screen shot about his use of a Chik-fil-A's mobile app and saving 10 percent on his order.  The internet erupted in a barrage of criticism.  How could he patronize a business that doesn't recognize gay marriage?  Dorsey apologized but he wouldn't be too far wrong if he considered himself snake-bit.  The incident is a lesson.  Everything you say is watched online and if you make a false step you will hear about it. Dorsey said he had forgotten about the company's stance on gay marriage -- a plausible excuse.  But, other's didn't.  To compound his difficulty, he was bashed as well by conservatives for giving a mea culpa.  Sometimes you can't win.  He would have been better off keeping silent in the first place.  

Monday, June 11, 2018

Diplomatic Show 

President Trump is saying he'll know in the first minute whether North Korea is ready to give up its nuclear missiles.  If so, why does he need a summit?  Kim Jong Un knows already how far he will go to get back into the good graces of the world community.  Does he need a diplomatic show to make his statement?  Both men want to be seen on the world stage as competent, dynamic leaders.  Hence, they are risking failure to make their entrances.  It is hard to believe that anything of merit will come out of the gathering, but both men will have generated international headlines.  That appears to be what they want.  Trump can boast of his deal-making skills.  Kim wants legitimacy.  Photos of the two men meeting will be good enough for the two of them.  It is hard not to be cynical in times like this.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Always In The Future 

The media have a bias of a kind.  That is heralding the imminent arrival of the flying car.  Reporters lap up hype from developers and publish again and again about the evanescent vehicles fated always to be in the future.  Not only is the technology of a fly-drive machine difficult, but if an inventor is successful in building one, it will only be a start.  Left unanswered is how these vehicles can wing from point to point safely without getting in the way of airplanes, where they can land especially in crowded urban settings, where they can take off without noise complaints from neighbors and fears for their children and animals and more.  While the media are careful to note that dozens of attempts have already been made to develop one and they have all so far failed, they are only too willing to give a current inventor a break.  Maybe this time.  But envision a world in which hundreds of people are buzzing to and from work in an unregulated sky and you have a case for federal and state action.  What an inventor needs to do is to develop along with the vehicle a methodology for safe aerial transport -- lanes and stoplights, if you will, that don't exist now.  Only then will the technology that belongs to the future become practical for the present.

Thursday, June 07, 2018


A leader can compromise his authority through ignorance.  He should know basic facts but doesn't.  As a result, his subordinates think less of him and his power of persuasion dwindles.  Here is a case.  Any school child can tell you the British burned Washington and not Canadians who were not even a nation then.  This might be dismissed as a one-time faux pas but President Trump plays fast and loose with facts.  He makes them up as he goes along and he contradicts himself from day to day.  It's a wonder he is able to keep a base of supporters.  He has lost many who voted for him the first time.  Yet he persists in bending and breaking facts, be they historical or not.  No wonder foreign leaders who deal with him are angry, and the Twitter community has a good time schooling him.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Brand Crisis 

It is tragic enough that a business executive takes her own life.  It is a crisis for a company that has her brand name.  Kate Spade was a celebrity designer of hand bags and accessories.  Even though she had sold her company and was engaged in a new venture her name remained on the door.  Her untimely death gives the owner little time to transition from the image of the founder to a brand unconnected to a person.  Kate Spade will now live as a particular type of handbag in a price range.  It was trending that way anyway since Spade had changed her name and was pursuing a new line of fashion goods.  But, the suicide of the founder dampens the successful image of the products.  How could someone who seemingly had everything yet not have enough?  If she suffered from depression, why hadn't she gone for treatment?  If she was unhappy, why?  There may be no answers, but anyone who owns and uses her handbags is left with lingering questions.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Gaming The System 

One way to turn off people is to be seen gaming a system.  That's what is happening in California where two Democratic candidates for governor are boosting Republican rivals in an effort to knock each other out of the two top spots in the primary election.  Why?  California has a primary system in which the two top vote-getters regardless of party go on to the general election.  The Democratic candidates know that running against each other will be difficult in the general election because the state is sure to elect a Democratic governor.  It will be much easier if the opponent is a Republican.  So, they are running ads supporting Republican candidates in the primary.  It is a cynical move but legal.  One can easily pardon voters if they don't like either Democratic candidate as a result of their gaming the system.  It would be ironic, if as a result of their chicanery, the two top winners are Republicans.

Monday, June 04, 2018


International relations is the art of making and keeping friends around the world. It is recognition that no matter how powerful a nation might be, there comes a time when it needs allies.  Insulting friends isn't done because one wants to maintain a bond.  This is why the President gets a failing grade in international relations.  He has imposed tariffs on friend and foe alike in his effort to "Make America Great Again."  How can one beat up on Canada, our loyal neighbor to the north?  What possesses one to take a whack at Mexico where so many goods are manufactured?  Trump believes the US is weak and needs protection from predatory neighbors.  His way of going about it is ham-handed and self-destructive.  Congress needs to convince him to lift the tariffs and negotiate, but Congress is weak itself with infighting among Republicans.  The midterm elections can't come soon enough.  Maybe, just maybe, we will get a Senate and House that will stand up to Trump and make peace with allies.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Pipeline To God? 

This televangelist risks ruining his ministry with his request for a $54 million private jet.  The perception is one of greed.  His flock could easily be excused for failing to believe the preacher has a pipeline to God, and God told him to buy it.  After all, he already has three other private jets.  How many does a minister need to spread the divine word?  To an outsider, the fellow smacks of fraud.  For $54 million one can fly first class for decades, and should a preacher be winging from place to place in the height of comfort?  Where is the example for others unless he wants everyone to reach the exalted heights of owning a personal jet?  It's an odd relationship with his flock of believers.  Long ago, a preacher said, "God's business is very good business."  That seems to be the situation here.  

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