Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Social Media And Investing 

Goldman Sachs has taken an interesting way to gauge the valuation of a company and its stock -- buzz on social media. Its analysts used comments to warn on Tesla and its Model 3 sedan.  Here is how they did it:

"Goldman analysts looked to gauge sentiment on the Tesla TSLA, +0.63%  Model 3 by analyzing daily social-media posts and categorizing Twitter and Reddit posts as positive, negative, or neutral. The buzz has skewed negatively recently, they said.
"They found that weekly posts about the Model 3 declined from an average of 3,900 a week last year to an average of 3,000 a week this year; posts with a positive skew have faded, they said."
This is how PR measures public opinion to report back to clients.  There is a caveat to this approach.  It is not statistically accurate because the sample is most likely not random but it can provide a broad indication of trends.  Tesla ought to be concerned.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Behavioral Economics 

Economics has become more interesting since the field moved to behavioral studies -- what people actually do and not what they are mathematically supposed to do.  This experiment shows how to cross the bridge between intention to pay debt and the action of funding it.  The authors theorized that people get busy and fail to follow through so they changed outbound calls to delinquents to gain their commitment to action.  The test worked although the numbers were small but the expense avoided and revenue generated was larger.  The focus was on gaining commitment to a specific time frame for paying debt.  Rather than talking to the debtor, the system asked for the deadbeat's response then solidified the answer.  It is one more verification that effective communications is two-way.  

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Power Play 

US airlines have submitted to China's demand that they label Taiwan as part of China rather than a separate country.  China has pulled a power play.  Taiwan is separate in government, economics and culture.  Nothing can change that, and the longer the country is apart from the mainland, the more distinct it becomes.  Unfortunately, because of China's political and economic might, few are willing to buck the government, whether airlines or other countries.  Taiwan has become a non-entity on the international scene.  It's there, but it's not.  It exports products but it gets no recognition for doing so.  From a communications perspective, the country is in a long lasting bind.  At some point, China is determined to take over the island, but it isn't ready to risk condemnation from the world community for doing so.  So it waits and applies pressure on everyone to call Taiwan a mainland Chinese territory.  It is a terrible position for Taiwan to be in.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Trust And Money 

One of the foundations of trust in a society is its money.  The public has to believe that it can use paper documents to purchase or pay for something.  When that trust breaks down, the public will eschew notes and find other ways to fulfill economic transactions.This is what is happening in Venezuela where monetary inflation is reaching one million percent.  Its money is worthless, and the public is trying anything to get the necessities of life from barter through blackmarket dollars and in the worst case, theft.  How did it get so bad in a country living on a sea of underground oil?  The government wrecked the economy and continues to pursue its ruinous ways. It has lost public trust and maintains power through the barrel of a gun.  Should the military turn on President Nicolas Maduro, it will be the end of him.  Thus far, he has maintained his grip, but for how long?

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Smart PR 

When a 13-yer-old boy in Minneapolis started a hot dog stand, he didn't have permits from the city.  He was reported.  But, instead of the city crashing down on him and putting him out of business, the bureaucrats went out of their way to help him become legal.  It is a heart-warming story, especially since the young fellow is trying to raise money to buy new clothes for school.  It could have easily gone wrong with patrol officers ticketing him and harassing him out of existence, but it didn't.  It shows that Minneapolis city workers have empathy for budding entrepreneurs, young or old.  It makes one want to live there and is an example of smart PR.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Leadership Crisis 

There is a leadership crisis when there is an unplanned succession.  Who will take over?  How will the company change?  What's to become of its market position?  That is the worry Fiat Chrysler found itself in over the weekend.  Its long-time and popular CEO was suddenly replaced because of ill health.  He had shoulder surgery a few weeks ago but something went wrong.  The report did not mention if he was fighting for his life, but no matter, there was an urgent need for a new CEO.  Mike Manley, 54, who spearheaded the growth of Jeep and RAM trucks over the past decade, has taken over in an internal succession.  The directors of the company seemed to have been prepared for succession, which is not always the case.  There will now be a testing period for Manley to see how well he can run the entire organization.  With luck and skill he will be OK.  

Friday, July 20, 2018

Publicity Stunt 

Can a huge aircraft be a publicity stunt?  Airbus thought so, and now we have the beluga cargo plane.  It was achieved on the one-off parts ferry for Airbus' factories.  The bulbous craft now sports a smile and a pair of eyes that make it look like the whale.  The BelugaXL will not be readily spotted since it is flying from factory to factory, but the paint job has already achieved international recognition.  Not bad for generating news copy and a few gallons of paint.  Kudos to Airbus.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

First Amendment 

Mark Zuckerberg is wrapping himself and Facebook in the First Amendment by allowing Holocaust deniers a voice.  The unknown question is whether the public will tolerate free and unpopular speech on the platform.  It might be a risky move for Zuckerberg to take.  He has already been forced to excise political speech and advertising traced to Russians. There is no telling what authorities will ask for next or what activists will condemn.  He has set limits for hoaxers and for those who would urge harm to others.  However, he says, "Okay, you have your page, and if you're not trying to organize harm against someone, or attacking someone, then you can put up that content on your page, even if people might disagree with it or find it offensive.' But that doesn't mean that we have a responsibility to make it widely distributed in News Feed."  Even though he is correct according to the law, he should be prepared for ongoing PR challenges.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018


MGM is engaged in dangerous litigation.  It is suing victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas in order to release itself from responsibility for the disaster.  Lawyers for the victims are outraged as are the victims.  On the other hand, one can see some of what is happening here.  MGM is a deep pocket, and anyone wanting compensation for injury and/or stress must go to the money. Their attorneys, of course, see a payday in their torts against MGM, and a lucrative one it could be.  Should MGM win its suit and pay out nothing, it still has a negative PR image to deal with.  The perception of the hotel as unfeeling and not caring will linger and might hurt its long-term business.  The company has put itself in a bad position, even if it decides to drop its suit.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


President Trump's press conference with Vladimir Putin yesterday has been condemned by members of both the Republican and Democratic Parties.  The media haven't been silent either.  Anderson Cooper said, it was "perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president."  Trump went against conventional wisdom and a body of facts in his embrace of the Russian president.  It left both his supporters and opponents sputtering with rage.  One wonders what Trump was thinking or if he was.  The outcome was to put him in a worse light at home, especially after his faux pas in the UK and his attacks on NATO.  From a PR perspective, Trump shot himself in the head. He has a lot to make up if he decides to run again.  Many American voters hope that he doesn't.

Monday, July 16, 2018

It's Coming 

The day of the robotic car on the racetrack is here.  The autonomous vehicles aren't competitive yet, but it is only a matter of time before they start to show in winners' circles.  This will have a profound PR effect on the sport.  Rather than drivers being the heros, attention will be deflected to pit crews and engineers.  They are the undercard in today's sport-- celebrated but not nearly as much as the human who steers the car.  Will racing lose its luster with self-driving vehicles or will it adapt by using ever more difficult courses that software can't handle well?  Both outcomes are possible. The goal of robotic racing is to develop technology that can be used in street vehicles.  That defines the history of motorsport.  All that is old is new again.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Too Good To Work 

Build-A-Bear Workshops conducted a promotion that was too good to work and now has to deal with the wrath of disappointed customers.  The creative idea was a "pay your age" discount.  Rather than a usual price range of $20 to $35, a parent could get a bear for a three-year-old for just $3 or for a five year old for just $5.  It worked too well.  Long lines of customers formed at its stores and the company was forced to shut down the promotion, leaving scores of potential buyers disappointed and angry.  There was no way of knowing in advance that its idea would turn into a monster.  There are no good ways to forecast foot traffic for a new promotion as Victoria's Secret recently learned.  One proceeds with hope that it will work.  When it does as it did for Build-A-Bear, a company has to be ready to satisfy its customers.  Should Build-A-Bear try the idea in the future, it will be prepared but for now, it has to deal with a PR problem.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Emerging Crisis 

Bayer recently closed on the acquisition of Monsanto, and now, it is faced with an emerging crisis around Monsanto's blockbuster weed killer, Roundup.  A judge in San Francisco has allowed lawsuits to go forward that accuse the company of failing to warn that the chemical in Roundup, glyphosate, causes cancer.  There are hundreds of suits and damages could run into billions.  Monsanto has strenuously denied the substance causes cancer, but now it will have to take its battle to court and hope it can find a sympathetic jury.  Chances are not good it can.  Chemicals today have a poor image in the minds of Americans.  They are no longer the promise of a bright future but substances of pollution and disease.  Monsanto will have to fight that perception at the same time it is proving glyphosate is not a cancer-causing agent.  This could get expensive for Bayer.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

PR Brawl 

President Trump announced the nominee for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, on Monday evening and already a multi-million dollar PR brawl has broken out.  Democrats want to gain the votes of three Republicans against the nominee.  Republicans want to gain the votes of three Democrats for the nominee.  In the worst case scenario, Republicans will have to muster all hands to approve him, including Senator John McCain who is fighting brain cancer in Arizona.  The fight promises to be ugly with no holds barred.  Kavanaugh will have to be extremely careful during Senate hearings if he wants to survive.  There is a lack of open-mindedness on both sides of the nomination, which will make persuasion difficult.  Democratic senators will ask loaded questions and attempt to bait him into error.  He will have to use his rhetorical skills to sidestep verbal grenades and continue toward a seat on the Court.  It won't be pretty but it might make fascinating television.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018


The Brazilian soccer player, Neymar, is known for two things -- his brilliance on the field and his over-acting when it comes to injury.  During the World Cup, international audiences had a chance to see his hammy performances as he faked hurt.  They did what one might expect.  They mocked him.  Upon calling out, "Neymar", people fall to the ground and roll about in feigned agony.  For Neymar, it should become clear, if it has not already, that the public is on to his performances as are officials.  To preserve his reputation, Neymar needs to stop faking injury at every slight brush with an opponent.  If he insists he has not been overdoing it, then one might ask how he got into the game of football in the first place.  He would be too delicate to play.  Neymar's coaches need to call him to the side and explain how ridiculous he looks.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Return Of Sanity? 

Britain's decision to leave the EU wasn't right from the moment it was voted on.  Now that the secretary for Brexit has abruptly left his post in the UK, there is a chance for sanity to return.  The country stood to lose far more than it gained from the rupture.  It was as harebrained as Trump's decision to begin trade wars with allies.  It makes one wonder what has happened to the political world.  Democracy is under threat.  Strong rulers have risen to bend nations to their will.  Free expression has been constrained in one country after another.  Given economic strength, it should be the best of times.  It isn't.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Smart PR 

Hawaii has passed a law banning certain sunscreens whose chemicals are thought to harm coral reefs.  It is smart environmentalism and smart PR.  The state has thrust itself into the forefront of places where efforts are being taken to keep reefs healthy.  The worldwide problem of coral destruction is not going to be stopped by the banning of two chemicals but it will help.  Coral bleaching is thought to derive from warmer water temperatures. The banned sunscreens won't help with that, but they will lower potential harm the state's reefs are suffering as they adapt to global weather change.  

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Searing Spotlight 

The world is paying attention to the 12 boys and their coach caught three miles inside a Thai cave.  If anything goes wrong while divers extract them, it will be international news.  This is a time when one doesn't want to make even a single misstep.  Not only would it harm someone but it would paint the rescue operation as incompetent.  Thai rescuers are proceeding cautiously but they don't have much time.  Monsoon rains are coming and the cave complex already is flooded.  As much as they pump, they can't dry it out.  Left out of the conversation at the moment is the foolhardy venture into the cave in the first place.  Signs warned against it but the soccer team and their coach went in anyway.  There will be time for that once everyone is home safe, but now the reputations of Thai, British and American military divers hang in a balance.  Can they bring them out and how fast?  They are in a searing spotlight.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Getting Closer 

Artificial intelligence is getting closer to taking on and beating humans even in highly complex and unstructured games.  DeepMind announced that its AI agents exceed human level gameplay in Quake III.  This is an ever-changing 3D environment in which one captures the flag.  The scientists who prepped the play had their AI program compete each time in a new configuration as it learned .  Hence, it could not solve the problem in one space alone but had to learn how to play in all of them.  After about 200,000 training games it passed the strong human level of play.  Along with AI's success at Go and Chess, it is one more leap in computers' abilities to transcend humans.  Some are terrified that computers will take over some day.  Others say it is highly unlikely.  While I'm in the latter camp, the power of AI is becoming a PR problem for developers and companies using it.  They need to communicate its limitations and not just its abilities.  Otherwise, it could well become a political issue in which AI is regulated.  

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Smart PR 

Dairy farmers can't sell their milk at a profit.  Many have taken to dumping it. Cows don't know that so they keep producing.  Here is a program that pays farmers for excess milk and then turns it into cheese and yogurt for the poor.  It's smart PR.  Product that would otherwise go to waste is being put to good use.  It is not a new idea.  The government had a surplus program that stored tons of cheese.  The difference here is that private charities are tackling the problem and getting good results.  There should be more of this in the US.  Food dumping is almost a crime when hundreds of millions around the world go hungry.  The richest country in the world can and should do better.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Rot Within 

Mexico's new president is a leftist who has swept out the ruling party.  He won, by all accounts, because Mexican citizens are tired of violence, poverty and corruption in the country.  They want a new start and a clean slate. There is no guarantee Andrés Manuel López Obrador can bring about the necessary change to make the country better again.  But citizens want him to try.  It is a public expression of will.  Obrador had better heed it during his years in office.  The fear is he will take the country into the same direction as Venezuela where strongman politics rule and the country is riven by inflation. Obrador has a long list of things to fix but not the money to do it.  He will have to prioritize his work and conduct careful public relations to keep citizens from revolting again.  It is a difficult position to be in.

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