Friday, September 28, 2018

Crisis Aid 

Walmart and other major fresh food suppliers are taking a major step to alleviate a perennial crisis - contaminated food.  They are implementing a blockchain network that tracks fruits and vegetables from farm to store.  The software has reduced the time it takes to find the origin of injurious product from seven days to 2.2 seconds.  Moreover, it cuts down on the wastage of food that has been the answer to contamination up to the present.  If romaine lettuce caused illness, stores would remove all romaine from their shelves even though most of it was OK.  Now, they will only trash that which has been identified as the source of illness.  This will save time, injury and money.  It will also make PR practitioners' lives easier in managing communications for recalls. The new system is easier all the way around.  Kudos to all the companies that have made this possible.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Limits Of Publicity 

Bump stocks, devices that turn semi-automatic rifles into machine guns, gained a horrid name in the Las Vegas massacre a year ago.  There is no excuse for them and they should have been federally banned.  A year later, they are still being sold in 40 states and there doesn't appear to be a movement to get rid of them.  If nothing else, this shows the limits of publicity.  The shooting in Las Vegas was international news and covered for days.  The bump stock was featured prominently in the stories.  Revulsion was universal.  Calls for regulation blared once again.  Nothing happened except in 10 states that saw fit to ban them.  One can call Congress feckless but that would be too simple.  There is no national will expressed in voting and activism.  That takes hard work of building coalitions, grassroots organizing, petitions and lobbying.  In the face of opposition from the National Rifle Association, this will never be easy and failure will be common, but if the public keeps at it, it will eventually succeed.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Small Step 

Amazon.com has been blistered in reporting and on social media for its pay scale for warehouse workers.  It has just announced a raise for its employees.  The increase of two to four percent was at best a small step and will hardly dent Amazon's profits.  Most certainly it will not stop criticism of its wages.  Bezos has long been known as frugal when it comes to remuneration, and it might over time be a differentiation between a successful company and a struggling retailer.  Should Amazon's workers decide to unionize and strike, they can quickly shut the company down.  Poor pay is a prime reason for adverse action. Look for pay scales to continue as a weak point for the company in terms of reputation and credibility.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


One painful crisis for a company is when an employee sabotages its product and services.  That is why this instance hurts.  The worker was clearly trying to get fired by spitting into food while being filmed, but that makes no difference to appalled customers and the company itself. What motivates a person to take such awful action.  If he was unhappy, he should have quit without making a case of it.  Business can't protect itself from every erroneous action by employees.  It has to trust they will carry out their tasks according to established procedures.  If that trust is missing. a business is forced to shut down.  It can't guarantee customers they will get a product or service as promised.  The ball park ex-employee is going to be prosecuted according to the law but that is small comfort to fans who are left to wonder what is in their food.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Interesting Proposal 

The UK's Labour Party is proposing that as much as 10 percent of companies' shares be set aside for employee ownership and as many as a third of board seats be reserved for employee directors.  The British chambers of commerce predictably opposed the plan.  The idea, however, is interesting.  It has been widely discussed that workers have not seen the fruits of fat earnings from companies in this expansion.  Wages have barely risen although stocks and dividends have.  Companies are rewarding owners over labor, so why not make labor owners as well?  It would serve to deflect much of the criticism that corporations are experiencing.  Labour's idea should be studied further.

Thursday, September 20, 2018


If one is going to make a dumb spelling mistake, it is probably better to do it where all can see.  That way, it can be laughed off.  Still, it is an embarrassment for Cathay Pacific, and it raises questions about the day-to-day management of the airline.  Someone should have seen the error before the plane took to the air and landed in Hong Kong.  The company handled the incident as well as could be done.  It publicly acknowledged the error and fixed the spelling on the aircraft right away.  Meanwhile, the internet had a field day spinning jokes from the mistake.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Go Away 

The current Administration is trashing two of the most powerful symbols of America.  Those, of course, are the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, which are beacons of hope for immigrants, the oppressed and refugees.  Lady Liberty and Ellis communicated freedom, a chance to start again, an open invitation to make of oneself what one wanted to be.  Trump is making a mockery of that by reducing the intake of foreigners just to one-third of its historical average.  He has often stated he wants to keep people out of America.  He wants a wall on the southern border.  He sees outsiders as a threat to the United States and not added ingredients to a cultural stew.  All this has come as a shock to those who want to emigrate here.  It is a mordant surprise to Americans who believe this land is the terrain of immigrants. There is little to be done until the next Presidential election.  Then,voters can decide whether to stand by Trump or toss him out. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Internal Crisis 

Amazon has an internal crisis on its hands.  It appears some of its employees have been selling confidential inside information to companies seeking to improve their sales and making offers to delete bad reviews of products.  The company has launched an investigation and stated that what might be happening is strictly against its rules.  If so, the errant employees have hurt credibility and fairness and deserve to be dismissed and/or prosecuted.  Amazon is too big and important a retailer to have its trustworthiness impugned.  If the issue is pay -- employees acting out of bounds because their compensation is too small -- , part of the problem lies with Amazon itself.  The company ought to be paying more to deter illegal freelancing.  It is well known that it drives its warehouse employees hard and pays them relatively poorly.  Amazon should mete out punishment, but it also should take a look at itself and its procedures.

Monday, September 17, 2018

She Said He Said 

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is in a bind.  A woman has come forward who claims in high school he had tried to rape her but was too drunk to do it.  Kavanaugh has unequivocally denied that it happened and another man who was supposed to be with him has also said it isn't true.  Who to believe?  It is a classic case of she said he said.  In the #metoo environment, the woman is being given more credence than the man, and one prominent figure after another has disappeared from public life.  Kavanaugh might be next.  If so, it will be a blow to the Trump administration and perhaps, to the Court.  Kavanaugh is widely recognized as an able scholar of the law, a gentleman with the numerous female clerks he has engaged and an all-around good person.  If he did attempt to rape a woman while in high school, that should exclude him from the Supreme Court, but who is to say?  It is two against one now -- two men against one woman. How do you prove what happened?

Friday, September 14, 2018


This is one ironic measure of the importance of PR -- a lawsuit against a PR executive for disparaging remarks.  The essence of the tort is allegations from a former Uber executive that she vilified him to the media.  If she did, perhaps she deserves to lose the case.  If not, she is still going to spend money to defend herself.  In any event, if media relations were not important, this suit would be without merit.  

Thursday, September 13, 2018


Jamie Dimon, CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase, has engaged in conduct unbecoming for a leading business person.  He boasted publicly that he could beat President Trump in an election because he is "smarter" and he is as "tough" as Trump. Such self-promotion is out of order for a leader, and to Dimon's credit, he realized it right away and backed off of his comments.  It is too much already to listen to Trump's ego-filled speech. The country doesn't need another leader who is so high on self regard.  It takes overwhelming ambition to run for President because the road is long, difficult and thankless. But,voters don't want to hear from a candidate that he is smarter than other candidates.  IQ alone doesn't make a leader and the public knows it.  Maybe Dimon will run, maybe not, but he will need to live down his gaffe.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Bold Law 

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law a bill that commits the state to produce 100% clean energy by 2045.  It is an ambitious commitment, but it leaves out key issues -- how is the state going to do it and most importantly, who is going to pay for it?  Since the law is mute on these topics, it will need to be revisited repeatedly to clarify its intent. It will come under fire if electricity producers have to raise rates significantly.  It will also be opposed if producers want to place wind generators where people can see and hear them. NIMBY is alive and well in California.  The law is a first step and a bold one, but it is a long way from translating words into action. PR is doing, not just legislating.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

How Often? 

How often can one lie to the public and get away with it?  President Trump is finding out.  He makes up facts willy nilly and never bothers to check if he is accurate.  The media have been holding him to account but his rejoinder is "fake news."  That a minority still believes him is testimony to the gullibility of the human race.  It should worry PR practitioners. If Trump can get away with lying, other organizations and individuals might follow his lead.  The amoral leader will conclude that people will believe anything if it is said forcefully enough.  PR's first rule is accuracy.  Adherence to fact is the tool we use to persuade the media and the public of an individual's or organization's position. Making up facts jeopardizes our credibility and that is all we have as spokespersons.  Among many  voters, Trump no longer has credibility, and we will find out in November just how large those groups are.  

Monday, September 10, 2018

Solid PR 

Elon Musk has received much criticism recently for smoking pot during a podcast and for the trials of manufacturing Teslas.  One portion of his empire that has solid PR is SpaceX, which landed another reusable rocket and is well on the way to lowering the cost of launches.  One wonders why SpaceX is not more in the the news coming from Musk.  It is his unalloyed success and business is expanding with every successful mission.  Musk has put his competitors on notice that he can put satellites into space for half the cost of their rockets, which are expendable.  While his auto company teeters and runs short of cash, his space company is doing just fine.  If Tesla fails, it might be all that he has left.

Friday, September 07, 2018


PR practitioners should read this article in its entirety.  It discusses search engines and what they are.  The author makes the point that they are no longer indices of the internet but much more, which makes them complex to operate and to understand.  Anyone engaged in Search Engine Optimization will recognize caveats the writer raises.  Why should we care?  Because for most organizations and individuals today, information about them comes through Google rankings or a similar result from other search engines, such as Bing or Firefox.  What the world knows about you is directly dependent on them.  Hence, it is best to understand how they work and what they can and cannot do.  The author explains the transformations underway and the future of the software.  It is worth the time to read.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

A Mistake 

Google committed an unforced error in failing to show before Congress to explain how it is protecting social media and search from outside influences.  Congress took note.  There was an empty chair in both hearings with the nameplate of Google before it.  The embarrassment was heightened by the presence of the CEO of Twitter and the COO of Facebook.  If they could come, why not Google?  To be fair, the company offered to send an attorney to testify, but that is not what the Congressmen and Senators wanted.  They demanded top executives.  To say that it was political theater is understatement, and Google certainly knew that, but in a spirit of public relations, it should have complied.  The next time the company needs a favor from Congress, it will have explaining to do.  

Wednesday, September 05, 2018


In PR, we tell companies to speak out in a crisis and to be transparent, but sometimes silence might be better as events unfold because there is little one can say credibly.  This might be the tactic the pope is following in the face of allegations that he tolerated sexual abuse by one of his cardinals. If so, it isn't working.  Even his allies in the Church are urging him to talk.  So far, he has not done so.  While it might be Christian to remain silent in the face of calumny, the pope is carrying the credibility of the church in his person.  As the leader of Roman Catholics, he has a duty to represent the faith in the best light possible.  There may be no good stance to take if the allegations against him are true.  Should he resign or weather the accusations and try to do the best he can?  There is no good answer.  Conservatives in the church want him gone and have for some time.  The charges against him were brought by a high-ranking conservative bishop who is avowedly the pope's enemy.  Perhaps the pope has chosen to ignore the source because the bishop is a partisan.  Even so, abuse victims are waiting for him to address their pain.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Faux Pas 

At a funeral one is supposed to deliver a eulogy, not a diatribe based on one's personal obsessions.  That is why Aretha Franklin's family is miffed about this pastor's 50-minute speech.  The fellow should have known better.  He had presided at numerous funerals before this one.  But, apparently he saw a chance to air his views, and he took it.  As any PR practitioner could have told him, that is a no-no.  There are conventions in many aspects of life, and a funeral is for celebrating and mourning the death of a loved one, not for discussion of grievances with society.  Maybe the pastor has learned his lesson but his faux pas was on an international stage before millions of bereft.  He might not get another chance to do better.

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