Friday, May 31, 2019


It doesn't pay to upset Wikipedia editors.  They'll have it in for you.  That is why this stunt was dumb.  North Face, the clothing manufacturer, changed the visuals on its Wikipedia page to advertising images of its clothing.  Worse, it boasted about it.  Retribution was swift, and North Face has apologized.  Well it should.  It was a bad idea from the start and showed a profound lack of understanding of the encyclopedic site and its volunteers.  What did North Face gain from its actions?  A hit to its reputation.  Was it worth it?  Of course not.  It's not always possible to trace the course of a mistake like this to the source, but North Face said it was for its Brazilian office.  Someone in its marketing agency somewhere is keeping a low profile, and that's as it should be.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Web Site Advocacy 

Apple launched a web site to combat allegations that its App Store is a monopoly that hinders competition.  It reads like an advocacy ad one might read in The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal.  It's questionable whether the extended screed will change anyone's mind, particularly those who have had their software rejected from the App Store.  Apple has run afoul of the law already with a Supreme Court case that went against it, and developers have not stopped criticizing the company.  One wonders why the corporation bothered to put up a such a site -- one long page that requires extensive scrolling.  It is not an example of good design and as convincing as the language may be, who is going to read through all of it?  The site might be targeted to developers and not the public at large, but even they might question its timing and length.  If it is an attempt to get ahead of the issue, it is lacking.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019


Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) is a public relations statement.  It reveals the intent of the speaker and one's true stance on an issue.  In the case of affordable housing, it demonstrates practical racism, such as this case.  Wealthy Connecticut towns have stalled higher-density building projects for as long as 30 years through use of zoning and citizen protest. The rich don't want to deal with the poor who are largely minorities.  These are people who apparently believe they are even handed unless building takes place in their communities.  Then, suddenly, it is different.  So, the lower middle class and poor are pushed into communities that exacerbate the gap between have and have-nots.  There is no good way to break down this kind of racism   Persuasion is futile and legal action is the only recourse.  

Tuesday, May 28, 2019


It is a difficult PR and reputation situation when a successor is undercut by a former boss.  That is what is happening in Germany.  Angela Merkel, the chancellor, has apparently decided that her chosen subordinate is not up to the job of running the Christian Democratic Union.  The CDU has stumbled since Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer took over from Merkel last December.  There was a failed power grab and a botched national election.  Now, Merkel is faced with political difficulty all around and she can't depend on her chosen one.  So,what are she and AKK to do?  It is too late to try a turnaround although Merkel has apparently decided to remain in office for her full term.  The upshot is a mess for everyone concerned.  The two are fated to live uncomfortably side by side and only when Merkel steps down will the situation be resolved.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Reputation And Taxation  

TurboTax is making a name for itself, and it is not good.  According to this article, the company is tricking members of the military service into paying for filing their taxes although it is supposed to be free.  If true, the company deserves a poor reputation.  Why do corporations persist in the internet age in trying to cheat customers?  They can't away with it for long and when discovered, they have explaining to do.  The explanations usually ring hollow.  In TurboTax's case, the company has to reveal why it buried the free page beneath others, and why it intentionally diverted customers to pages with for-pay services.  The company says it stands by its dedication to the military soldiers, sailors and marines.  If it does, it seems to have an odd way of showing it.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Was It Always This Way? 

General Electric's CEO is trying to stop infighting between divisions and to focus the corporation on quality and management.  The question arises whether it was always this way, even under the legendary Jack Welch?  A company that is turning out profits can cover a lot of sins.  When the money machine stops, all sorts of problems surface and a vaunted management style is found wanting.  One can point at Jeff Immelt and say he wrecked the company during his tenure as CEO and chairman, but that would be too easy.  Welch left a company that was overly dependent on its finance division, which ran aground during the meltdown of 2008/2009.  Today, GE is a shadow of its once greatness.  Larry Culp has set goals for its slow turnaround, but there is little chance that it will regain its reputation for greatness, and the publicity surrounding its decades of past success now rings hollow.  Sic transit....

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Not Dead Yet 

What happens to an electronic product that died of bad PR?  Usually, one never sees it again.  But, the Google Glass has discovered a new life as an enterprise item to use while working in factories, doing maintenance and repair and other work.  It doesn't take much recall to remember how it was hyped as a consumer gadget, how it went into distribution and how it failed spectacularly, largely because of privacy concerns.  Give Google credit.  It didn't give up. Rather, it improved the Glass, found a niche for it and started marketing it again.  They have been successful enough to spin it off internally as a new company.  It might never be introduced to the public again, but it can claim a life as a B to B offering and do well.  That's quite a turnaround from a few years ago.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Great PR 

Waymo, Google's automated driving company, is generating great PR in its Arizona test bed.  Hundreds are using its driverless taxis in the town of Chandler.  The company still puts a driver in the vehicles, but the drivers keep their hands in their laps and the vans steer themselves from place to place.  The police have said the driverless vehicles have been involved in accidents but not once has it been their fault.  They drive perfectly, so much so that they can be irritants to drivers who take shortcuts at intersections and on the open road.  Waymo's experience is quite different from Tesla whose automated system has been involved in a number of fatal collisions so far.  Waymo is being cautious because it understands the strengths and weaknesses of driverless technologies.  That only adds to its reputation and to the opinion that driverless vehicles have reached maturity.  

Monday, May 20, 2019

Smart PR 

Facebook needs friends.  It is being investigated for misuse of user data and for privacy breaches. That makes this all the more important.  The company is employing customer location data to build disease prevention maps.  It is part of its effort called Data for Good through which the company can use billions of records to show the movement of people from place to place.  Health authorities can then better track the spread of disease.  It is smart PR.  It shows that data collection is for good as much as for commercial purposes.  Facebook users might be less concerned about their data when they know it is being used for societal benefit.  Kudos to the company for seeing this through.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Curious Marketing 

Taco Bell is opening a hotel for a short time that will have its restaurant themes throughout it. While it is creative, it is curious marketing.  What does Taco Bell have to do with rooms?  It is a stretch to say that Mexican food has deep relationships to room service and overnight stays.  And how do you square a swimming pool with tacos and chalupas?  Sometimes, marketers can buy strange ideas. In their favor, the news that it is launching the location in Palm Springs has generated media copy, but is that worth the money spent?  The company must have reasoning behind this stunt.  It would be worth knowing what it is.

Thursday, May 16, 2019


Since becoming President, Trump's resort hotels have experienced a revenue plunge.  The fall has been attributed to his actions in the Oval Office.  It is an example of reputation in one arena bleeding into business.  Had Trump known it would harm his image and his brand, would he still have run in 2016?  We may never find out.  Trump is aiming for reelection in 2020, a course that is looking steeper by day.  His lack of discipline and chaotic behavior is against him.  While he keeps a core of supporters, they are too few to ensure that he will stay in office for the full eight years.  Meanwhile, his properties continue to lose money and he will have a mess to straighten out whether or not he remains at the helm.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A Challenge 

What kind of marketing and PR do you need when your customers are moving away from you?  This is the challenge facing cable companies.  Millions are cutting the cord to cable TV.  Industry executives continue to say it is not a problem, but at some point they will need to face the issue.  There are too many entertainment, news and sports services out there now, and price-conscious consumers can pick and choose among them.  It might help if cable cut its rates and unbundled its channels, but it could be too late for that.  What remains for the cable giants is internet service.  Customers are dumping TV channels but not broadband delivery.  Rather than building on that, cable companies are taking a punitive approach.  They charge more for broadband if one doesn't take TV channels with it. It's a monopoly move and ultimately will attract regulators' interest.  Cable companies need a better solution, and so far they haven't found one.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Stating The Truth 

Uber's IPO sank as soon as it hit the market.  Uber's CEO stated the truth about stock price in a masterful memo to employees.  He didn't sugar-coat the need for company performance in order for the price to rise and recover.  He didn't inveigh against the fickle nature of markets.  He said clearly and cogently that the future is in the hands of the employees and the company. Their work will make the difference.  Uber is still a long way from profitability and it will take prolonged efforts to turn it around.  So, while employees are holding shares that are underwater, they have an incentive to help them bob to the surface.  It might not help morale right away but the memo provides a clear direction for everyone from the top down.   

Monday, May 13, 2019

What Will It Take? 

Carbon dioxide levels have reached levels unknown since the rise of humans, and there is only one epic, Pliocene, millions of years ago when it was equaled.  What will it take for humans to understand that global warming is real?  There are signs that Americans are coming around to accepting it in spite of its leader, who resolutely refuses to engage with the issue.  Wild weather and warming temperatures appear to be at the heart of persuasion.  PR campaigns have echoed what nature is doing but without teeth until recently.  But, global warming requires global solutions.  One country can't make a difference.  This puts an onus on Third World nations who are struggling to raise their citizenry's lifestyles from poverty.  Moving away from the gas engine would impose a burden on them. They probably won't do it unless fuel becomes too expensive, but that will require dismantling the global energy industry -- no mean task.  

Friday, May 10, 2019

Military PR 

Can the business of death have PR value?  This weapon contains concern for civilians at the same time it is wiping out enemy fighters.  It is a step forward in killing combatants but not innocent men, women and children who happen to be near them.  Concern for civilians has been a sore point for the military since terrorists have blended in with the population.  This weapon is a nod to the fact that explosives are indiscriminate and wipe out those near a target.  If it works as described, it will dramatically reduce injury.  This is a step forward for which the military should be congratulated even though killing is at the heart of the weapon. 

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Smart Marketing 

There is little better than taking an old product and doing something radically new with it.  Consider,. for instance, shoes.  They have been around in design and styles for thousands of years.  Now, Nike has taken steps to guarantee it will sell you a shoe that fits the first time you try them on. It has developed an app to scan feet.  Such a simple idea but a profound change in a market where an estimated two-thirds of users are wearing shoes that are either too small or too large. Getting it right the first time has implications up and down the supply chain.  It reduces returns.  It helps the company figure out what sizes to send to stores to meet demand.  It makes for happier customers who come back when they want to buy another pair.  It saves chunks of money.  Nike already is the leading shoe retailer in the US.  An innovation like this helps cement its front-running place.  Kudos to the company.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019


Uber and Lyft drivers are revolting against their independent contractor status that is leaving them underpaid and poor.  Well they should.  The deck is stacked against them while company executives make millions by going public. There is no good answer to being a freelancer, which is what the drivers are.  If they are lucky, they can pay for gas and mileage and have a pittance left over. So they are communicating the only way they know how by striking and calling for passengers to boycott the companies.  Chances are riders will continue to use the services, and those drivers who do not honor the strike will get more fares.  Still the message is clear. Uber and Lyft need to do something to help their essential individuals -- drivers.  Even if they do not make them employees, they need to help them succeed.  The future of both companies depends on it.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Smart PR 

Jeff Bezos of Amazon knows how to generate smart PR for the mammoth company.  He has revealed that "...data showed that sales from third-party sellers now make up for more than 58% of the physical gross merchandise sold on Amazon. These sales have grown from $0.1 billion in 1999 to $160 billion in 2018."  In other words, the behemoth is not as large as one might think, and it has done wonders for small to mid-sized businesses.  He revealed that SMB's are earning an average of $90,000 a year through Amazon.  The implication is clear.  Attack Amazon and you are assaulting successful small companies everywhere.  That more than its timely fulfillment and huge assortment of merchandise is armor against those who would break Amazon up.  Amazon will need this kind of transparency going forward.  It has competitors and government regulators who would like to see the company dismantled and they are gaining a hearing.  

Monday, May 06, 2019

Needed PR 

The best kind of PR is that which you didn't seek but got anyway for what you do.  Tesla has been criticized for its autopilot technology on its vehicles because it hasn't worked in well-publicized crashes.  It must be heartening then for the company to get kudos from drivers who say the technology has saved their lives or prevented worse accidents.  Admittedly, the reports are open to investigation, and the drivers themselves might have taken evasive maneuvers without realizing it.  Whatever the truth, the positive publicity helps to bolster Tesla's reputation for safety, which it needs.  The more stories that come to light, the better it is for the company and for public confidence in the vehicle.  Tesla still has a hard road to travel as a car company.  It continues to lose billions.  It needs all the help it can get. 

Friday, May 03, 2019


How do you preserve power when your subjects are revolting against you?  We're not writing here about Maduro in Venezuela but Pope Francis at the Vatican.  A coterie of theologians has publicly accused him of the serious theological crime of heresy.  They are wrathful over his opinion on divorced Catholics and their permission to receive communion as well as his comments about religious diversity and homosexuality.  There is little he can do or say to mollify their feelings.  They want rules to revert to status quo ante without the least wiggle room in them.  This pope's reputation already has been compromised by revelations of sexual abuse among the clergy at all levels from cardinal to parish priest.  It is a problem handed to him by predecessors who either ignored it or thought they were handling the matter correctly.  The pressure on Francis is enough to make a normal person have a breakdown.  He has ceded the moral high ground and influence of the Catholic Church in the world.  Now he is in a position of trying to win back what was lost and he is not an energetic, young man with time on his side.  It is easy to feel sorry for him.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Losing The Base 

What do you need to do in communications and marketing to solidify an eroding base? Prime Minister Theresa May is finding out.  She is losing her coterie of big donors over the gut-level fight of Brexit.  There is a strong need for backroom deal-making and arm twisting, but thus far nothing has worked and no one in parliament is moving toward a deal.  May is putting off a call for another referendum, but time and internal strife may force her hand.  There are no good slogans, magic words or prestidigitation in the works.  It is mano a mano with each side bloodying the other and preventing progress.  As May's donors turn on her, it might be the key to a solution, even if it is one May doesn't want.  Whatever the outcome, the British are sick of Brexit and just want it to be over.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

When Silence Isn't Golden 

NASA and SpaceX have clammed up.  They aren't speaking about the failure of a manned-crew capsule, called Dragon, on a test stand.  Apparently, it blew up when its rockets fired.  No one was injured but the anomaly, as they are calling it, may have set back NASA's plans for months for a crewed flight to the International Space Station.  No one at the agency or at the company is giving any kind of explanation for the explosion.  Officially, it did not happen even though a video of the incident made it to Twitter right away.  There is no good reason for silence, and all it has done is increased speculation about the flight worthiness of the capsule.  Both SpaceX and NASA have a lot riding on the success of Dragon in reaching and returning from the ISS safely with astronauts aboard.  Maybe they are hiding to protect the mission.  If so, it could be a terrible mistake, especially if something goes wrong during the eventual launch.

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