Friday, June 28, 2019


This article states it is a business decision whether to pay off a ransomware attack.  What it doesn't deal with is the perception of a town that rewards hackers to get its data back.  City officials have to deal with citizens when their essential data is locked and inaccessible.  The public will be angry it happened and hardly mollified when local government forks over funds.  The ultimate answer, of course, is to prevent these attacks in the first place. That might be hard to do, especially if the intrusion comes through social engineering, and nearly anyone can innocently click on a dangerous link that purports to be something else.  What is needed are better methods to crack the encryption these pirates use and detective work to find and prosecute them.  Ransomware isn't going away as long as it is money-making. 

Thursday, June 27, 2019


Professional influencers on social media are losing their credibility.  People are wising up to the fact they are brands and there to sell things.  Moreover, there are too many of them and they are all doing much the same things.  This is a marketing gambit that has reached maturity and is now on the backside of consumer awareness.  There is still plenty of room for influencers but they need to take a more impartial role rather than hawking goods they are paid to promote.  You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Better Than Nothing? 

Ten Democratic candidates for president "debate" tonight and 10 more tomorrow night.  There is no time for them to get into issues and there are too many of them.  They are in the stage because it is a first -- and perhaps, last -- chance to be in the national limelight.  For most, it won't make much difference but it might be better than nothing.  Viewership will likely be low for this evening and lower tomorrow.  It is the kind of affair that only political "junkies" like.  The mass of voters either aren't paying attention at this early stage or are waiting for the field to thin.  From a PR perspective, it isn't an ideal event but it is a "must-do" to be taken seriously by supporters.  Right now, none of them have many, and they face months of campaigning before they will.  

Tuesday, June 25, 2019


It is essential for  online information purveyors to catch cheaters because crooks diminish the credibility of the companies' services. Consider Google Maps.  Millions of businesses have posted false location and phone information in order to dupe potential customers.  Google is working hard to root them out, but it has a long way to go, and it is a never-ending task.  Google can't afford to have users turn from its mapping program because they no longer trust it.  So too, competitors.  When companies started posting business locations on their maps, little did they know it would be a problem down the road.  They have had to scramble to delist cheaters and the exercise has become a major activity.  It is a lesson many technologists have yet to learn.  Every good service has bad actors who will subvert it.

Monday, June 24, 2019

What's In A Word?  

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the new member of the House of Representatives, used a word that ignited a firestorm of criticism.  It is "concentration" as in "concentration camps."  Republicans pounced saying she was comparing Federal camps for migrants in the Southwest to the Holocaust.  Historians responded by saying the use of "concentration camp" was a phrase employed well before Nazis started mass extermination.  The reality is that "concentration" is a loaded word when used in conjunction with "camp."  it should be used sparingly and with the context explained.  AOC didn't do that, and she has engaged in a waspish back and forth with members of the Elephant party.  That only makes things worse.  It is a reminder in communications to know the sensitivities of word usage.  What might seem innocent to a speaker can be seem as profoundly offensive to the listener. AOC meant to strike sparks but she might not have been implying that the Administration is filled with Nazi sympathizers,  It would have been better had she made that clear from the start.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Off For A Week 

I'm taking a week off while traveling.  I'll be back Monday, June 24.  

Another Worry 

A cry is being raised about Deepfakes -- audiovisual lying that concocts false information in video and sound.  The spur to the warnings is the slowed-down video of Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, that makes her look drunk.  It's not just a political tool of misinformation.  It can be applied to any individual, any organization at any time -- and will be.  With technical manipulation, it is easy to put people into scenes or take them out. It is easy to have them saying things they never dreamed.  PR practitioners and media monitors should be on the alert.  It will become more prevalent as activists learn the software.  Woody Allen's breakthrough of inserting himself as Zelig into historical scenes has become commonplace.  As in all things related to the internet, response time to combat such maliciousness is extremely short.  One needs to prowl social media constantly and be ready to act before a Deepfake goes viral.  It is another worry in the connected age.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Big Lie 

Habitual prevaricators tend to believe lies they tell, even when presented with evidence to the contrary.  Here is a case.  Trump is claiming his internal polling shows him ahead in every state his campaign has surveyed.  Other polls not from his campaign show him well behind.  Trump is not the only one to believe himself in the face of reality.  Over the years I have served clients who paid no attention to market research because they knew better.  They believed in their own big lies, and their companies failed miserably.  Because they rejected evidence, they never saw their demise coming.  They were surprised when the rest of the world had already written them off.  Trump is a special case in that he fails to tell the truth time after time.  He has created a self-regarded alternate dimension in which he is always a winner.  It will be interesting to watch the elections in 2020.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

What Now? 

The proposed merger of Sprint-T-Mobile has run afoul of 10 states attorneys.  They are suing to stop the combination because they say it will hurt consumers.  Even though the FCC has approved the two getting together, the Justice Department is recommending that it not go forward.  All the lobbyists in DC and the 10 states can't help this situation.  The two companies will need to go to court even if the Federal government eventually approves.  T-Mobile especially is frustrated.  It has tried to merge two other times and has been blocked.  The problem is that the customers of the two companies are middle to low income, and if they raise rates, which they have promised not to do for three years, they will take away service from the more vulnerable.  There is no good solution for this logjam.  The companies will have to slog through or end talks -- precisely what the states attorneys want.  

Tuesday, June 11, 2019


A Vancouver grocery store wants customers to bring their own reusable bags so it can stop using plastic bags that add to pollution.  So, it designed three bags with embarrassing messages designed to put off customers.  One is for adult video, a second for colon care and the third for warts.  Apparently, however, the idea backfired.  Customers are delighted and some are collecting all three bags as souvenirs.  Give the store credit for a creative idea even though it didn't work.  The hard-headed answer to getting rid of plastic is to charge for it.  Shoppers are sensitive to cost and if a bag is pricey enough, they will shift over.  The downside of charging is that it upsets customers who can go elsewhere, but then, if they tolerate plastic bags with off-putting brands, they might adjust to the cost of a bag too.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Losing The Workforce 

A struggling company faces a challenge when it loses the confidence and dedication of its workforce.  In order to turn around it needs hard work from employees and not complaints and slow-downs.  This is the HR problem Tesla is facing.  Workers are losing faith in the company and its leadership.  Meanwhile, Tesla continues its struggle to stabilize Model 3 production and shipments.  Elon Musk is taking criticism from many sides.  Wall Street has turned on him and the company.  Analysts are skeptical that the market is big enough for the company to survive other than as a niche maker.  Its stock has swooned.  What the company doesn't need now is restive employees.  It should launch a communications effort to reassure them of its strategy and execution.  

Friday, June 07, 2019

Looking For A Market 

Boston Dynamics, the research company that builds pedal robots, is releasing its first product, called Spot.  Spot is a yellow and black quadruped canine whose head is a television camera and teeth a robot arm.  The only challenge for Spot is whether the marketplace needs a robot that can walk like a dog and is hard to push over.  The market is unproven and there is no guarantee it is large.  The company has been a master of PR in the years its machines were under development.  It released regularly videos of humanoids and four-legged creatures that walked difficult terrain and resisted the jabs of engineers trying to knock them down.  The videos went viral and the company was much discussed.  It didn't bring a product to market, however.  It kept developing and engineering for year after year.  Now it says it is ready.  The question is whether the world is ready for it.  We should know soon.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Unintended Consequences 

Sephora, the beauty products retailer, is facing a social media storm that comes from an Instagram mistake.  An online query whether it shipped to Israel followed by another query whether it shipped to Palestine produced a botched answer through no fault of Sephora.

"Sephora does not ship to Israel or the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank, but in screenshots circulating on social media, Instagram's collapsed comment layout makes it appear as if the company responded to the question "Do you ship to isreal??" with the statement "We do not ship to Palestine at this time.""

This produced an instant social media storm with charges, counter-charges, nasty comments and vile language.  Sephora didn't see it coming.  How could it?  But, it has to deal with the fall-out and quickly.  For one, it has to adjust for the vagaries of Instagram that caused the problem in the first place.  For another, it has to explain again cogently that it ships to neither country.  It's enough for a social media practitioner to pull hair out in frustration.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019


Big Tech is in a crisis, whether it appreciates it or not.  The government is after them.  The Justice Department, regulators and Congress have all begun investigations into whether large technology companies are monopolizing the internet. Some would predict their days are numbered but it is early in the game yet.  There is a chance of turning things around if the companies work with the government to find solutions to their enormous market share.  Still, Nancy Pelosi might be right.  The era of self-regulation might be over.  It might be a question of soft control rather than dismantling the web giants.  But it could go either way, and lobbyists have their work cut out for them.  If Democrats are in the ascendancy in 2020, chances are high for stringent regulation or charges of monopoly.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Smart Publicity 

Young Russians have no memory or understanding of the notorious Gulags that incarcerated 20 million people under Stalin.  The Gulag History Museum set out to change that.  Rather than writing history targeted to youth, it chose the graphic novel to tell survivors' stories.  This is smart publicity -- reaching an audience through familiar and universal visual media.  The production was done on a negligible budget and completed through fund raising.  It reached a vast audience and generated numerous stories. Most importantly, it educated a new generation about sorrowful and tragic period of the country's history.  Creative ideas can come from anywhere. Making them real can be difficult.  This is one that survived and deservedly so.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Too Soon To Declare Victory 

This article posits that Joe Biden is only running against himself and not the other 22+ candidates for President in the Democratic party.  But, it is too soon to declare him the front-runner.  There are an innumerable series of PR and publicity gaffes that can occur before the first primaries in 2020.  Biden has been involved in many of them through his career as a politician.  He was looked upon as a joke, and he still must apologize for his excessive touching and hugging of both genders.  At this stage of the race, it pays to run scared and work unceasingly. There is never enough time to be better known, even if a former vice president.  Biden might be husbanding his energy because he is no longer young, but that could well work against him if the electorate decides it needs a vibrant candidate.  There are so many ways to fail that one should ask why would anyone want to be President.  Not only is it a tough job, it is miserable trying to get elected for it.

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