Wednesday, July 31, 2019


Would you believe China's leaders when they say they have released a million Uighur Muslims from incarceration?  Chances are you wouldn't.  Certainly the experts don't find the claim credible.  China has not been truthful in a number of areas.  For example, few trust its  numbers on the growth and health of the economy.  Activists have learned the hard way that the communist party is not open to criticism.  Demonstrations in Hong Kong are over a fear that the controlling hand of the Chinese state will take away freedoms.  The country could gain a better reputation if it allowed a free press, but it doesn't.  One must hew to the communist line of reasoning and never criticize its leaders.  Americans would have a hard time living there.  They could never discuss politics, the state of the economy, living conditions of the have-nots, anything the government finds objectionable.  China is emerging as the most powerful country on earth.  It needs to change -- but it won't.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

From Champ To Chump 

For years the agricultural behemoth, Cargill, had a good relationship with environmentalists.  Now it is "Cargill:  The Worst Company in the World."  The falling out has been dramatic and sudden -- in a matter of weeks.  This happened because the company refused to accept a moratorium on lands in Brazil that are environmentally sensitive, and it has apparently failed to meet targets for stopping Amazon deforestation in the country.  The company has been put on the defensive, and its spokesperson doesn't like it.  There isn't much Cargill can do to turn the situation around other than doing what activists want, and the company doesn't seem inclined to take that course.  Reputation is fragile in an age of social media and worldwide connectivity.  Cargill is learning that the hard way.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Strange Threat 

It is odd PR to deliver a strange threat like this.  Britain is the country that will be savaged with a no-deal Brexit, yet the UK is blaming the EU for failing to negotiate a better deal.  That's chutzpah.  It's equivalent to the old joke of the fellow who pleaded with a judge for mercy after killing his parents because he was an orphan.  Boris Johnson, the new prime minister, is by all accounts, a blow-hard.  He is the one saying a no-deal Brexit is likely.  The UK could have hardly chosen a worse leader at this moment.  And, should he wreck the economy with an off-the-cliff departure, what will it take for Britain to recover?  Already the country has lost its position as a financial capital of the EU.  Auto companies are shutting plants.  Businesses are moving their base of operations to the continent.  None of this seems to matter to him.  It's my way or I'll cut my throat.

Friday, July 26, 2019


This is an amusing turnabout on scam telemarketers.  The company uses artificial intelligence generated by IBM's Watson system to string along the fraudulent callers until they give up in frustration.  Listening to the voice is eerily realistic.  There is little wonder that telemarketers don't pick up on it.  It is not the best way to handle these swindlers.  Enforcement of regulation is what needs to happen, but it is a step in getting even with them.  There is a degree of satisfaction in that.  

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Not Enough 

Juan Guaido of Venezuela reaped international publicity and large, supportive crowds when he proclaimed himself the rightful president last April.  It is not enough.  Maduro is still in power and seemingly more entrenched than ever, even as the country collapses.  Maduro understands that he needs to keep the army and militias on his side, and he is doing that.  He accuses the United States of trying to overthrow him, playing on the long-time theme of US meddling in Latin American affairs.  Guaido is hanging on.  Maduro has not jailed nor killed him yet, but the crowds are gone and his claim to the presidency is farther from reach than ever.  Publicity can only do so much when the target of negative communications is stubborn.  Mass demonstrations have worked in Puerto Rico where the governor is leaving, but they have little chance of success in Venezuela.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019


Large tech companies are facing a crisis, and there is little they can do about it.  The Department of Justice has opened a sweeping investigation into whether these corporations are monopolies stifling competition.  If it finds evidence they are, the government will sue to break them up.  There will be years of litigation and millions spent on lawyers, PR and lobbying.  None of the leaders of these firms can forget the DOJ action against Microsoft when it strode mightily across the tech world.  Defending the company consumed Bill Gates time.  There is a chance that some or all of them will have to spin off businesses or open their systems generally to developers.  There also is a strong possibility that the investigation will crimp their growth in the years to come.  The CEOs will have to pay close attention to the government from now on.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Bad PR 

It is difficult for a company to overcome an article like this.  The journalist received a Boosted Rev electric scooter to test and the hinge on the machine crushed his finger, cutting it open and breaking it.  This happened even before he had a chance to test it.  Boosted will need a good deal of positive publicity to overcome the gruesome details in the story and the photos.  The journalist is upset that the company sent him a pre-production model with some changed parts because the company is in a hurry to get positive reviews.  A mistake and a big one.  Marketing and PR should examine and test any machine sent for review.  Long ago when I was responsible for a small auto fleet, we put intense focus on making sure the cars were ready -- polished, clean,mechanically OK.  It made a difference in the reviews.  Boosted failed to do that, and it has reaped bad PR.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Dream On 

This article envisions what will happen on the moon in the next 50 years.  It is a dream that might have a smack of reality to it.  We know with 50 years of hindsight that going to the lunar surface is a hard and dangerous task.  Once we get there, the landscape is hostile and unfit for life.  Everything to support humans must be ferried in and resupplied.  To undertake continuous habitation would be an enormously expensive undertaking for any country, nations or corporations.  And, what return is there but research?  Exploiting the resources of the moon requires machinery, large scale installations that must be sent from earth.  That won't be easy or practical for a long time, if ever.  While it is fun to think about living on the moon, a continuous presence there won't be achievable for some time.  That makes articles like this space publicity and not PR.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

About Time 

Pearson, the British text book publisher, is going digital.  It's about time.  The cost of printed editions was a marketing and PR scandal.  In addition to a steep tuition, students have to lay out hundreds of dollars for books.  There is no good reason for it, and publishers should have gone digital years ago.  It is less expensive and more up to date.  One suspects they have held on to paper because that's where the money is, and why sacrifice profits for something better, faster and less expensive?  Pearson understood that high book prices drove students to the used and rental market.  Pearson gained nothing from a second-hand text.  Now it will win back some of that revenue with an affordable, electronic option.  Eventually all publishers will be 100% electronic.  It can't come too soon.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

When Will They Ever Learn? 

How many times do we have to write that in the internet age little stays secret for long?  Here is another example of an incautious politician's private emails being made public.  He should have known, but he thought he was protected.  There is little or no safeguard from leaks and hacking.  The rule is simple.  If there is anything you don't want to go viral, don't write it and don't say it.  Keep it to yourself.  Because if you do either of those two things, someone is likely to post it.  This precept applies especially to notable personalities, celebrities, people of power.  Someone is always trying to show them up and perhaps, bring them down.  There is no safety of a closed room anymore or of an encrypted message.  Obama learned the hard way when he made remarks about the poor in a closed door meeting in San Francisco.  Someone recorded it then posted his words.  It was a profound embarrassment.  The governor of Puerto Rico might lose his job over his emails.  Well he should.  He has been exposed as a hypocrite, and he was dumb.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019


What happens when a retailer promotes a sale, creates a viral moment, heightens anticipation among millions of customers, then they can't buy because of a glitch?   This is the marketing/PR disaster that Amazon finds itself in with Prime Day.  For the second day in a row, customers have had problems with its web page.  They can't put things into their shopping cart.  As a result, Amazon is losing millions in sales, and it has upset tens of thousands of customers.  Is Prime Day worth the aggravation the company is causing?  Amazon needs to step back and evaluate its systems, why they are failing when demand surges and what it needs to do to make sure this doesn't happen for a third year in a row.  If Prime Day gains a reputation for being a phony sale,  Amazon will have lost far more than it gains from the promotion.  It's a rare misstep for the online giant but a serious one.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Smart Marketing And PR 

This is smart marketing and PR.  Even drivers with automatic toll payment in their cars would like to know what driving a road will cost.  In fact, they have more of an incentive than those who stop and pay a toll taker because automatic payments are deducted from one's account without a receipt.  Waze is launching the addition to its system in the US and Canada and will expand it elsewhere in the world in the months to come.  It is a good idea well executed.  

Friday, July 12, 2019

From Anywhere 

Criticisms can come from anywhere and become a crisis.  Consider this.  A conservative group is protesting a brief scene in Pixar's Toy Story 4 because they say it shows lesbians.  There is little indication in the movie that this is so, but they have read into the scene and say it isn't for young children.  Disney, Pixar's owner, will now need to defend the animation, especially if the charge becomes viral.  The film has already earned more than $650 million so Disney might not be too worried, but it is a reminder that nothing is safe in the internet age. 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Great PR 

The Huntington Library is world famous for its 120-acres of gardens and thousands of species of plants.  What could be better for celebrating its 100th birthday?  Why, of course, a new rose.  As the reporter puts it:

"A rose is a rose is a rose, but the new “Huntington’s 100th” is something special – 10 years in the making by Tom Carruth, the award-winning curator of this stunning rose collection. The garden, which was first created for the enjoyment of railroad builder Henry Huntington and his wife, Arabella, is distinguished today by its vast assortment of nearly 1,300 rose varieties."

Centenary celebrations don't have to be extravaganzas.  They should emphasize what an organization has done well through its existence.  In the case of Huntington's 16 themed gardens, little is better than creation of a new hybrid.  It's great PR and fitting for such an amazing institution.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Smart Marketing 

Uber is making a play to become a transportation hub on the cell phone by selling bus and train tickets along with rides.  It seems to be working in its Denver roll-out.  It's a smart idea, a one-click source for ground transportation needs.  There are so many apps on cell phones that reducing them for the convenience of passengers is helpful.  And, once a person gets used to clicking for bus and train tickets, Uber can expect to gain more ridership as well.  This is apparently what is happening.  Kudos to Uber for figuring this out.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Not Again 

The Trump administration has yet to learn that nothing stays secret for long in the internet age. One wonders if it will ever learn.  Consider this.  The White House removed all mentions of climate change from a press release announcing a study by the United States Geological Service.  (USGS).  Never mind that the study cited climate change as a serious threat to California's coast line.  Of course, word of the manipulation leaked.  Then, there is this.    Someone created a fictitious quote from Ronald Reagan predicting that Trump would be President.  Trump, without checking, passed it on.  Once again, it didn't take much checking to show the statement was fake.  Trump and his minions do this constantly.  As a result, he has lost many voters, particularly independents who supported him in 2016.  One is tempted to ask what would happen to any other organization or individual who is fast and loose with facts.  For certain, their reputations would be destroyed.  In the internet age, accuracy is everything.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Second Guessing 

No matter what a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court does, he is caught in second guessing of decisions, particularly if he is a swing vote.  It would normally be a tough PR position but for the fact that justices are insulated from the opinion of the public.  Chief Justice Roberts has taken controversial stances of late and ticked off both conservatives and liberals, but there is little they can do except vent.  He is apparently charting his own course through the law and one that is not visible at the moment.  So, commentators on both sides of the aisle speculate about what he is up to.  Roberts isn't saying nor should one expect him to.  Justices want to be seen as impartial even when they aren't.  

Friday, July 05, 2019

Wasn't Ready. 

Joe Biden now says he wasn't ready for the attack on him by fellow Democratic candidate for President, Senator Kamala Harris, in the recent debate.  The question is why not.  Biden has a long legislative record, and he knows he must defend it during the lead-up to and in the primaries.  He has been taking the stance of a front-runner who is above the mud and wrestling other candidates are engaged in.  It isn't working.  Commentators are noting that he seems unprepared, and his ratings are slowly falling.  From a campaign marketing perspective, he needs a new approach -- better briefings, more time in give-and-take Q&As, a willingness to call into question other candidates' records.  In other words, he should not divorce himself from the others but work hard to rise.  Does he have the energy to do that and the understanding that he needs to?  Ensuing weeks will tell.  Should he fall back, he will have only himself to blame.

Thursday, July 04, 2019


Military officers are concerned about President Trump's Fourth of July celebration.  They don't want it to become politicized, but Trump is erratic and might veer from his text into campaign rhetoric.  The services are supposed to remain strictly apolitical and not engage in any activities that smack of it.  Hence, the generals standing with the President this afternoon have a right to be nervous.  They don't want to be seen as endorsing Trump.  There is a question why "the Donald" is holding this celebration anyway.  There already is a major event that has been held for decades on the Mall.  Insinuating himself would seem political even without direct references to his record.  Whatever happens, the generals will have to bear it and hope something like this doesn't happen again.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019


Walmart is learning that taking on Amazon is expensive.  It is set to lose a billion dollars this year as it grows its online business.  This has apparently ignited tensions inside the company as executives jockey for power.  Walmart might be forgetting that Amazon itself lost billions as it built market share.  There was a point when financial analysts were asking if Bezos could pull it off.  Even when the company turned the corner, its profits were small as Bezos kept diverting funds for other growth prospects.  Walmart might be facing the same road to gaining online presence, and it is a question of how long the company can accept the bleeding.  The company might not be used to this kind of profitless growth.  One shouldn't be surprised if Walmart cuts back on its online effort, which would be a PR blow.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Taking The Blame -- Sort Of 

Samsung's chief of mobile phones has publicly taken the blame for the failures of its fold-out phone.  He says he released it too early.  This belated PR move is proper but hardly enough.  There are many waiting with pre-orders for the instrument who now don't know when they will get it, if ever.  Samsung itself said that errors like this are to be expected in a company that is constantly pushing the boundaries.  That's a poor excuse.  If the phones had been tested adequately before they were announced, the company would have seen they were not ready for reviewers.  As it was, the fold-out screens began to fail right away.  A company can take a PR gaffe like this occasionally, but it needs to be careful.  Once it gains a reputation for buggy products, it will lose customers for good.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Great PR 

NASA has restored the original control room used in the moon landings 50 years ago.  It was at the behest of the flight director at the time, Gene Kranz, who raised $5 million for the project.  The conservators worked to capture the details of the room from its buttons through its screens, ashtrays and coffee pot.  The room had been decommissioned by NASA in 1992 and was allowed to fall into disrepair.  Even though it will never be used again because its technology is woefully dated, it will remain as a stop on tours of the facilities.  The control room will be a reminder of the historic days when man first flew to another celestial body and stepped on it.  NASA has never reached the pinnacle of manned flight since, but it has continued a string of successes with unmanned rovers and satellites.  It is great PR to remind Americans of what we can do when challenged.  Fifty years seems eons ago even to those who witnessed Armstrong stepping down the ladder.  Today there is talk of Mars but it would take many billions to design, build and test machinery that could adequately protect humans and keep them nourished and psychologically fit for an entire year.  Returning to the moon makes more sense and that is what several countries are racing to do.

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