Tuesday, December 31, 2019
This man and escapee from Japanese justice now has his reputation to consider. It has been ruined and might never be won back. The fact that he bolted from Japan and time in the docket does not help his image. It would be best for him to settle into a quiet private life in Lebanon so the world can forget him. He dare not go to any country with an extradition treaty with Japan. It is hard to say whether he was unjustly imprisoned. The facts have not been adjudicated, and the full story is unknown. Ghosn will shortly tell his side of his time in jail, but it will be suspect at its core. The Japanese will certainly respond, but they too will not have full credibility. In the end, there will be mystery and fodder for journalists and authors.
Monday, December 30, 2019
This law is setting the pattern for transparency and privacy of one's web data. It is especially noteworthy because it was passed in California, the state with the largest internet companies. From a PR perspective, Google, Facebook and Amazon shouldn't fight it. It is better for consumers that they know they have the power to remain anonymous if they wish. Expect hundreds of thousands to demand to know what is being recorded about them and tens of thousands to call for the information to be removed. It will be a strain even on the largest businesses and an open target for enforcement if the state puts money behind it. Already, the attorney general says he doesn't have the people or funds to apply the law but two or three times a year. Give it time, however, and it might become a major international standard for online privacy.
Friday, December 27, 2019
This report reveals that SUVs are growing larger. No one is thinking of the mileage for these behemoths nor the cost to operate them. As long as gas prices remain low, they will sell. It is short-term thinking in a warming climate. The attitude is "I want more." The reality is that for every SUV put on the road, there is an environmental impact. Something will give eventually -- either fuel prices or regulation. It can't continue as it has with the world heating up. All the PR efforts to inform the public about the warming climate have amounted to nothing as long as consumers ignore the warnings. We won't be a carbon-neutral country until citizens act individually to reduce emissions. There needs to be a sense of personal responsibility. Short-term thinking must run up against harsh reality.
Thursday, December 26, 2019
There is an old saying about hypocrisy of the pot calling the kettle black. President Trump is an example of that by his calling Congress "Liars." The media have documented thousands of lies the President has told since he was a nominee. In fact, he has been so immune to facts that he makes them up as he goes along -- if they fit his passion of the moment. So, there is deep irony in his pique over Congress. One wonders if he understands that: Chances are he doesn't. He is a man without a moral center, and whatever serves him at the moment will do whether or not it fits with a semblance of truth. He is like the proverbial salesman who will do or say anything to get a signature on a contract. It might work for a time but eventually, people understand and turn against the individual. Trump has two things going for him -- full-employment and a humming economy. That, however, might not be enough to get him re-elected. Simply put, people don't trust him. He has bad PR.
Tuesday, December 24, 2019
The CEO of Boeing has received a cruel Christmas present. He has been summarily fired and the chairman is taking his place. His failure to get the 737 Max back into the air was a proximate cause but also his ham-handed PR attempts made the situation worse. He apologized to the victims of two air crashes too late. He predicted when the plane would be back in the air and missed the date several times while ticking off the Federal Aviation Administration because they felt pressure from him. A failure of the software system has exposed the engineering department to withering criticism. As the story notes, "Two years ago, Boeing Co. could do no wrong. Lately, it can do nothing right, and someone had to pay the price." Boeing will get through this time of trial but its reputation will be set back for years with regulators and the public. It might have forgotten that it is in an industry where even one mistake is too much.
Monday, December 23, 2019
Elon Musk has pitted his Model S Tesla against the Porsche EV, Taycan. The Taycan won. Now it is winning the social media chatter as well. Some commentators are predicting that Musk will need to do a total redesign of the Model S to stay up with the competition. He can barely afford to do that alongside his many other projects, including an EV pickup truck. One wonders if Musk has taken on one too many risks, but then, he has been on the leading edge for years and so far, has pulled off his boasts. It would not be wise to bet against him. On the other hand, Porsche has time and again designed and built leading sports cars since its founding in 1948. The company is methodical and driven by racing where it tests components over long distances. Who might win a competition is in the air. It should be fascinating to watch.
Friday, December 20, 2019
If Goldman Sachs settles fraud charges relating to 1MNB, it is possible it will pay $2 billion as a fine. That's a huge amount even for the legendary trading and banking house. It, however, will not win the Wall Street firm's reputation back. The fine will serve as a reminder for Goldman and competitors that there are limits in the world of finance. Unfortunately, greed will out eventually, and someone else will attempt to get away with chicanery. They might succeed or they might be caught, but they will have forgotten the penalty. Goldman will remember because the size of the fine will impact its bottom line and bonuses for employees. That doesn't mean, however, that someone else will find new and creative ways to bilk the public.
Thursday, December 19, 2019
The President derides "fake news," but investigative reporting has revealed that partisan organizations are creating hundreds of phony web news sites. They are intended to spread disinformation under the guise of local reporting. They aren't doing any shoe-leather work. Computers fashion the stories taken from press releases and other sources. It's a sneaky trick and as far as is known, Russians have nothing to do with it. PR practitioners need to be aware of these false sites and avoid them. They have already gained a bad reputation and as time progresses, it will grow worse. It seems that foreign powers aren't our worst enemy after all. It is us.
Wednesday, December 18, 2019
What can one say about a company that doesn't keep its promises after reaping billions in tax abatements? It has a lousy reputation, but that doesn't seem to be enough to prevent it from doing it again. There is always a greater fool when cities and states are hungry for jobs. Wisconsin got bitten where it hurts and its governor lost his job as a result. Still, Foxconn persists in demanding the monies it was first promised if it would build an enormous factory. The drama has been going on for more than a year, and it is stale. Citizens of Wisconsin are fed up as they should be. Now, it is up to the political class to end the sham and move on. Will they do it?
Tuesday, December 17, 2019
Google's YouTube moderators have a tough assignment. They must watch hours of violent videos that have been sequestered by the service in order to determine whether they are fit for public viewing. Some of the low-paid personnel end up with PTSD and inadequate medical care for the condition. The stress is worse because many of them are contractors from an outside company and psychiatric help is minimal. This has the possibility of turning into a PR headache for Google and YouTube. It already is surfacing in the media, and both contractors and in-house employees can unite in protest of what they have to do. Google is winding up a year of internal upheaval and doesn't need more turmoil. The question now is how fast can the company handle the situation or will it let it fester? Google is learning the hard way that the bigger a corporation gets, the more headaches there are.
Monday, December 16, 2019
This reporter did what good journalists do when confronted by new technology. He used it to create a deepfake video by supplanting one person's face for another. It cost him $500 and two weeks of time. His conclusion? It's not as easy as it sounds and PR practitioners and others might not need to worry yet that their leaders will find their faces swapped with that of a porn actor in action. Still, he warns that it is a matter of time before the software is easier to use and people with lesser skills will be able to create their own deepfake videos. Then it will be a concern. He is, perhaps, too optimistic about the public learning to distrust video without corroboration of its authenticity. Many are gullible. It will require, as it does now, close monitoring and swift reaction when a deepfake shows up. Public figures, especially, need to be wary.
Friday, December 13, 2019
When you're a minor player in a tough, unforgiving marketplace, you should be allowed to merge to survive. But that is not the way state's attorneys general see it with the proposed merger of Sprint and T-Mobile US. They say that reducing the wireless market to three big players rather than two and a group of also-rans will harm competition. Sprint and T-Mobile have had an impossible time convincing them. AG's see oligopoly. When the market is divided into three, they say, there will be no incentive to cut rates. Who is right? The FCC has backed the merger but that hasn't convinced the AG's. It has turned into a PR and lobbying struggle for the two companies. Chances are they will merge, but they might have to give up more than what they have offered so far. It is not a pretty position to be in.
Thursday, December 12, 2019
Communicators can boast that they have one of the oldest known jobs in the world. The recent cave paintings found in Indonesia are proof of that. Why then is the job so difficult? It seems everyday individuals and organizations suffer from communications breakdowns. It is as if there is an innate denial of the need to send messages to employees, the public and investors. The penchant for secrecy is as universal as the need to talk to others. Businessmen, especially, like to squirrel away nuggets of information they think would allow competitors an advantage, so they don't inform employees of what is happening in their companies until it is too late. CEOs who do work hard at communicating see a competitive advantage over time. One would think they would be a model for other business leaders, but they aren't. So communicating is among the oldest professions, but it still is a challenge in the modern day.
Wednesday, December 11, 2019
This article details how the US government misled the American people on the Afghanistan war. It painted a rosy picture of the conflict where thorns were growing. Now, more than a decade later, we're mired in the country with few ways to get out. There is little worse than government fabrications. We are forced to trust them as citizens and are unable to do much when that trust is abused except for the ballot box. This blog has written before about the abuse of power by prosecutors. The power of the national government to lie is worse because so many more civilians are involved. Those in office wonder why the public is cynical. The answer is that they have not trusted the people to accept the truth. It is a PR faux pas to hide facts from the public, and inevitably they come back to bite. Now it is the turn of the Middle East. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was Vietnam. Truth-telling is hard but it is better in the long run.
Tuesday, December 10, 2019
Waymo, Alphabet's driverless technology company, has taken a go-slow approach to robot vans. It is deeply aware of the negative PR and potential regulation that could befall it should it push the software and hardware too quickly. Waymo is offering "rider only" transport in Phoenix suburbs and has plans to extend its service to other cities, but not too quickly. Tesla, with its brash approach, has had several, widely publicized accidents with its hands-free driving technology. Waymo is attempting to avoid that, and it is the smart strategy to take. The problems it has discovered in its extensive testing have driven home to the company that driverless vehicles must solve immensely complicated scenarios that humans adjust to quickly. It is not easy to predict what a van will encounter on the streets. "Rider only" is costing Alphabet and Waymo hundreds of millions and the payoff is uncertain. In the end, will it be cheaper to have a human with hands on the wheel? It is not clear yet but the next five years should reveal the answer.
Friday, December 06, 2019
Consulting fees can be a crisis when working for the government. That's because contracts are usually made public and are subject to criticism. Few like the dollar-per-hour charges consulting firms have. They don't understand that overhead, salary and profit are worked into the billing amount. They do have a point when juniors are elevated to sky high rates. There are few young consultants who have a deep understanding of the challenges an organization faces. They lack experience for which there is no substitute. Answers might seem right on the surface, but they can be wrong given the culture of an entity and its history. Firms like McKinsey trade on their brand names and get away with higher billings, but they are going under a microscope. They might not be able to do that for much longer in government contracts. Critics will rejoice.
Thursday, December 05, 2019
NASA has a built-in PR machine -- discovery of new phenomena in space. It just released early results from its Parker satellite, which is close to the sun. One might think the public would grow weary of hearing news about the universe, but that is not the case. Each new observation gains press attention, as it should. The 20th and 21st Century of exploration has fundamentally changed our view of the world. We really are a blue marble isolated in a solar system in which all planets but our own are hostile to life as we know it. Dreams of alien worlds and new peoples are science fiction. Unless something violates physics, we will never investigate planets light-years away in other solar systems, but what we have learned is already enough to keep scientists working for decades. And there is more to come. Each new satellite, rover and space lab divulges unanticipated secrets. We are living in an era of the new Columbus. It's exciting.
Wednesday, December 04, 2019
Senator Kamala Harris has dropped out of the Democratic race for the presidential nomination. Was cash the primary problem as she alleged? Only partially. She didn't have a message that gained voters' attention. It is the same problem most of the contestants have. They are me-too or worse. They don't have effective ground games. They are scraping for dollars wherever they can get them. It is as much a PR problem as anything. They aren't relating to the public. They can't make their voices heard over the noise of other candidates. There is no good answer to this. Advertising can help a little but it is only for awareness. The voter might know a name but not what it stands for. Even front-runners are having trouble this year. Most are looking at Iowa but the state is fluid. The next six months will tell the tale. At this time, it is hard to place a bet on who will survive.
Tuesday, December 03, 2019
As this article discusses, brick-and-mortar stores are not dead yet. They are becoming fulfillment sites for online shopping, experiential venues and sources for expertise not readily available online. Amazon itself is in the brick-and-mortar business with its Whole Foods stores and new retail sites that are cashier-less. As convenient as it is to shop online with home delivery, there are still some things people would rather get for themselves. It is unclear what the long-term future is for brick-and-mortar stores, however. One issue that online retailers will have to fix is thievery after delivery. The New York Times reported that 90,000 packages a day go missing in the five boroughs. That is more than enough to give brick-and-mortar a new life. The near future will see retailers continuing to shrink with some moving successfully to a mix of online and in-store shopping. It will require time, successful web sites, logistics and bucks. Stores like Walmart and Home Depot will survive. Others won't.
Monday, December 02, 2019
Infrastructure can be a major PR problem when situations happen like this. EV's don't have enough charging stations nationwide. They need to be as available as gas stations but they aren't -- not yet anyway. The lack of rechargers can make the difference between purchasing an EV or a hybrid, which doesn't need them. Tesla understands this and is moving quickly to put in stations in all 50 states but until they become commonplace, many consumers will think about EVs but choose something else. Press releases won't solve this PR challenge. It takes infrastructure.