Friday, July 31, 2020

Progressive Mendacity 

President Trump is a Napoleon-wannabe from the Animal Farm, Orwell's satirical novel from the 1940s.  His lies are progressive from declaring voting by mail to be rife with fraud to now positing that the election should be delayed until the polls are made secure and fair.  The big lie has a natural evolution to a larger one, and if people accept the first instance of mendacity, they are likely to accept the next.  It is a principle on which propaganda is built.  Fortunately for the nation, Republicans rebelled against Trump's suggestion immediately.  They have a spark of law and humanity left in them, albeit small.  There is little chance the election will be moved nor that Trump will remain in power for one day longer than is his due by law.  The shocking part of Trump's idea is that he expressed it at all.  It reveals a self-referential person who believes he is beyond the constitution.  Whether or not Trump goes down in disgrace in November, he will be a case study for generations of what happens when a sociopath gains power.  

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Poetic Justice 

A Texas Congressman who vowed not to wear a mask -- and didn't -- has tested positive for COVID-19.  It serves him right but what good is that to thousands of voters who followed his example?  Politicians, whether they like it or not, have a leadership role.  That he refused to wear a mask jeopardized more than his colleagues in the House.  It is all so unnecessary.  The medical guidelines emphasized the use of masks and social distancing.  Politicizing the rules with eyes on likeminded voters was dumb.  He might get reelected but he also might lose some of them through death by virus. The myth of Texas has been exploded in the pandemic.  

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Trial By Fire 

Jeff Bezos is getting his moment in the searing light of a Congressional hearing.  For his sake, he better hope he is ready.  Did he do a murder board with staff and lobbyists?  Did he prepare his initial statement carefully with the Congresspersons and the American public in mind?  Executives from the American tobacco and oil/gas industries can tell him how difficult such hearings can be.  One congressperson after another will play showhorse by berating him on national TV.  Hearings are theater for the political class.  They rarely are objective inquiries, especially in an election year.  In today's case, the issue of monopoly will come to the fore.  Congress has heard the cries of the smaller players in Silicon Valley and members will take up their cudgel.  Will there be much fallout from the time in the spotlight?  It's hard to say with a divided polity, but if Democrats win both Houses in November's elections, the enormous tech companies should worry.  Meanwhile, sit back and evaluate Jeff's performance.  

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

On Notice 

No company wants to receive a Wells Notice from the Security and Exchange Commission.  It is a statement of intent to conduct regulatory action against the business.  It is also a major PR and reputational challenge for the organization, and its stock will almost certainly take a hit as it did for Under Armor, the athletic clothing manufacturer.  Getting examined by the SEC is a serious business.  The agency doesn't move unless there is probable cause for doing so.  In this case, it was accounting chicanery -- moving sales from one quarter to another in order to look better.  Under Armor's CEO and CFO say they are not guilty and they look forward to clearing the potential charge with the SEC.  Good luck on that.  

Monday, July 27, 2020

Stepping In It 

GOP Senator Tom Cotton stepped into a PR controversy when he described slavery as a "necessary evil" during an interview.  Cotton tried to say he was reflecting the view of the Founders of the country, but his words were out there before he could explain them away.  There is no good way for him to reconcile "Black lives matter" with institution-driven bondage of men, women and children.  Even if he was citing history, he should have known the nation is highly sensitive to race issues.  It was inappropriate to describe slavery that way.  He might have paraphrased his words and still reached the point he was trying to make, but he didn't.  And, anyway, there is no dispute that some of Founding Fathers were against slavery at the time the Constitution was drawn -- notably, Franklin, Adams and Hamilton.  Slavery has cursed this country with a race issue that might never go away -- even as African-Americans struggle into the middle and wealthy class.  It has survived generations of Americans and there is a strong chance it will live through many more.

Friday, July 24, 2020

When Will They Learn? 

There is a type of executive who believes rules don't apply to him.  And, it is a he rather than a she. Consider this case.  A president in charge of women's magazines who degrades women in office situations.  Why hadn't he been fired long ago?  There is an unspoken rule in such situations.  If a person can successfully operate, we will overlook his indiscretions.  That rule is changing by the day now as women come forward with tales of harassment and pressure put on them.  The top executive of the present must guard his tongue now and avoid off-color humor or anything that might offend subordinates.  It is no longer good enough to be one of the boys.  Executives direct a diverse population today that is easily offended by rough language.  It is safe to say most Fortune 500 executives are aware of the strictures on their speech.  The offenders are a minority, but they are at last being called out.  Still one must ask about the minority, "When will they learn?"

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Not True 

Joe Biden has an excellent opportunity of becoming President according to the polls, but he does himself no favors when he makes this kind of statement publicly.  Biden helps no one, least of all himself, by stooping to the ad hominem invective of President Trump.  Biden's PR strategy should be to stick to facts first.  The facts are that several US Presidents, including our Founding Fathers, were racist and kept slaves.  Most recently, Princeton University stripped the name of Woodrow Wilson from one of its buildings because of Wilson's racist views.  Biden's weakness has always been that he bungles facts and makes up his personal history as he goes along.  In that, he is not unlike the President.  The difference between the two is that Biden has a moral center and empathy, which are lacking in Trump.  Biden should strive to be accurate because that perception will set him apart along with his emotional link to the average American.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020


If there is little one can say, fear is a good motivator.  Create a scenario in which people are in peril unless they do something.  Thus, messages about wearing a mask and keeping social distance to prevent COVID-19.  But there is another kind of fear that is ginned up and irresponsible.  Politicians use it regularly.  Consider Trump's ads targeted at suburban dwellers.  If they vote Democratic, their lifestyles will be destroyed by radical left politicians.  The absurdity of the claim is evident, but some will believe it.  The question is how many?  Trump is lagging badly in the polls.  Biden is hoping the public will see through his chicanery.  So far, they are, but there are still 100 days until the election.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Too Cute 

Trader Joe, the food retailer, has used lighthearted names for its international products for years.  Trader Jose for Mexican foods.  Trader Ming for Asian and Chinese fare.  Arabian Joe for still more products.  The company now admits its cute names are racist and will be phased out.  It was a good marketing tactic before increased sensitivity to ethnic minorities.  Changing the names back to Trader Joe is a recognition that public opinion and perception has shifted.  Sticking with the names would have made the chain look out of step and a passe marketer.  It takes time to replace packaging and push new branding through a logistics chain.  It will be weeks or months before the store reflects its new sensitivity,  but before the year is out, Trader Joe will be a neutral brand again.

Monday, July 20, 2020


President Trump had a combative interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News that aired yesterday.  Trump was his usual self, creating "facts" to support his views.  But, there was one response that was dangerous.  It was his answer to Wallace's query whether Trump would recognize election results in November.  Trump waffled in his reply, saying, "We'll see."  This, of course, gives him an out if he wants to claim voter fraud and that he won the race.  Such non-response is dangerous to the public and the government.  If the race is close, Trump can claim he indeed won but for fraud.  If the race is overwhelmingly against him, he can still claim irregularities, but it would be harder for him to hang on to his office.  Look for Trump to assign a commission to investigate any results that go against him.  It will be pathetic PR and counterproductive but there is no shame in the man.

Friday, July 17, 2020

So Much For The Future 

The Segway, the two-wheeled, self-balancing mobility of the future, has gone out of production.  So much for predictions of the future.  Rarely has an invention been introduced with greater hype.  It would change the world.  It would make cars redundant.  It solved transportation's "last mile" problem.  It did none of those things and now it is gone for good.  How could predictions be so wrong?  It is one more example of the unknown unknowns in life.  These are things we can't foresee, and in the case of the Segway, it was the market space for the product.  It just wasn't there.  It's not that the manufacturer tried.  It did, but there was no demand for it, as sophisticated and user-based as the technology was.  Segway is not the first such failure.  The landscape is littered with products that were ahead of their time and disappeared unmourned by consumers.  All the market planning of sophisticated business people went for naught.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Arranging Deck Chairs 

The news that President Trump has hired a new campaign manager is arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.  His ship is sinking and it needs to plug the hole filling compartments.  Instead, Trump's attention is on externals.  The problem with Trump's desire for a second term is Trump himself.  He has been inconsistent, obdurate, fallacious and bullying.  His lack of managerial and political skills are now obvious to the majority of voters.  Trump has concentrated on his base of disaffected conservatives and rallied them with provocative statements.  The problem is that he has lost independents whom he needs in large numbers to win in November.  It is true that the now-former campaign leader made some egregious gaffes, but that doesn't help Trump who hired him in the first place.  Right now, it is looking like the Trump administration will sink in deep waters of the American electorate, but it is right to be cautious.  Few thought he would win in 2016. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020


Two TV channels cut away from President Trump's Rose Garden news briefing yesterday when they concluded Trump's remarks had veered into campaign rhetoric.  The article notes that Trump went from "topic to topic."  The New York Times this morning reported on the stream of consciousness of the briefing by listing the topics in order of comment.  There was no logic to it.  It was rambling in the worst sense of the word.  The Biden campaign did not comment on the briefing, which was probably the best strategy.  Trump demonstrated in his own words why he is not fit to lead the nation.  Trump's communications director must be in despair or has drunk the Kool-Aid.  Letting Trump be Trump worked for one election but it is inimical to the present campaign.  There is still an outside chance that Trump will win a second term, but that chance is receding by the week -- and there is not much time left.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

PR Nightmare 

Airlines are experiencing a PR nightmare -- passengers who get sick with COVID-19 after flying with them.  Delta is the latest example.  The passengers were asymptomatic during the time they were on the plane and came down with the disease the day after flying.  Knowing the gestation period of the virus, the travelers were potentially infecting everyone on the flight.  What can airlines do?  For one, they can increase the distance between passengers as they did when the pandemic started.  Secondly, they can mandate masks onboard aircraft.  There isn't much they can accomplish by taking temperatures at the gate or looking for symptoms such as the loss of taste and smell.  The passengers hadn't experienced that yet.  Airlines have to worry that passengers who claim they were infected on their planes will sue or badmouth them.  It is an ongoing crisis for the industry.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Too Little, Too Late 

A Texas man who died of COVID 19 admitted on his death bed that he was wrong for considering the virus a hoax.  The hospital where he died said the fellow admitted to attending a COVID party, a gathering where individuals are exposed to the disease to see if it exists.  It is hard to grieve for an individual who showed gullibility and stupidity.  Yet, there are millions like him today.  They mass on beaches, boardwalks and in malls without protection and dare the sickness to claim them.  What publicity is needed to persuade them to take precautions?  It seems nothing will make a difference.  People are tired of restraining themselves as they had been doing for three months.  Even testimony from deceased victims is not enough.  This reminds one of anti-smoking advertisements in which haggard, gray-skinned individuals said they were dying from cancer.  They were horrifying to those who did not smoke, to smokers less so.  The virus is raging, yet people continue to think magically that they are not going to be infected with it.      

Friday, July 10, 2020

Better Get It Right 

Disney World in Orlando, FL is reopening to millions of entertainment seekers, but it is doing it at a time when COVID 19 cases are surging in the state.  The company's physician has said Disney is deeply concerned but ready to accommodate workers and the public.  One can only hope the company has got it right.  Otherwise, it will be a PR disaster and a blow to Disney's reputation as a family-oriented company.  No doubt, tort lawyers will be on the hunt for people who claim they were infected at the park, and it will only take a case or two for the company to be put on its heels.  There is an economic urgency for Disney World to reopen soon, but not at the expense of the public.  There is no good answer to the situation.  Disney will have to institute extreme safety measures and hope they are good enough.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

What Now?  

Around the nation, protestors and local governments are taking down Confederate memorials.  It is a recognition after more than a century and a half that the South's reliance on slavery to bolster its economy was wrong and states' rights arguments were fiction.  So, the noble statues of Lee on Traveller are disappearing along with those of his generals and memorials to ordinary soldiers.  But the largest monument of all remains because it might be too difficult and expensive to remove it.  This is the bas relief carved into the rock of Stone Mountain outside Atlanta.  Everything about it is huge, and the park that spreads out before it is a testimony to the gentility of the Old South without mentioning slavery.  In other words, the mountain and the park are a lie write large.  What might be needed, to reference a Black scholar, is to allow the monument to survive but to put it into context.  All that one sees is a Jim Crow and KKK vision of what the South meant to its bitter survivors.  It's ugly in every respect but instructive.  Segregation is gone, but racism survives.  Black officeholders and citizens of the future might use the monument as testimony to the hatred they triumphed over.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Marketing Coup 

Lysol is the first hard-surface cleaner to be EPA approved to kill the coronavirus.  That is a marketing coup for the brand, as if it needed it, and a PR success.  The challenge for Lysol since the beginning of the pandemic has been to stock shelves.  That is a hurdle that all household cleaner brands have faced.  However, when supply finally catches up with demand, Lysol has a PR and marketing message that will put it at the head of the pack.  This is as significant as the American Dental Association approval of Crest toothpaste, which Procter & Gamble used to gain a large market share.  Look for the company to put "EPA-approved" on all of its bottles and spray containers and to launch a media campaign in which it emphasizes the germ- and virus-killing strength of the product.  The third-party endorsement is gold in the bank.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Where Is The Third Party? 

President Trump's poll numbers have cratered, and his only hope is that he can recover rapidly before the election or that the Democratic vote will be split by a third party.  Previous presidents at his low rating won when the opposition was split.  This year, progressives are staying put with the understanding that splitting the ticket might be fatal to getting rid of Trump.  It is a disciplined approach and smart marketing. Democrats are projecting unity, which barely holds beneath the surface.  If it were a more normal year without a Trump to oppose, the left-wing of the Democratic party might well have backed Bernie Sanders as a third-party candidate.  Trump hasn't helped himself with his mismanagement of the pandemic, his race-baiting and fear campaign.  And, he is digging himself in deeper every day.  Democrats must be thrilled but cautious.  After all, Trump won in 2016 with the same basic message.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Environmental Victory 

Developers have abandoned their long-sought $8 billion Atlantic Coast pipeline in a victory for environmentalists and landowners along the route.  It is not often grass-roots organizing can claim such success and the result is sure to be controversial.  The lack of a new pipeline carrying methane gas to the Eastern Seabord might jeopardize business and homeowners in years to come.  There is no clean answer to such a situation, no defined right and wrong.  It is a clash of opinion and perception with facts on both sides.  Ultimately, the one who can tie up the other in court will win through delay and mounting expense.  The developers could have slogged on and drained the accounts of environmental groups in a scorched earth tactic, but they chose not to.  Instead, they looked at their own outlays and decided enough was enough.  So, it is one more victory for those guarding land, waters, flora and fauna.  Only time will tell if they are right.  

Friday, July 03, 2020


Elon Musk plays a dangerous game.  He goes out of his way to provoke the Securities and Exchange Commission   He is incapable of holding his tongue in mocking the agency.  It is sad, poor PR and a ticket to injunctions.  Musk believes he is above the law, and as long as his companies are successful, he isn't going to take advice from the outside on what he says and does.  Musk, like Trump, is twitter-addicted, and he regularly gets himself into hot water for what he writes. The hard part for the SEC is that Tesla and Space X are both doing well.  Does the SEC take a chance of ruining two companies that employ thousands of workers and highly paid professionals?  If there was no "there there,"  the agency would pounce as it has with Ponzi schemes.  It has forced Musk already to give up the chairmanship of the auto company, pay a stiff fine and get his tweets pre-approved by a lawyer.  It could more, so much more, including removing Musk altogether from the leadership of his companies.  Does Musk realize that?

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Taking Cover 

 A year ago, every financier in Hong Kong was discussing freedom from Beijing's stern control.  Now they are biting their tongues and saying nothing after Beijing passed new measures preventing free speech. They are trying to get on and adapt to the new law.  Activists can no longer count on them for support.  As one senior executive in the city said, Hong Kong business is non-ideological.  It will work under constraints that keep the public down.  That is true in the rest of the world as well.  Economic transactions occur under the best and worst of circumstances.  There is no loyalty among business persons to countries or ideologies, so they take cover when they must.  It is craven in the eyes of activists and patriots but it is the way business survives.  Governments regulate them to inject a moral base where there is none and enforce loyalty as a condition of exchange, but it is not natural.  Hong Kong proves again that repression doesn't prevent business from thriving.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

PR Issue? 

Democrats are relying on Big Money again rather than grassroots fundraising.  Can it be turned into a PR issue to damage the party and Biden's candidacy?  Chances are it won't be since President Trump isn't turning down heavy checks either.  However, the internet has proven a candidate can make headway without hundred thousand dollar contributions from the wealthy and powerful.  This has already become a campaign and PR issue.  The argument is that Big Spenders want something for their money and will get it because they have bought an ear to air their concerns.  It is past time in American politics to let Big Spenders recede in importance.  They have had undue influence almost since the beginning of the country.  The problem was the inefficiency of collecting funds from thousands of small donors.  It cost more than the donations were worth.  That's no longer true.  Small donors were the backbone of some primary candidates this year.  It's past time for them to be the mainstay of general elections.

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