Monday, November 30, 2020

Counting Down 

 The Supreme Court is taking up the administration's case against counting illegal immigrants in the 2020 census.  It is one more effort by Trump and the Republicans to influence apportionment of House seats, and it is not clear which way the court will lean.  The language of the Constitution does not say to count them. "...the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons."  But the Census has counted everyone all the way along.  The administration's contention is suspect PR and naked politics.  One would hope for better but Trump has kicked at nearly every limit to his authority and power and gotten away with it.  Republican lawmakers were supine and impeachment went nowhere.  One can hope we have seen the last of Trump after the inauguration, but he still has 70+ million followers in the country.  That's a large minority, ready to support him again in four years.  

Friday, November 27, 2020


 What does the President-elect do to unify a polarized country?  He can ask for unity but millions of disaffected citizens won't listen.  Rather, they discuss among themselves a stolen election and the perfidy of Democrats.  For that they use the internet and web sites catering to their conspiracies.  Politicians are to blame for a good part of the split republic.  They have campaigned on vilifying opponents and inciting rage against them.  They will continue to do so until the public is weary of charges and counter-charges and mud-throwing.  What is certain is that campaign tactics used by many is lousy PR.  It claws down both good and bad candidates and leaves them smeared with feces and a civic body of opponents.  When will campaigners realize enough is enough?  Not until they start to lose elections, and that might be a long time to come.

Thursday, November 26, 2020


 After telling city residents to stay home as much as possible for Thanksgiving, Denver's mayor traveled to Mississippi to be with his wife and daughter.  He has apologized to his constituents but it is unlikely they will forget the hypocrisy.  His excuse rings hollow.  Everyone wants to be with family during this time of year.  The point of isolation is to stop COVID by keeping apart.  Denver's mayor has affirmed that quarantine rules apply to everyone except those in power.  It's a bad message and deserves reprisal at the ballot box. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Fighting On 

President Trump continues to fight his election loss and now appears to be ready to go to Pennsylvania for a GOP event alleging voting irregularities in that state. Trump's efforts are an appeal to his substantial base not to give up.  The rest of the electorate looks on in dismay and wonders if he has tilted into madness.  But insane he is not.  There already is talk he will run again in 2024, so if he can cement allegations of voter fraud in his supporters' minds today, he can reactivate them four years from now.  It's political marketing.  Although it has been said that President-elect Biden has no interest in going after Trump for Trump's behavior, Biden might be forced to let the law take its way if Trump is indicted for tax fraud and if he should go bankrupt.  Trump is a master self-promoter who can make failure seem like success, and this is what he is doing now by fighting on.  He should not be taken lightly.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Worker Challenges 

 Amazon.com has hundreds of thousands of workers in its warehouses and delivery machine.  It seems to upset them regularly and is facing a challenge of unionization.  The company trips itself up by offering skimpy coupon bonuses to some workers and $3,000 signing bonuses to others.    The company doesn't seem to realize that its employees talk to one another through the internet and there isn't anything it can do in one warehouse that is unknown in all of the others.  The corporation will have to realize sooner or later it needs to treat employees even-handedly even if that is more costly.  Labor shortages drive wages and bonuses but that is Amazon's point of view.  Its workers see the disparity and complain, and now are organizing.  Amazon can blame no one but itself for this PR gaffe, and it is ironic that the company's success through the internet has become its mistake through the same medium.  

Monday, November 23, 2020

Ads Not Enough 

The Ad Council is planning a major campaign to convince consumers to get vaccinated for COVID-19.  Ads won't be enough for skeptics.  They need the personal touch of their doctor and other health-care professionals they trust.  The campaign will educate the public about the availability of the vaccine, but the crucial step to overcome fears can't be contained in a generic message. There is a huge role for PR, supplying physicians with materials they can pass on, suggested messages to patients, personal demonstrations of getting vaccinated oneself, speaking out in local communities and more.  The healthcare profession will lead the way: Ads will be a supplement.  This is not to denigrate advertising but to emphasize the local nature of the task.  Most people will comply as they see their own doctors and others safely taking the vaccine.  Some will never reach that point but it is hoped they will be a minority.  It is a huge task given the politicization of the pandemic and it will require months if not years to complete.

Friday, November 20, 2020

PR Blow 

Tesla's Model S and Y cars have been dropped from Consumer Report's recommended list because of quality problems.  That stings and is a blow to the company's PR.  Although Tesla is the leader in all-electric vehicles, poor quality manufacturing opens it to competitors who can the same job better.  Think General Motors, which is coming after Tesla with a major commitment of resources.  It is a pity that the company, which popularized electric cars should be building them badly.  Tesla still has time to turn its quality around, but it isn't a lot.  When competitors enter the ring in the months to come, the public will have a choice, and if Tesla isn't up to snuff, they will go elsewhere.  Elon Musk might want to halt his rush to build trucks and other models and pay more attention to what he is already manufacturing.

Thursday, November 19, 2020


 If true, this is an unusually heartless and crass move on the part of Tyson Foods managers.  It's the subject of a lawsuit, so one must be careful about the validity of the contention.  Still, the allegation is a PR nightmare for the company and for the leaders of the pork processing plant.  It shows disregard for the health and safety of employees.  Even if the charge is proven untrue, there is lingering doubt over safety measures at the facility, which was eventually shut down over COVID concerns.  The work in meat processing plants is hard and dangerous normally.  It was doubly difficult as the virus spread.  A proper move would have been pre-emptive procedures to protect workers, which might have included more than Plexiglas shields between work stations.  The company says there were temperature scanners available and it kept social distancing procedures.  Still, five workers died of the disease, so something was not right. Tyson needs to do its own impartial investigation of what happened at the plant and come clean.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Time To Rebuild 

 The Boeing 737 Max has been recertified to fly again.  Now, the company can start the slow and years-long process of rebuilding credibility with airlines and their customers.  The deaths of 346 people on two planes due to a faulty sensor and software was a profound blow.  The system of checks and rechecks failed both at Boeing and the FAA.  The two organizations were pilloried and business-as-usual underwent scathing review.  Neither will live down the failure but they can be rehabilitated with rigorous and strict certification that is unbending and uncompromising.  Boeing was rushing the airliner to market to compete with Airbus.  Under pressure, its engineers cut corners, most likely without realizing it.  The company can never do that again and expect to survive.  There is no acceptable margin of risk.  The Max needs to fly millions of miles without incident until pilots and passengers have implicit trust in them.  Boeing has learned from this mistake, but it dare not make it again.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Not So Fast 

 While news media trumpet the arrival of two effective vaccines to guard against COVID-19, there is another story that tempers the excitement.  That is how to distribute them when there is a need to keep an ultra-cold environment.  Both Pfizer and Moderna are working quickly on solutions for transporting the medicines but they are far from a complete solution.  The problem is there are not enough refrigerated trucks and other conveyances to keep the vaccine from thawing and losing potency.  So while the two companies benefitted from publicity about the vaccines' effectiveness, their emerging success overshadows the real challenge of logistics.  The two companies could be breeding a PR nightmare for themselves as they roll out millions of doses only to find they can't efficiently distribute them.  One hopes PR executives in the two companies are cautioning their bosses about stoking excitement over initial success.  There is still a long way to go.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Long-term Credibility 

Here is a review of Tesla ownership from a person who has driven one for 227,000 miles and kept close records of costs. He notes the downsides of ownership but recommends the auto for its low fuel costs if not for its repair record.  This is long-term credibility Tesla needs as it takes its place among auto giants gunning for its market share of electrical vehicles.  Tesla is an extraordinary story among car manufacturers.  It singlehandedly took the moribund electrical market and refashioned it into a viable arena for transportation.  Other vehicle builders are now in a race to catch up, but Tesla has an advantage with tens of thousands of cars on the road and continuous feedback for how they are working.  Tesla has managed to fix things on the fly when its data streams indicate defects. It is not unusual for one to see a Tesla now.  They seem to be everywhere.  That alone is positive credibility for the company.

Friday, November 13, 2020


 When an individual or organization opts for transparency, it is hard to step back into secrecy in the future.  Hard, but not impossible.  This comment on the Vatican's exhaustive report into an American cardinal's sexual escapades is hopeful but not believable.  It might be true the present pope cannot retreat from his vow of openness, but that doesn't speak for popes to come.  It might well be a future pontiff reinstalls a shroud of secrecy over misdoings among the church hierarchy.  He would be criticized, but nothing could stop him, not even public pressure from the faithful.  The Roman Catholic Church is an authority unto itself.  It answers to no one in secular authority and as such is free to change rules and procedures.  This is not good but is a fact.  About the only outcome that might make a pope act might be a decline in the faithful who no longer believe the Church speaks for God on earth.  That is a reality already in First World countries where a fall in the Roman Catholic population is significant. Transparency might not put a stop to the deterioration but temporarily accelerate it because it demonstrates hypocrisy among the hierarchy.  There is no perfect path for the pope to follow, but he should be commended for acting transparently so far.  

Thursday, November 12, 2020


 It's a tricky marketing challenge to start charging for something you offered for free.  Consider Google Photos.    It has announced its unlimited, no-charge storage for photos is being ended.  It will start requiring payment after 15 gigabytes with different subscription levels based on the amount of capacity one buys.  Of course, the company is going to lose some users.  The question is how many.  Once one is ensconced in a service, it is hard to change, and Google is depending on that.  Still, it is a dent in the reputation of a company that it is taking away something.  Google is handling customer relations properly.  It is not making the change until June 21, 2021, plenty of time for one to find another service.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020


 The Trump Administration has swept the civilian ranks of Pentagon officials and installed loyalists in the last two days.  That should trouble American citizens.  It is unclear what Trump can and will do with yes-men in charge of airmen, soldiers and sailors.  Trump has one concern -- to overturn the results of the election -- and he has surrounded himself with slavish admirers willing to act in order to do that.  The message of the replaced officials is that Trump is getting ready to do something to ensure he stays in office.  One can think the worst and not be far off.  Trump wants to be an autocrat, a dictator who rules with his own whims and has subordinates who do his will without asking about moral, legal or ethical issues.  American democracy is in peril, especially with millions of supporters who are unhappy he has lost the election and eager to uphold anything he does.  A cornered Trump is a dangerous man, and it will not be too soon to get rid of him.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020


 It's refreshing when a sport's figure shucks media-speak and states his mind about his performance.  Like this.  Cam Newton is in the middle of a rough year when little is going right for him. The New England Patriots quarterback has been throwing interceptions and missing receivers regularly.  The Patriots are now far from an unbeatable team and their record is dismal.  It is time for an honest examination of self and Newton to his credit has done that publicly.  Will it save his career?  It is too early to know.  If he improves for the rest of the year and the Patriots start winning again, he will most likely stay in his position.  If not, look for another play caller in his place.  Putting one's ego aside and telling it like it is remains a bedrock of good PR.  Even if Newton doesn't remain the Patriots' quarterback, he has earned credibility from sports fans.

Monday, November 09, 2020

Too Soon? 

 Pfizer has announced its COVID-19 vaccine is 90 percent effective, but results have been announced early in the efficacy study.  The company says it is a "great day for science and humanity."  The question to be answered as research concludes is whether the initial findings hold up.  It would be a PR disaster if Pfizer subsequently had to downgrade the vaccine's potency.  The stock market is not waiting for a final answer.  Dow Futures soared and enthusiasm is on the edge of wild.  One hopes the company is accurate in its assessment.  The country can't use another disappointment, especially since COVID cases are surging again and hospitals are feeling the strain of thousands of patients and too few beds.  Once FDA approval comes, people will still wait for months to get a shot and reality will set in.

Friday, November 06, 2020

Not Free 

 Jack Ma, the billionaire entrepreneur of China has learned the hard way that free speech is not free in the communist country.  His verbal attack on the banking system was met by a suspension of a multi-billion IPO for his Ant Group.  Ma learned that authorities strike back painfully if one talks out of turn.  Ma would have been safe in the US for voicing his thoughts.  Even with raised eyebrows of regulators, the IPO would have gone through.  It is hard for activists around the world to understand the permissions and limits of American free speech and to know if it applies to themselves.  For most, there are barriers one dare not cross, and Ma paid no attention to them.  PR and marketing practitioners take note once again.  In China, rules are different and one doesn't buck the party's authority for long.  It is true for most authoritarian regimes in the world.  

Thursday, November 05, 2020


 This presidential election has turned into a hotbed of rumors as each side vies for supremacy.  There are two tactics that election officials can take to calm citizenry -- transparency and communication.  Pennsylvania is transmitting live video of the counting operation that anyone can monitor.  Other authorities are speaking out to knock down fast-flying misinformation.  Still, protestors are gathering at vote counting sites and calling for change.  They are within their rights to do that, but they will be wrong if they attempt to raid the locations and trash ballots.  It's looking now like Biden-Harris will be declared winners later today, but the suspense is raising anxiety in both camps and Trump has already said he won't abide by the election results.  Look for more protests as the days go by -- especially if Biden claims victory.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

$200 Million 

 That's the number gig-economy companies spent in California to prevent independent workers from becoming full-time employees.  It was expensive marketing but the companies said they were fighting for their lives.  They won overwhelmingly.  One must ask how laborers' rights fit into employment that defines the gig environment.  It is not clear and we probably won't know for years, especially if the independent worker movement grows to include many more gig companies.  It is already clear that gig contractors barely make a living and are best off handling assignments as part-time jobs.  This doesn't take into account those forced to work full-time and aren't making it.  The more gig contractors, the greater the impetus to guarantee them rights, which they don't have now -- a basic wage, health care, a set number of hours worked per week.  It is a dark side of Silicon Valley, which ultimately governments will have to control.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Hard To Ignore 

 Election day is hard to ignore, especially this one.  We have a President who has tarred America's reputation the world over and spun thousands of lies about nearly everything.  There is a chance he will be re-elected.  We have a challenger who is empathetic, an experienced pol, a survivor of tragedies and a dedicated family man.  It is hard to know at this hour who will win.  Both men have barnstormed battleground states.  Trump has drawn large, enthusiastic crowds.  Biden, following Pandemic protocol, has spoken to people parked in their cars.  If crowd reactions win elections, Trump has an excellent chance.  If moral decency is the criterion, Biden will win going away.  The reputation of the country hangs in a balance.  It is not hysterical to say the leadership of the free world will be decided by tomorrow.  One can only hope -- and pray.

Monday, November 02, 2020


 This is an example of hype from an automotive company.  As one might expect, the article comes from the Detroit Free Press, which is deeply invested in the success of the industry.  While the article carries the stamp of third-party credibility, it gushes about the new electric Mustang to the point of embarrassment.  The real facts about the vehicle will have to wait until the car debuts and is sold to customers who can experience for themselves whether it has the attributes claimed for it.  While the article is good publicity, it is suspect PR because the reporter made no pretense of being objective.  It was as if she was paid by Ford to write the piece.  Once the Mach-E has been tested by impartial car journalists, we will then know whether it is worth the acclaim that was gratuitously given in this article.

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