Thursday, December 31, 2020
2020 is at an end. Good riddance. It has been a lost year for many, if not most, of the world and 2021 is shaping up to begin the same. The COVID vaccine rollout has been stalled, as might be expected. A Republican Senator is set to object to the vote confirming electoral results favoring Biden and Harris. The economy will continue sputtering for months to come. Still, there is hope since there are now three vaccines and millions of doses on the way. 2021 will turn a corner we could not see in March of 2020. From a communications and marketing perspective, there is a giant role to play in convincing hundreds of millions worldwide to take a vaccine protecting them against the virus. This will require leadership and intense persuasion and might also require penalties for those against it -- a carrot and stick. As noted previously, there is another huge role for the media, PR and marketing, which is correcting lies and misinformation prevalent among millions of Americans. The country needs a semblance of unity. There will always be a dissident minority but the majority of citizens need to accept facts and base decisions on them. Here is a hope that 2021 will be a transition year to a brighter future.
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
A recent poll revealed that a large percentage of Americans believe conspiracy theories and misinformation. They cling to stories that support their world views and not the facts. If there was ever a time for proper public relations, this is it. The first rule of PR is accuracy, respect for the hard-edged realities of life. Contrary to popular belief, PR is not spin. It is persuasion based on facts and not fiction. Now is a time for practitioners to combat ignorance and willed disbelief. There is no gain for a country riven by falsehoods. Spinmeisters who claim to be PR professionals should be ostracized. Let them say what they want but not in the ranks of PR practitioners. The task is great enough without truth-twisters within. A New Year's resolution should be to start the long, slow process of guiding ill-informed citizens back to reality. It will take years of effort but there needs to be a start now that Trump, a font of falsehoods, is leaving office.
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
Child labor in the palm oil industry has become a crisis for the Girl Scouts. Palm oil is used in Girl Scout cookies and not all of it comes from plantations with sustainable practices and use of only adult labor. On the one hand, there are tens of thousands of young women selling cookies in the US. On the other hand, there are 10-year-olds cutting their hands as they gather the sharp-edged fruit in Indonesia. The Girl Scouts so far appear to have ducked the issue and pointed inquiries to the cookie producers. That is a PR faux pas. The right thing to do is to take public responsibility and work to ameliorate the problem. Sooner or later, if palm oil remains a hot button, the Girl Scouts will be compelled to act. By then, it will be too late for their reputation. The organization is beset with problems these days and might consider palm oil just one more headache to endure. Probably the largest pain for the nonprofit is the Boy Scouts decision to admit girls to their ranks. The Girl Scouts have sued the Boy Scouts, and cookies seem to be an after-thought.
Monday, December 28, 2020
The New York Post, a stalwart supporter of President Trump, has publicly called for him to acknowledge his loss and to move forward. It's practical advice and worth listening to. The unknown is whether Trump will take it. The President has isolated himself from the public and Congress and spent his time scheming for ways to overturn the vote and electoral college. Fanciful and treasonous solutions have been aired in the oval office and reported in the media. They portray a man desperate to avoid the moniker of loser. He has forsaken his public role as leader and created unnecessary turmoil in DC and the rest of the country. His vaunted role as a communicator has fallen and he risks losing supporters who stayed with him after his loss in November. Why would someone go that far in risking his legacy? One might assign insanity to the situation. But, dictators have done the same things to maintain their grip on power time and again. Trump wants to be a dictator, but our democratic system won't let him do it -- not yet, anyway.
Friday, December 25, 2020
There are times when a leader needs to show presence and concern for a project or policy in order for followers to remain calm and accepting. This isn't it. Golfing when COVID legislation is hanging in the balance and after Trump himself criticized the $600 relief check per person is dereliction of duty. Trump at least should have been at the White House and at most, conferencing with Republicans and Democrats to gain his want -- $2000 per person. It is clear that Trump never has and still doesn't get the role of a leader in a political environment. It is unclear whether he was the same when he was in private business, but it is likely. Trump's pique has left millions of Americans facing failure to pay rent, hunger and desolation at a time of year when the county gathers for holidays. It is a mystery that he maintains millions of supporters who readily fund his wishes. He has an unexplainable mystique, which will keep historians perplexed for decades to come. One can only hope we never get another President like him.
Thursday, December 24, 2020
The Russian cyberattack from earlier this year is now being disclosed publicly. By all accounts, it was devastating to governments and corporations alike. This highlights a nearly impossible task of protecting networks against sophisticated attackers. They have numerous doors to systems and more are opening all of the time as software companies update their code. Attention to security is not enough. One might not know that a line of instructions accidentally provides an opportunity for hacking. The bad guys have a head start. They are constantly probing, testing, devising new assaults on the integrity of systems. Their attacks are more than PR nightmares. The assaults threaten the existence of entities themselves. The US is taking cybersecurity seriously but is still not organized to combat intrusions before they can damage security. Here is a hope the new administration will take on the task of fighting hackers and limiting their destruction.
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
There are times when a leader can't win. Any decision will spark approbation and condemnation in equal measure. There is no path to consensus. So, the executive takes a deep breath and chooses with a hope that time will ameliorate the fracas that will ensue. That is the PR position California governor Gavin Newson finds himself in today. He chose the first Latino Senator for California taking over the position vacated by Kamala Harris who is rising to VP of the United States. The Latino community rejoiced. The Black community is enraged. African-Americans wanted a Black woman to replace Harris since she would have been the only one in the Senate. Newsom's political calculus was leavened by the long-term friendship between him and the newly promoted Senator. Newsom also is looking at the large Latino population in California and betting it will reward him at the polls. That could be a disaster for him if the Black community block votes for one of its own. There is no way to know at this point, but it is a classic can't win situation.
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
Stanford Medicine used an algorithm to determine who would get the first COVID shots and botched the assignment. The organization has sent an apology to its staff and taken complete responsibility for the mistake. That's as it should be, and it preserves the credibility and reputation of the leadership. There are times to admit mistakes and own up. One wishes that the President of the United States had learned this lesson rather than blaming someone else, declaring the issue false or somehow deflecting blame. Leaders know when to accept blame and how to respond. "I erred and it won't happen again." There is little better than a heartfelt apology for a dumb mistake.
Monday, December 21, 2020
The UK has set a judicial record by ruling that a 9-year-old girl's death was due to air pollution. This is the start of what will become more cases of injury from air quality and it will join existing law over water and soil degradation. One can easily imagine that the worst cities in the world for smog and smoke will be next on the docket and should be. Persuasion hasn't worked in getting citizens to reduce fouled air. That leaves the law, a blunt instrument but one that will work with greater impact than the communications from authorities. It will take time for new cases to reach courts but they will come, and perhaps then, there will be a start on reining in carbon-spewing vehicles.
Friday, December 18, 2020
The massive and critical cyberattack on the Federal and state governments is a time when the President should speak out and reassure the public. President Trump has remained silent. Instead, he has let cybersecurity agencies and experts sound the alarm and point the finger at a likely culprit -- Russia. There is no good reason for him to remain out of touch. He speaks out on the election being a fraud and whatever else interests him. It is one more failure of leadership, a hallmark of an unhappy four years for the country. In contrast, Biden has already commented on the invasion of systems and what he plans to do about it. It is as if Trump has transferred the office to his successor. Trump's presidency forms a long-term case study in communications disaster spawned by continuous lies to the public. It is also a valuable study in perception for the support he maintains in spite of his prevarication.
Thursday, December 17, 2020
What can be done about a leader who isolates himself from reality and lives passionately within his own bubble of lies and self-regard? This is the potential challenge facing President-elect Biden as he takes over from President Trump who is living in denial. Rumors are floating that Trump might refuse to leave the White House on inauguration day. There is no persuasion to handle a situation like this. Trump would have to be escorted from the building by security, and it would stain his reputation even more deeply than it already is. It is unlikely that Trump would go through with it. He has some survival instincts remaining, but he has surrounded himself with yes-men who are encouraging him to resist the election results and telling him only what he wants to hear. That's always a danger to a leader who should remain open to multiple points of view and facts. Sadly, Trump's election loss is still not a fact for him, and the longer he denies it, the more difficult it will be for Biden.
Wednesday, December 16, 2020
Millions of Venezuelans have left the country and its ruinous economy in an indictment of President Nicolas Maduro and his leftist policies. They're voting with their feet. Following them are tens of thousands of civil servants who have abandoned their jobs because the pay is too low to live on. The country is hollow at the core and ripe for upheaval but for Maduro's grip on the military. The dictator understands that the barrel of a gun can keep the public down, as long as he has the stomach to use it. Such behavior is ruthless, amoral and the opposite of listening to citizens and their needs. Maduro has a grasp on power that can only be shaken by the generals he liberally rewards to keep them in line. Should the day come when he can no longer dole out money and goods to them, his time in office will become tentative and eventually, he will go. Until then, he will plunge the country ever deeper into destruction and watch as his support withers.
Tuesday, December 15, 2020
President-elect Joe Biden lit into President Trump yesterday for Trump's denial of the election results. It needed to be said since Trump's efforts are anti-democratic and authoritarian. There should be no room in the American political system for either of those two policies. Biden repeated his statement that he wants to be President for all Americans and not just for those who voted for him. That is the proper attitude, but the reality is that it will take time for sore losers to lessen their anger and go along with the rest of the public. There is a chance that the biggest loser, Trump, will never concede. Be that as it may. As long as Trump no longer interferes with the machinery of state, he can say what he wishes. One can hope that citizens tire of hearing his claims of fraud and move on leaving Trump isolated in his grievances.
Monday, December 14, 2020
The first trucks carrying the COVID-19 vaccine have left the manufacturing facility and are on their way to patients nationwide. There is a temptation to cheer the breakthrough leavened by the concern for the logistics in getting the shots to the right persons at the right places at the right times. Pfizer and Moderna have reaped worldwide attention for being the first to release effective vaccine. But, as noted here earlier, they need to be cautious because distribution of the vaccine is so difficult with the requirement that it remain at -94 degrees Fahrenheit. Still, it is good to see trucks pulling out of the plant and on their ways. In a year when the disease is under control, the companies can boast about what they have done and the entire logistics apparatus can vaunt their work as well. Now, we still have a long way to go.
Friday, December 11, 2020
More women than men are reluctant to get the coronavirus vaccine. This is serious because women tend to make healthcare decisions in the family. The reluctance is the result of disinformation about the virus and vaccines developed this year. Women are apparently afraid of protection developed so quickly. They have tended to dismiss the large trials of the vaccine and positive results from them. What is needed is a parade of leaders and celebrities taking the vaccine publicly to calm fears. It would be a strong PR move to support mass immunization. (If Michelle Obama is not worried about getting vaccinated, why should I be?) President-elect Joe Biden has set a goal of 100 million jabs in the first 100 days of his presidency. He is only going to reach that goal with tuned logistics and a willingness of the public to participate. Biden and Harris should be the first ones to get the shot on camera before millions of citizens.
Thursday, December 10, 2020
More Republican Senators are inching away from President Trump and admitting that Trump lost the election. They have stayed silent till now because they are afraid of millions of Trump voters. They have only themselves to blame for the vise in which they find themselves. Had they stood up in the beginning and acknowledged his defeat, the pressure might have subsided by now. But they didn't and Trump has continued to claim he won but for fraud. From a PR perspective, it would have been better for the country and democracy had the Republican Senate and Minority House chambers gone on record accepting Biden's win. Trump then would be isolated and public support for him starting to erode. But, since they were craven, they now have to live with an aroused electorate, which might be a potent force for the next four years. It's a sad situation for the Elephant party, and there is little chance of it getting better.
Wednesday, December 09, 2020
It's embarrassing and a PR faux pas for a cybersecurity firm to be hacked and its software tools stolen. Yet, that is the nature of the internet. No one is safe, not even experts. One can engage in prophylactic habits and still be done in by an invader. There is no way to be absolutely protected other than avoiding the internet altogether. There are no good ways to do that in the present age. One can go off-grid but then one will miss a good part of the world's information and connections. Sophisticated cyber-criminals remain one step ahead of the internet police most of the time. There are lower-level "petty thieves" who use stock products, and they can be walled out as long as their malware is understood. The knowledgeable ones are a danger to society. It is small consolation that these criminals usually target governments and large organizations. Their tools are adopted soon enough by imitators while the skilled find new doors into protected systems. Being hacked is a cost of communications and a burden on society.
Tuesday, December 08, 2020
Trump supporters are sliding deeper and deeper into unreality over the results of the Presidential election. Denial has slipped into insanity, and insanity into repeated attempts to overturn a fair election. There is no persuasion that can change their minds and communicators are at a loss to do so. It wouldn't be worrisome if there weren't so many millions holding to the lie and if the President himself had not supported it. He continues, however, to preach fraud and his loyalists follow him blindly. It is impossible to conduct public relations under the circumstances. They see but don't see, hear but don't hear, face the truth but are blind. It is a sad state of affairs and a major challenge for the President-elect who wants to unify the country but is prevented from doing so by millions who refuse to believe he won.
Monday, December 07, 2020
The news that Trump's personal lawyer has been hospitalized with COVID-19 is a chance for good PR that almost certainly won't be taken. That would be for Rudy Giuliani to admit his failure to wear a mask contributed to his contracting the virus. He has crisscrossed the country all the while refusing to wear one and to keeping the protocol of distance from others. His leadership message would be "Don't be like me." But Giuliani is a toady to his boss and client, President Trump. He won't do or say anything to irritate him. That's a pity because the country is in the middle of a second and worse surge than the initial period of infection. Maybe this time he might accept facts and act rationally, but don't bet on it.
Friday, December 04, 2020
Movie theater owners are in a difficult marketing position as motion picture companies put their products on streaming video. They are beholden to content creators since they do no more than project films onto large screens and sell popcorn. Movie makers can avoid the costs of distribution and much of marketing expense by going directly to the home, so why shouldn't they? Theater owners contend viewers miss a communal experience by foregoing an audience and the effect of a big screen with surround sound. Maybe so, but the public will decide on that by electing to go out or to stay home. Large theater owners can cry for help but there isn't a consumers' push to give it to them. Most people are content in their living rooms and out of the COVID-19 environment. Will theaters recover once a vaccine is generally available? It's too early to know, but there is a good chance they have received a mortal blow, and there will fewer of them in existence.
Thursday, December 03, 2020
Former Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton have volunteered to be vaccinated publicly and on camera to prove the COVID vaccine is safe. That's leadership and great PR. It will tamp down rumors and false information being spread about the treatments. It will also be a smack in the face of the White House, which has denigrated the pandemic since the beginning. Trump can claim he acted responsibly by launching Operation Warp Speed to get a vaccine in less than a year, but his frequent remarks downplaying the disease have shown a distressful failure to take charge of safety protocols and admit the seriousness of the virus. Already, President-elect Biden has called for a national strategy that should have been developed and launched months ago. Biden's challenge will be to distribute the vaccine quickly and fairly to people most at risk. That is a task almost as large as vaccine development, and it might be controversial as the public clamors for priority in getting the shots. It will be a test of Biden's leadership and credibility.
Wednesday, December 02, 2020
Pfizer and BioNTech have won the race to be the first vaccine makers to get emergency approval for a COVID vaccine. Now comes the hard part -- manufacturing and distributing the doses to millions of people who must receive two shots three weeks apart. It is time for quiet satisfaction at the two companies but not public crowing. Both know much could still go wrong in the rollout even though they have planned in depth for it. The time for a PR glow is still in the future. Today, manufacturing and logistics teams have buckled down to hard work. If they are successful in the months to come, Pfizer and BioNTech can proudly and rightly publicize what they have done for humanity.
Tuesday, December 01, 2020
It is a sad state of affairs when one who tells the truth is subject to jibes that he should be taken out and shot. That is the rhetoric of authoritarian nations and dictators. Well, it happened to a former Trump official who said the election was fair. A Trump attorney made the remarks on television without apology for his venom. Facts are hard edged things. Where there is a gray zone, they are subject to opinion. Where there is no gray, there shouldn't be argument, but sadly, there often is. We have had four years of kicking against a wall of facts over numerous issues, all related to the President and his attempts to run the country according to his biases and self-regard. Voters grew tired of it and got rid of him, except he won't let go. He can't accept the fact he was defeated and so he continues to twist the truth to his benefit. Nearly everyone does some of that, but not to the extent the White House has gone. It will be refreshing to have an occupant of the highest office who will respect facts and the truth.