Friday, February 26, 2021


The head of Canada's largest pension fund has resigned his office because he jumped the line on getting a COVID-19 vaccination.   He did it spectacularly.  He traveled to the United Arab Emirates to get his jab.  Why wait for the slow process in Canada as all Canadians are doing?  This is a situation of an individual who doesn't get PR and the need for leadership in a crisis.  He almost certainly had good reasons for advancing to the head of the queue, but they were not good enough for the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.  When it was discovered what he had done, the reaction was swift.  And, well it should be because the Board doesn't need outrage complicating its affairs along with a government investigation and universal condemnation.  The question any PR practitioner asks is "Why?"  Why can a senior executive be so dense, so disconnected from the public, so abusive of privilege?   One would think in the internet age that leaders understand transparency for their actions.  Some clearly don't.  

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Easter Eggs 

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which built the most recent Mars rover, Perseverance, loaded the machine, the parachute and other parts of the assembly with Easter Eggs for space fans to decipher.  Call it engineers having fun, but also call it great PR.  It is a reminder to the world that NASA and JPL have figured out the difficult logistics of landing on Mars and lead all other space agencies in exploring the planet.  The delivery method was insanely complex but necessary to ensure a soft drop of the SUV-sized robot on the surface.  For the first time, engineers and the world received video of the whole landing beginning with the heat shield and parachute that slowed the capsule from 12,000 miles per hour.  It is captivating to watch and in doing so, one is enveloped in the ethos of NASA and JPL.  It is enough to make tens of thousands of youngsters dream of growing up and working for them.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Make Nice 

How do you make nice after an international row with a government over payments to the media?  Why, you invest a billion in the local press and call the situation a misunderstanding.  That is what Facebook has done after blacking out news reports in Australia for a week.  The company is trying to play down the PR debacle over the fallout with the government.  The net result, however, is that Facebook is looked upon as a technological bully throwing its multi-billion dollar weight around and dictating to the rest of the world how it is going to act.  Backing off down under has given impetus to the EU and the rest of the world to demand payment for news that Facebook carries on its site.  Google has already negotiated but is still not out of the woods with regulators.  It seems both companies will be reined in sooner or later:  It is a question of time.  They need defensive PR/GR plans that alleviate the pain they will suffer.  

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Power Corrupts  

In a quest for power, decency, ethics and morality often take second place.  Whether a CEO or politician, the desire to be in control can bend one's thinking and action.  Consider Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.  He went from a Trump enemy to a fawning disciple who stands by the former president because Trump controls millions of Republican votes.  There were no pricks of conscience to hold him back from trumpeting the former President's lies and misinformation.  Power is everything and all and pragmatism the order of the day.  Perhaps it is too much to ask of leaders to remain humble when retainers bow and scrape.  If the one in charge forgets what the citizen is thinking and feeling, there is a rupture in relations as we see in Myanmar where crowds have taken to the streets to protest generals who staged a coup.  One role of PR is to keep senior leadership in touch with the public.  PR is corrupted when it becomes nothing more than a megaphone for the top rather than a mediator for the inside and outside of an organization.  

Monday, February 22, 2021

Imminent Danger 

The Supreme Court has allowed the release of former President Trump's tax returns.  This is an imminent danger to Trump's already maligned reputation.  Every shading of facts to allow deductions and tax avoidance will now become public, and if there are outright fabrications, criminal charges will follow.  Trump's hold on millions of voters might well weaken if his tax returns show him to be a liar and a cheat.  A conviction of any kind for false reporting will only turn the public more deeply against him.  He might have many Republicans on his side but they are a minority and are unlikely to elect him again to high office.  If Trump, as is his usual, tries to bully and sue his way through any legal action, he will come against a determined prosecutor and a likely nonpartisan jury.  There is little he can do to protect himself.

Friday, February 19, 2021


 As political leaders have learned, you don't leave for a better location when your hometown or home state is in deep trouble.  You open yourself to charges of abandonment and lack of empathy, and retribution is swift.  So one has to ask why Senator Ted Cruz of Texas left town for Cancun Mexico during the state's historic cold spell and power failure?  It was an act of political suicide and an opening for his opponents to exploit.  Cruz maintains he realized his error on the plane traveling south.  His critics say he understood only after he was outed and savaged in the media. Either way, it was epically dumb and profoundly ignorant of the duties of a political leader.  Cruz is hoping the storm will blow over and people will forget before the next trip to the ballot box.  He might be right, but then again, his opponents will not let the people forget.  

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Why Transparency Matters 

 Gov. Cuomo of New York is under fire for falsifying the number of COVID deaths in the state's nursing homes.  This comes after months of daily public briefings during which he seemed to command facts and events of the disease.  He provided an illusion of transparency while covering up real data.  The result is a PR crisis for the politician that is deserved.  Of all people, he should have known better.  He was using his public exposure as a way to leverage his power and now it has turned to ashes.  All because he fudged a critical number.  When will leaders understand that in the internet age, lying is nearly impossible without being caught out?  Former President Trump lived for the big lie during his term in office and had millions believing him but the majority of the country did not and he was voted out.  That was because each one of his fibs was documented in the media, and any neutral observer could understand the discrepancy.  Cuomo got away with his lie for months but not forever.  Now he pays the price. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Best Laid Plans 

The best laid plans often go awry, or so the cliché states.  That is what is happening to Pfizer in its efforts to supply the European Union with COVID vaccination shots.  It is an estimated 30 percent below goals.  This is a PR black eye for the drug company and a crisis.  There is no good way to make up for the shortfall and the EU will suffer by going without.  One could ask how Pfizer so badly estimated its manufacturing capacity, a question the company must address sooner or later.  It won't look good whatever the answers the drug producer presents.  Pfizer is being tight-lipped and refusing to comment on delivery schedules.  That won't get it far if the EU investigates or sues the company.  It would be better if Pfizer made a clean breast of its production and shipping, shortfalls and all.  But, that doesn't seem to be something the company is willing to do -- yet.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

All's Fair In Politics 

 Republicans are using the COVID crisis against President Biden and Democrats.  The GOP figures it has a fertile field amid families in crisis and exhausted mothers if it can lay blame at the Donkey's door.  The hypocrisy of the effort is evident.  Biden inherited the chaos from Trump, but voters soon forget and ask, "What have you done for me lately?"  The challenge for Biden now is to conquer the disease as soon as he can, to get children back to school, to vaccinate millions in an effort to achieve herd immunity.  Republicans are hoping he stumbles on the way in time for the 2022 elections when the Elephants want to recapture the Senate and House.  If they do, that will be the end of Biden's agenda.  It is a daring communications effort and can easily backfire if Democrats perform, but what is there to lose?  

Monday, February 15, 2021

Dividing Line 

 President Biden has crossed the dividing line between gun supporters and gun control activists by calling for restrictions on semiautomatic weapons, high capacity magazines and immunity for gun manufacturers.  He has touched off a war between the NRA and those who want to see guns put under more control.  It will be a public and government relations battle, and there is little chance of success with the current Congress.  But, he can try.  His first priority, however, is COVID relief and he doesn't want anything to get in the way of that.  Odds now are that he will pass a budget reconciliation bill without help from Republicans.  Odds are the same for a gun control bill.  Biden would need to put the communications strength of the White House behind a weapons law and a full court press.  It is unlikely he has the time or bandwidth now to do that.  Chances are we will be talking about gun control a year from now without progress in the interim.

Friday, February 12, 2021

The Results Of Reputation 

 Disney had planned to reach 90 million subscribers for its Disney+ streaming service by 2024.  It has crossed 94 million already.   The reason is obvious.  The company since its beginning has focused on family-friendly entertainment.  Its reputation and brand are one and the same.  Disney has mastered many times over the ability to extend its franchises into many directions, all of which show up in its theme parks.  The company has continued to focus ferociously on children and their parents, what they like, what they want to see, what they wish to experience.  No matter when and where it branches into new fields, it hasn't lost its core vision.  Other content providers can only wish they had such a perch to work from.  The company's newest animation, Soul, from its PIXAR subsidiary has spurred its streaming growth and that is as it should be, even though the company lost its way for a number of years in the creation of cartoons.  Its reputation is more secure than ever.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Smart PR Move 

 Retailers are giving employees paid time off in order to get vaccinated for COVID-19.  It is a smart PR move.  No one wins if a store worker comes down with the virus and spreads it to both colleagues and customers.  The cost of the time and transportation is but a fraction of the loss of business from the COVID infection.  One can claim that it is a self-interested move, and it is, but it is a situation in which everyone wins -- employees, customers and the corporations.  There should be more actions like this among businesses.  Everyone benefits, and the business executives can rightly claim they are being responsible.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Perils Of Modern Communications 

 Michigan's highest ranked Republican leader, Senator Mike Shirkey, has been caught on video saying the capitol riot was "staged."  His remarks to the Hillsdale County Republican Party officials was posted on YouTube where everyone could listen to what he said.  Shirkey is one more victim of the perils of modern communications.  What you say in the closet can still be broadcast to the world -- and often is.  Shirkey's remarks were stupid at the very least and complicit with the insurrectionists at worst.  It leaves the neutral listener stunned with the willful ignorance on display and asking how such persons can be elected to office.  Shirkey has apologized -- sort of -- but that barely changes the facts of the outrage.  Maybe next time he will hold his tongue and keep his false opinions to himself.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

NASA Publicity 

 NASA has always been a savvy and creative agency of publicity.  Its primary mission in the 1960s and early 1970s was to reach the moon, a built-in publicity machine that turned into enduring PR when it brought the feat off.  It turns out more was happening on the space trips that is receiving attention now -- Moon Trees.  These are 50-year-old trees that came from a canister of seeds sent on Apollo 14 to highlight the contribution of smoke jumpers who parachute into the front lines of forest fires.  The container was supposed to form part of an experiment to see if a lack of gravity would affect the ability of the seeds to germinate.  It didn't.  Today, there are Moon Trees the world over from that journey.  Few remember the provenance of the trees, but NASA does, and it is part of the agency's enduring publicity. 

Monday, February 08, 2021

Voting One's Conscience 

 Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney says she won't resign her seat in spite of an overwhelming censure from her state's Republican party.  She had the temerity to vote for former president Trump's impeachment.  She said her position is one of conscience and that Trump violated the Constitution.  It makes no difference whether Cheney was right.  She still might lose her race in 2022 with her party working against her.  It is a reminder that doing the right thing often spells disaster.  This is the peril of whistleblowers who call their companies and leaders to account.  They are expelled from their jobs and finding new work is hard to do.  Republicans are pragmatic in backing Trump.  He pulled millions of voters with him in his losing quest for a second term.  Republicans don't want to lose their positions by expelling him from the party, although in their hearts some know he was in the wrong.  Cheney, who is the third ranked Republican in the House, has managed to hold onto her office, but for how much longer?   

Friday, February 05, 2021

Side Step 

 Former President Trump's lawyers are planning to side step the issue of Trump's involvement in the Jan.6 riot and to focus on the constitutionality of his impeachment trial.  It's a long-standing ploy to ignore events and focus instead on the law.  The consensus now is that they will get away with it and Republicans won't go along with Democrats desire to convict Trump.  Republicans are saying Trump is gone and that is enough, but they are also still loyal to him because of the millions of votes he gained in the losing election.  They are pragmatic rather than ethical.  One wonders whether the American public will take into account Republican actions in the next election in 2022.  If so, the outcome will be decided on reputation -- the loss of it by those who elected to stand by their fallen leader.  It's breathtaking cynicism to hope that voters forget.  It's one more side step on the issue of insurrection.

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Realty Intrudes 

 When reality doesn't go the way a fervent believer expects, it is time to buy into a new theory or to break away and see the world as it is.  That is what happened to this QAnon disciple.  She believed the conspiracies until their prediction that Biden wouldn't be sworn in proved to be wrong.  Then she came to her senses and admitted to herself she was in error.  That was a brave thing to do.  Millions of others have moved on to new scenarios and hate-filled speculation.  They aren't about to say they were mistaken and to look at facts with objectivity.  They twist and twist and twist truth beyond recognition. They are beyond persuasion and dangerous to democracy.  Authorities are right in rounding them up after the Capitol invasion on Jan. 6.  They have proved themselves to be a clear and present danger.  One can only hope a slow drip of reality intruding into their lives might make more of them question their beliefs, but the country can't wait until it might happen.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Power Of Publicity 

 Captain Sir Tom Moore, the 100-year-old British activist, set out to complete laps in his garden with his walker in order to raise money for COVID relief.  His goal was 1,000 pounds.  But when his venture received publicity, he raised a total of 39 million pounds.  Sir Moore died ironically of COVID and has been elevated to a national hero in the UK.  He was proof that one can do good at any age and in the smallest ways.  Without publicity, Sir Moore would have added a bit to the fight against the disease but nothing remarkable.  With publicity, he gathered tens of millions.  This is why so many crave the spotlight for themselves and their work, but publicity can be fickle.  It is lightning that strikes at odd times and places.  Most publicity seekers end up disappointed.  Sir Moore's advantage was his story -- a WWII veteran who sought to help out when there are only a few remaining soldiers from that era.  He was a natural and the public understood that.

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Audience Of One 

 In a faux democracy, there isn't a diverse audience to persuade and to reconcile in legislative bill-passing.  The targeted group is but one -- the military.  Or, at least that is the case in Myanmar where generals staged a coup yesterday and shut down the country by cutting communications, the internet and roadways.  The country's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was taken away, and parliament disrupted.  It is a reminder that public relations persuasion is a democratic ideal and requires a society in which multiple beliefs and opinions are tolerated.  PR is a First Amendment right.  It has little to no bearing in authoritarian regimes where persuasion is cramped and directed solely to the top.  Myanmar may someday become a true democracy.  It isn't there yet.  

Monday, February 01, 2021

Thin Ice 

 Early opinion polls focused on President Biden and the job he is doing are barely in the favorable category.  He receives approval from Democrats and Independents but negative reviews from Republicans.  With the Senate split evenly, Biden is on thin ice in getting his agenda through.  He will need all the negotiation and cross-aisle skills he developed for decades in Congress.  Even that might not be enough.  At some point, he might have to force his agenda through over the ire of elephants.  He also needs to go over the head of legislators and appeal to the public for support for his program.  If people see him accomplishing his goals, they might trust him more and put pressure on Congress to go along.  It's a tough time to be President of a divided country. 

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