Wednesday, March 31, 2021

April Fools 

Volkswagen pulled off an April Fools prank, which unfortunately went bad.  It claimed in a press release that it was changing its name to Voltswagen to recognize its commitment to electric vehicles.  The media believed the company and widely reported the name change.  It wasn't until later the company fessed up and pulled the release from its web site.  Reporters were not amused.  They don't like to be taken in.  Still, it was a good joke and it follows in the tradition of companies, notably Google, that for years announced bizarre things as if they were real.  The media caught on and wasn't taken in by Google's fun, but no one suspected the buttoned-up, German company to be able to do the same thing.  April Fools.  

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Space PR 

Four civilians are now ready to take the a SpaceX flight in September or later.  They had to pay to do it and the cost was not cheap.  It is the first step to making commercial flights with civilians. a long-sought goal.  Several companies are in development with rockets designed to lift ordinary people into near space or low earth orbit.  The first to do it safely will have much to crow about. It will be great PR for the industry.  One wonders what it will be like once the novelty wears off.  The tenth or hundredth trip won't be as newsworthy as the first or second.  But, what this will do to open space for everyday individuals will be significant.  Man isn't bound to earth.  The heavens beckon.  

Monday, March 29, 2021

Unmovable Power 

The generals who have seized power in Myanmar are unmovable.  They are killing their own citizens who are protesting the coup.  As long as they maintain control over their soldiers, they will continue to shoot protestors until they regain total control.  This is the fate of those who cannot muster an equally powerful response to tyranny.  The generals may well win this time and the next and the one after that as long as they don't blink and maintain a hard shell of indifference to the cost of human life.  It's ugly.  But, they are falling back on thousands of years of technique to retain power.  There is no communication between the two sides except at the point of a gun.  As long as soldiers have ammunition, there won't be.  It is a sad come-down for a country whose people crave democracy.

Friday, March 26, 2021


When a company's reputation is imperiled by false stories, it might have no alternative but to file suit for defamation.  Legal redress might not clear its name completely in public opinion but it is a point of fact on which to place its claims.  That is why Dominion Voting Systems has levelled a $1.6 billion tort against Fox News for claiming Dominion's machines had rigged the 2020 election.  Fox's anchors had amplified the false story and, in Dominion's claim, made a business decision to continue because it boosted ratings.  It would seem this is an open-and-shut case since abundant investigation showed no vote rigging, but Dominion has a tall order to prove Fox made managerial decisions to stick with the lie.  This will play out over months, if not years, and should Fox lose, it will be a significant blow to its bottom line.  That would be as it should.  No company deserves public lying about its products without retribution.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Is An Apology Enough?  

The owner of the ship that is blocking the Suez canal has apologized for the accident.  It may not be enough.  Ships are stacked in the waterway above and below the container vessel and world trade has been disrupted.  It might cost the Japanese owner millions in reparations if salvage companies can't refloat the ship in a matter of days.  This is a PR disaster for the shipping company and probably one that had nothing to do with piloting the vessel.  The owners are pointing to high winds and a sandstorm on the day it turned crosswise in the narrow portion of the canal.  The canal pilot lost control in the worst possible spot.  Now, it is an intense 24-hour-a-day race to refloat the vessel and get it out of there.   

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Unforced Error 

 AstraZeneca shot itself in the foot with an unforced error in reporting COVID vaccine data to health authorities.  It apparently cherry-picked results to make its vaccine look more effective than it is.  The National Institutes of Health came down hard and publicly on the company.  It created a breech of trust that will be hard to overcome even though the company promises full results by tomorrow.  The question remains why AstraZeneca in a pandemic environment would choose to fudge results. Did they think they could get away with it?  Was it just a dumb mistake?  Any way one chooses to interpret the botch, AstraZeneca doesn't come off well.  It is a PR crisis for the company.  Its executives must make sure the next data release is meticulously correct, even conservative to avoid another blowup.  One dumb error was one too many.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

March Madness 

The NCAA is guilty of running a two-track playoff system -- one for men, which is worth billions and one for women, which is denied the March Madness logo and reaps no money at all for the teams.  One would think the NCAA would be a leader in equality for women and men.  But, no.  It places female athletes in a second position when it comes to promotion, marketing, facilities and funds.  Women players and their coaches are complaining, and it has created a PR challenge for the Association, which is now saying it will listen and act accordingly.  Time will tell whether that is true.  But, for every year equality is denied, it only serves to increase the embarrassment for the NCAA.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Smart Marketing 

 This is smart marketing and PR.  Krispy Kreme is giving an incentive to everyone to get COVID shots by giving away a free donut if one shows the CDC vaccination card.  It won't cost the company that much money, yet it will project the brand and its concern for the public.  More retailers ought to get in line with giveaways.  A growing rewards program might push the undecided to get the shot and edge the country closer to herd immunity.  The incentive won't work with those firmly opposed to the jab.  They are unreachable, and nothing short of contracting the virus will make them see differently, but for the rest of us, it is a sweet reward.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Burning Out 

Citizens of the world are burning out over COVID restrictions.  They want it to end, to take off masks, to go to restaurants and pubs again, to visit with friends without social distancing.  But the virus is tenacious and France once more has gone into lockdown.  Meanwhile, a senator is blistering Dr. Fauci over mask wearing for those who have been vaccinated. This has created an enormous PR problem for governments around the world.  How do they keep the public conforming to sanitation rules.  People don't care any longer.  Their attitude seems to be, "Let me get sick and be done with it."   Health authorities are pleading for citizens to stay the course, just for a few months longer.  Some are, many aren't.  The world has reached a limit of persuasive communication.  Words are falling on deaf ears, and enforcement is nearly impossible. 

Thursday, March 18, 2021


The numbers of migrant children crossing the border has become a crisis for the Biden administration for which there is no good answer.  Taking them in increases heat from Republicans and conservatives.  Sending them back is a humanitarian failure.  No matter what the White House decides to do, it can't win.  There is a need for strong communication to the public on whatever choice is taken.  If the administration continues to take children in, it needs to point vigorously to the moral duty to protect them.  If it decides to hold them back, it will need to outweigh cries of activists and advocates defending the rights of minors.  The pawns in this crisis -- the young -- have been sent over by their parents in a desperate attempt to give them a better life.  That is the hope of America, but the country has not been welcoming for too many years.  The Trump administration dumped the problem into Biden's lap and now is pillorying him.  Some problems are intractable.  This is one.  

Wednesday, March 17, 2021


Fads are tricky times of mass psychology affecting organizations and individuals.  One can ride them for momentary marketing and communications advantage but they come to an end soon enough.  Then, one is left with proceeding in relative obscurity where the company or individual had been before mass enthusiasm.  There is an investing fad now that is going to end badly for many investors but for the moment Wall Street is pumping it for profit.  That is the SPAC, the special purpose acquisition company.  It is a stock-based shell with a time limit to find and merge or purchase a company.  The shell is not real but for the monies it has raised.  The company it merges or buys might not be real either, but could be a concept, as some current SPAC holdings are.  The SPAC is a fad ripe for fraud and the SEC is looking into them but many investors for the moment can't get enough of them. They are buying into SPACs with blind greed and they aren't listening to rational voices warning them away.  Fads overtake conservative thinking and spark gold rush mania.  Marketers and communicators should be wary of them and understand what they are getting into before leaping aboard the rush.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021


Environmental groups have filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against oil giant Chevron.  They allege false advertising on Chevron's part in its claims to be more responsible in climate control.  Chevron says their charge is frivolous.  The protestors assert that oil companies are engaged in greenwashing, making their products look friendlier to earth, air and water than they are.  The FTC has yet to reply but the situation is potentially a PR crisis for large oil companies.  They may need to increase investments in clean energy by massive amounts to satisfy critics -- tens of billions instead hundreds of millions.  This won't sit well with shareholders who might not see a return right away -- or ever.  But, Big Oil is one key to getting climate change under control.  The corporations need to reduce emissions at refineries and in fuel they sell.  That won't be easy and there is little wonder they are accused of slow-walking efforts in cleaning the environment.  

Monday, March 15, 2021

Reputation -- Again 

 AstraZeneca is having trouble getting its COVID vaccine to market.  Its problem is causing supposed blood clots in recipients.  Once a pharma company gets a bad reputation for its medicine, it is hard to come back.  The onus is on the company to prove that its therapy is safe and effective.  Ireland and the Netherlands aren't waiting for more data.  They have suspended use of the vaccine as have several other countries.  It now has a reputation for being second best and harmful.  The pharma has a major task to rehabilitate the drug, and it may take months to do so.  

Friday, March 12, 2021

Facts First 

Presidents can't away with shading the truth any longer.  Not even Joe Biden who gave an address to the nation last night.  CNN fact-checked his speech and pointed to exaggerations, errors and misleading statements taken out of context.  Biden could have been more accurate.  He chose not to do so, and it is going to hurt him sooner or later.  Republicans will take issue with his errors and point out that he is no different from his predecessor who was a sociopathic liar.  To those who think some license is due for Presidents, the media are not playing favorites.  And that is good.  Biden could still have made his case accurately, and maybe in the future he will do so.  Above all, he must avoid being labelled as a Democratic Trump. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021


 Here is a perfect example of Doublespeak, which first appeared in Orwell's "1984."  That is using language to obscure truth by making a lie more palatable or to reverse the meaning of words.  "Improving the electoral system" means making Hong Kong less free, less democratic and more communist.  Hong Kong has become just one more Chinese city under the thumb of the Beijing government. The cynicism is stunning, and there is little Hong Kong activists can do except to leave the territory for another country where there are political freedoms.  The question remains whether capitalists will follow.  Many companies had placed their Chinese headquarters in the territory and now must decide what to do.  How can one trust a government where true equals false and better equals worse?  

Wednesday, March 10, 2021


Here is a story that is sad to read.  A conspiracy theorist who believed that Corona virus would disappear the day after the election came down with the disease and now will be on oxygen for the rest of his life.  He knows now his belief was wrong, but it is too late.  One might say he got what he deserved but that would be too simple.  He bought into the paranoia and couldn't see a way out.  His illness was the eyeopener and not persuasion or communications from the CDC, Dr. Fauci or any other authority.  As I wrote yesterday, he was impervious to facts and in a world of his own.  Now he can serve as a symbol of what is wrong with conspiracy theory, but chances are he won't because he will either be ignored or rejected.  In some instances, the truth will not come out.

Tuesday, March 09, 2021


Sometimes people can be so disconnected from reality that it is astonishing to listen to them.  Consider this fellow.  He was part of the Capitol breach and he features himself as the "QAnon shaman."  Sadly for him, a judge has rejected his arguments for release from jail by declaring them flimsy and without remorse or repentance.  The judge ruled that the fellow could conduct further criminal actions if he were under house arrest.  So, he sits in the slammer and awaits his trial. Well he should.  He has reached a point of conspiracy thinking that is beyond the pale of civil society.  He is unreachable by facts and persuasion.  He knows what he knows and no one can tell him anything different.  Such people are dangers because they are unbound from social norms.  They are outliers on the curve -- three standard deviations from rational thinking.  There is no hope for them other than incarceration, removing them from the populace.  

Monday, March 08, 2021

Academic Suicide?  

In academia, taking an unpopular position is dangerous, especially if one does it without evidence to support his argument.  This is the case for a Harvard professor who alleges in an article that Korean teenagers and young women used for sex by Japanese soldiers during World War II were prostitutes.  J. Mark Ramseyer has created an international incident with his piece and put himself on a downslope of reputation.  Fellow academics charge that he did not look at extensive evidence that would contradict his position nor did he cite facts that would uphold his point of view.  Why would a professor do that?  It is unclear but his beliefs must be deeply held to put himself in such a position of PR poison.  An open question is what Harvard will do about him, if anything.  Censure might be too lenient.  But, at the present time, he is an embarrassment for the university.

Friday, March 05, 2021


 When a world figure goes to a war-torn country to show commitment to its present and future, that is leadership and a symbol of commitment to the suffering.  Pope Francis' current visit to Iraq, risky though it be, is an example of what good leaders do.  They do not forget.  They pay attention to the lowliest person, whether part of their jurisdiction or not.  They offer hope where there is none.  They sometimes can move authorities to pay attention to citizens and break political logjams that keep a country from moving forward.  Even if nothing happens when they depart, showing up in the first place has merit.  It is highly unlikely Pope Francis will have much sway in a largely Muslim nation, but he is making an effort.  How many other world leaders can say that?

Thursday, March 04, 2021


How do you restore your reputation after this kind of spat playing out in the media?  The former royals now living in Los Angeles left "the Firm" because of tabloid attacks on the two of them.  Buckingham Palace seems determined to make their lives miserable for departing.  The split is acrimonious and a feast for gossip columns.  There will be weeks more of charges flung back and forth and eventually it will subside, but Prince Harry's wife, Meghan, is unlikely to live down the smear, if that is what it is.  She will need to demonstrate her concern for the less fortunate and for the public for a long time to counterbalance her fallen image.

Wednesday, March 03, 2021


The governor of Texas is ignoring advice of health authorities and has lifted the state's mask mandate and business restrictions.  There will be no penalties for a person who refuses to wear a mask even if an establishment desires it.  It is a irresponsible position even though infections and hospitalizations are declining.  Authorities such as Dr. Fauci have said mask wearing will need to be done into next year.  If the governor's move was an effort to build relations with voters, he is taking a risk, especially if cases rise again.  Mayors of major Texas cities were shocked by the decision.  Retail associations condemned it.  Should COVID surge again, the governor can say farewell to his political career.  His move would hurt him but not as much as those becoming ill and dying from the disease.  

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Tone Deaf?  

Critics are saying Governor Cuomo of New York was "tone-deaf" in his apology for sexual harassment charges against him by a number of women. They also charge that he doesn't understand or ignored the power dynamics between a superior and subordinate.  That is, a leader wasn't acting like a leader with respect for the office he holds.  Cuomo said he was bantering with his subordinates and meant nothing of a serious nature.  His juniors didn't take it that way, and he should have realized that.  Leaders carry authority in their relationships to employees.  They need to understand they can no longer carry on as they might have done when they were lower in rank.  When they do, they precipitate PR crises like the one the governor is embroiled in now.  It is too early to know whether the sexual harassment charges will destroy Cuomo's career and legacy, but he brought his problems on himself.  

Monday, March 01, 2021

Ad Hominem Propaganda 

China is taking a tip from former President Trump.  It is personally attacking Uighur women who allege human rights abuses.  The government is revealing personal medical data for the women and calling them derogatory names.  While this might fly in China proper, it isn't working in the rest of the world.  The government might not care as long as it remains in control.  Ad hominem argument is ugly but effective.  It raises suspicions in the minds of listeners who don't know the individuals personally and puts targeted persons in a defensive position of having to prove the charges are not true.  China is skilled in the use of propaganda, and it is using it to effect in this instance.  The only hope the Uighur women have is for more facts to come out that support their side.  This will be difficult with the government's total control of internal media.  

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