Monday, May 31, 2021
Biden's ambitious plans for America are lacking a key ingredient -- communication to the public as to what they are. It's not for want of trying but citizens aren't listening. They are locked into their own lives, problems and opportunities and paying little attention to messages from Washington. Biden had better worry about it because his plans have little chance of passing into law without a groundswell of support to overcome Republicans' objections to spending. What is needed is a rah-rah campaign and steady drumbeating that captures traditional and social media and reaches into the homes of every class and level. While the administration is talking up the proposals, it isn't enough yet. There is still time, but not a lot of it to break through the thicket of personal concerns and make people aware of what he wants to do.
Friday, May 28, 2021
Tulsa, OK is remembering the race massacre of 100 years ago when a section of the town was burned, people killed and dumped into mass graves and a community shattered. The Greenwood District never recovered from the conflagration, and it is only now that horrors of the day are receiving attention in the media and in local government. Why the culture of silence? African-Americans kept quiet out of fear. City fathers said nothing because of the PR problem it presented. Generations grew without knowledge of the incident and expressed dismay when they belatedly discovered the facts. Tulsa now is trying to excavate the mass graves and to rebury the dead into individual sites. It is the least the city can do. The stain on the city will not disappear now that it has been revealed. It is part of the city's fabric of history and a reminder to the nation at large of the segregation and intolerance that characterized the 20th Century.
Thursday, May 27, 2021
Exxon lost two board seats to an upstart investor worried about its efforts to address climate change. It was a stunning outcome for a company that dominated Fortune 500 rankings for decades. Exxon's leadership was confident in its focus on oil for energy and was dragging its feet on responding to shifts in the environment. It stuck to its knitting at a time when new technologies have come to the fore and petrol is no longer as important a driver to economies as it was. The change of directors won't turn the company around right away but it will give a voice in the boardroom to concerns for global warming. It was a public and humiliating rebuke of staying the course and a PR disaster for the CEO.
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
A major newspaper in Japan has come out with an editorial calling for the cancellation of the Olympics because of COVID. It joins with 60 to 80 percent of Japanese citizens who feel the same way. The government and organizers are hanging tough and plowing ahead, but one wonders for how long. Japan is running out of time. It might have a month or two before it is committed to move ahead. It is a PR and marketing crisis for the International Olympic Committee and for the country. Another concern is for the athletes themselves. Most are vaccinated but will they want to risk their health in a country with a growing COVID rate? Chances are the Olympic Stadium will be nearly empty for the opening ceremony and the games themselves. It will look terrible on camera and dent the IOC's already soiled reputation. It's a tough call with a fixed deadline.
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
Monday, May 24, 2021
Bitcoin has been on a wild ride in the past week, losing more than half of its value then recovering slightly today. It is to be expected for a cryptocurrency that has no inherent value other than what people believe. There is no there there, no government backing its value, no commodity like gold assuring its worth. What people choose to accept is what it is valued. Wall Street is warming to cryptocurrencies but one wonders why. From a credibility perspective, they are not worth much, yet traders risk billions to own them and engage in enormous digital mining operations. It is not a market I will ever understand.
Friday, May 21, 2021
A New Jersey congressman who inveighed against profiting from the pandemic has been shown to have traded stocks that allowed him to do just that. He says he didn't know it was happening because his broker completed the sales and purchases without his input. That is an unlikely story and the congressman has been caught in an act of hypocrisy. Whether or not his constituents care, his opponents in the upcoming election will make it a salient point for his defeat. But, it didn't have to be that way. He could have established a blind trust, which he is only doing now. He could have remained silent about profiting from COVID, but he did neither of those two things. Instead, he spoke out and put himself at risk, which is why he is now being pilloried. He could apologize and disgorge the profits on his trades and shorts, but that is unlikely as well. What he can't repair is the stain on his reputation.
Thursday, May 20, 2021
The Malaysian government discovered "near slavery conditions" in a glove plant in that country. Social auditors had missed it although they had written up the facility for multiple violations. Manufacturers who use the company's products were left with a blighted reputation for depending on forced labor. The social audits didn't work in finding such conditions of bondage. A question is why. Were the auditors paid off, naïve, slapdash or bamboozled? The international companies that used them will need to find out to prevent reputational damage in the future. It is symptomatic of a voluntary system that doesn't want to look too closely at labor conditions.
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
Republicans in the House and Senate are trying to avoid a Jan.6 commission to look into the insurrection that invaded the capitol building. They fear what it will find and they are wary that Democrats will use it against them. Instead, they want to move on and concentrate on the 2022 midterms. Democrats are having none of that. They want a full and nonpartisan investigation because they are sure of what will be found -- complicity with former president Trump and some House members who provoked the invasion. Indeed, some Republican House members are already trying to rewrite history, calling it a normal tourist reaction. Whether or not the commission comes into being, Democrats won't let the party live down the day. They will tar Republicans' reputation for years to come, or at least until Trump no longer has a hold on the party. Republicans have good reason to fear for their future.
Tuesday, May 18, 2021
AT&T is spinning off WarnerMedia to Discovery and going back to its data pipeline business. The company is heavily indebted, and it had lost focus in trying to manufacture and deliver content in an integrated strategy. AT&T's move comes shortly after Verizon's similar action. It turns out that 5G mobile connectivity and wire delivery are complicated and expensive enough to keep both companies occupied. The original strategy that both followed was wrong. So, they are scaling back. There is no shame in admitting failure. Companies make mistakes regularly and executives reach for more than they can handle. The new WarnerMedia-Discovery entity will concentrate on creating streaming content while AT&T goes back to delivering it. Give AT&T kudos for recognizing its limitations.
Monday, May 17, 2021
Bill Gates' divorce has destroyed his image and reputation. Ugly stories are coming out about his treatment of women and the media are on the hunt. In the internet age, secrets are no longer kept for long, and the do-gooder image of an individual is at risk in light of facts. One would think Gates understands that. He is a founder of the modern computer age and grew fabulously wealthy through building a company that makes key software nearly everyone uses. It would have been better for him had he accepted his behavior publicly. At least the world wouldn't have looked up to him as a "nerdy" philanthropist. Now he is falling in estimation with little chance of recovery. Billionaires aren't free to do what they will. Money doesn't guarantee reputation.
Friday, May 14, 2021
Colonial Pipeline apparently paid hackers $5 million in cryptocurrency to unlock its computer files from ransomware. The better approach would have been to rebuild its system and not to pay at all. But, that wasn't possible with looming fuel shortages in the Southeast US. The hackers had lodged the company between a rock and a hard place. There was nothing Colonial could do. The problem with paying up is that it opens a company to other hackers who will try the same ransomware attack again. Colonial has earned a reputation as an easy mark. Its only safety is to take cybersecurity seriously and to harden its systems to the largest extent possible. The ransomware was a lesson to other companies as well that have yet to spend what it takes to be mostly protected. If they paid little attention in the past, they know now they can be put out of business.
Thursday, May 13, 2021
The president of the University of South Carolina has resigned after plagiarizing a quote from a general's speech. He attributes his error to an oversight. If so, it is one more example of why accuracy is important in everything one does. The former president, Bob Caslen, has wrecked his reputation for claiming less than 100 words as his own. One wonders why a leader can be so inattentive. Maybe he was in a hurry. Maybe he forgot he had appropriated the quote. It makes no difference. He has compromised his integrity. It is a lesson for other leaders to learn. Accuracy is the first rule in communications. It is the first rule in public relations as well.
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Authorities are telling the public not to panic over possible gasoline shortages with the Colonial Pipeline shutdown. So, of course, motorists are panicking and idling in long lines waiting to get to pumps. Their fears have resulted in one station after another running out of fuel in the Southeast. Why does this happen? People are driven by primal fear and distrust of authorities. It demonstrates the limits of communication. Telling people not to panic ignites the very reaction one doesn't want. There are no good persuasion techniques to overcome such irrationality. Government's response should be to limit how much any one person can buy at a time -- rationing. Authorities are not doing that in this case because the problem hasn't become severe enough. But it is a reminder that sometimes jawboning doesn't work.
Tuesday, May 11, 2021
An Arizona state senator is expressing regret that he voted for an ongoing audit of the presidential election vote. He says it makes the state GOP "look like idiots." He is correct. The audit, being performed by a company with no experience in verifying elections and with a pronounced bias toward Trump, is a reputation disaster. The state GOP must now see it through even though it might take months, and during that time, the embarrassment will continue. It's a gift to Democrats. They are saying, "This is what the Republican party has become. How can you vote for its candidates?" Die-hard Republicans won't change their vote but independents will and that is enough to carry Arizona, as we learned last November. The GOP has compounded one PR disaster with another of its own making, and it is just now awakening to the debacle.
Monday, May 10, 2021
Afghan citizens who cooperated with US troops as interpreters and in other vital functions are panicked about the drawdown of US troops from the country. They are convinced the Taliban will hunt them down and slaughter them for their aid to America. They have reason to be concerned with daily bombings taking the lives of men, women and children. The US' reputation is on the line for carrying out the moral obligation to these people. It was true when we left Vietnam. The tens of thousands of Vietnamese who made their way to the US have become vital citizens of our country. There is no reason to believe Afghans will be any different. The backlog at the State Department and the slowness of Congress to authorize more slots for visas are indefensible. These people helped us. There is no reason for denying them entry. Rather, they too can become productive parts of the US economy and enrich our culture. America's moral duty and reputation hang in the balance.
Friday, May 07, 2021
Waymo, Google's driverless van company, seems to be stuck without a profitable way forward. The company's reputation as the first to launch driverless vehicles also is in jeopardy. It serves today a suburb of Phoenix, AZ and has not expanded its coverage for two years. The article analyzes the potential problems the company is facing and comes up with significant challenges to Waymo ever becoming profitable and wide-spread. Along with Tesla's flawed AutoPilot, it is becoming evident that self-driving technology might not be ready for general use and might never be. There are too many traps and exceptions a human driver can avoid with ease but an automated vehicle cannot. Waymo has spent money and done research, but increasingly it is looking like a dead-end. The question for marketing at the company is what to do now. There doesn't seem to be a way forward.
Thursday, May 06, 2021
This article from Bloomberg BusinessWeek details how Jeff Bezos of Amazon turned the table on the National Enquirer over his love affair and divorce. It demonstrates what money can do to protect reputation. Bezos spent freely to corner AMI, the parent of the the Enquirer and was able to flip its story from marital infidelity to a politically motivated assault on Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post. The media bought Bezos' explanation and the Enquirer never had a chance. Chalk that up to the Enquirer's reputation as a scandal monger loose with the facts in pursuit of a sensational story. It's an interesting read, but few people have the resources of Bezos to repair their reputations after being attacked.
Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Facebook's oversight board has upheld the social medium's ban of former president Trump from its service. It was gratifying for the company that had been in a no-win situation of whether to cut Trump off or leave him be. The company determined after the Jan. 6 insurrection that it was too dangerous to allow Trump to continue to claim he was defrauded in the 2020 election. The company ducked a bullet by letting the board decide, but the board has called for Facebook to come up with clear standards for determining who should be banned and who allowed to stay. This will be difficult unless Facebook uses the clear and present danger standard for overriding free speech. That has worked well for media in the past. In any event, Facebook will need to proceed in a more orderly fashion, and that is good.
Tuesday, May 04, 2021
Sometimes one risks reputation by speaking truth to power. That is the perilous position Congresswoman Liz Cheney is in right now. She is an unrepentant critic of former president Donald Trump and has called him out time and again for lying about the election. The latest blast against him has isolated her within the Republican party and she could easily lose her position in the minority house leadership as well as her seat in Congress. It makes no difference that she is stating the obvious. Her colleagues don't want to hear it. They have lined up behind Trump and put blinders on and they are angry with anyone who dares to look at reality and accept it. Cheney's reputation will be burnished when the party is finally over Trumpism, but it might be too late for her as a Republican politician.
Monday, May 03, 2021
A company with a platinum reputation is starting to lose its glow in the eyes of shareholders. There isn't much to be done since its leaders are in their 90s and mortality is evident daily. The company is Berkshire Hathaway and the leaders are Warren Buffett, 90, and Charlie Munger, 97. Investors are starting to grumble that the two are losing their edge and missing opportunities, and they are worried about succession, although two executives are waiting to take over. Buffett has always been his own best PR man. He is articulate, witty and a world class company collector, but his stratospheric reputation cannot survive his age. At some point he will go or he will die with his boots on. Either way, his absence will shake the company as will the death of Munger. Nothing is permanent although it is hard sometimes to remember that. Buffett and Munger have been a two-person act that has run so long it is hard to believe it cannot go on forever.