Wednesday, June 30, 2021

One Chance 

Some organizations and individuals have one chance to get actions and statements right.  If they declare a "mulligan", they lose credibility, which is hard to win back.  That's the situation in which the New York Board of Elections finds itself this morning.  It botched the count for the Democratic primary for mayor.  The board included 135,000 test results which were never supposed to be in the final count.  There is no explanation for how it made the mistake but today, politicians and media on all sides are blasting its incompetence.  The board won't live this down for a long time.  Now it has to remove the faux votes and recalculate rank choice voting.  And, if a candidate should lose but be close to winning, the board will have to go through a second vetting of its results with lawyers hovering on all sides.  No one will believe its final count unless the spread is huge.  That's a pity in a year when local election authorities nationwide have come under scrutiny by Republicans who claim fraud in the 2020 election.  Their argument will be if it can happen in New York, then why not anywhere else?  

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

So Hot 

The Pacific Northwest is burning in triple-digit temperatures.  So too, western Canada.  The East Coast of the US is sweltering.  It is evidence that climate change is here to stay.  One would hope climate skeptics understand now that getting rid of CO2 in the atmosphere is not just a good thing to do but necessary.  Yet, some will persist in spinning conspiracy theories for the uncomfortable and dangerous weather.  They are beyond reach.  The communications target for environmental changes is the massive middle of the public.  They know something is wrong with searing heat and drought in places that never used to get it before.  They are ready to listen and to adjust.  This means more windmills, more solar panels, more ways to reduce gas emissions.  It means bending on NIMBY attitudes and more latitude in marketing ways to get the atmosphere under control.  Climate communicators shouldn't allow this crisis to go to waste. It is an ideal opportunity to move forward. 

Monday, June 28, 2021

Great PR 

 A stock Tesla won the Pike's Peak climb in its class.  The vehicle was seconds faster than the next car in the race.  That's great PR and belongs to the old maxim of "Win on Sunday.  Sell on Monday."  Tesla is quickly overcoming perceived shortcomings of electric drivetrains -- mainly range anxiety. If it can sprint up-mountain with reserves of power left over, what does that say for driving in a normal fashion?  Tesla has a grip on the EV field, which won't last much longer, but as long as it remains the leader, it can afford -- and should -- demonstrate power and range.  The vehicle has almost singlehandedly proven the feasibility of EVs. There is little wonder that one sees Teslas on the road regularly now.   

Friday, June 25, 2021

Too Big?  

UK regulators are going after Amazon and Google for failing to remove fake product reviews on their sites.  The two companies are working to control the manipulation but it continues to be a headache.  This is a PR crisis for both.  One wonders if Amazon and Google have grown too large to capture fraud.  There are too many thieves, and they are resilient, popping up again and again.  They choose to work on Amazon and Google because they are so big, and it is hard to police such sprawling organizations. It is difficult to monitor each product review uploaded to their sites and to determine its source and provenance.  The two companies are trying but they are fighting an impossible, never-ending battle.  Fraud is part of the human condition, and it will never go away.  If they were smaller, they might do a better job of controlling it.  

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Great PR 

NASA and Procter & Gamble have announced they are teaming to figure out how astronauts can do laundry in space.  It turns out dirty clothes are thrown away now -- put into capsules and left to burn in the earth's atmosphere.  That's a waste and puts a burden on the space agency to send new clothes to the international space station, which takes space on cargo containers.  NASA and P&G want to develop a minimal-water-use washing machine, which reclaims water, and chemicals to treat clothes directly.  That's great PR.  The company is a world leader in detergents and will now correctly claim it handles outer space as well.  "If we can clean clothes up there, think of what we can do for your laundry down here."  

Tuesday, June 22, 2021


The Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that the NCAA has a monopoly over student athletes. And, it's wrong.  The court decided narrowly but the doors have been opened for compensation for college sports beyond scholarships.  The NCAA's long-held ideas of amateurism have been exposed as cant.  Students were working for free to support a multi-billion enterprise with high-paid coaches and broadcasting rights.  The NCAA had failed to move with the times and was caught in an anachronistic PR position.  The organization now has to scramble to update its rules and it risks yet another round of suits over name, image and likeness (NIL) of student players and how they can monetize them.  Some states already have passed legislation allowing students to reap cash from exploiting NIL.  The NCAA has been knocked off a self-righteous perch.

Monday, June 21, 2021


The Federal Reserve is facing an unknown -- inflation.  Will it continue to rise or will it fall back as the economy once again reaches full employment?  The reputation of the governors will rest on getting it right.  They are watching the economy closely but it isn't cooperating with mixed signals the order of the day.  There isn't much historical precedence to consult.  The shock to the nation of the COVID pandemic hadn't happened since the 1918 flu epidemic.  Times were different then and the economy not yet as complicated as it is now.  But, the future of the nation rests on their decisions over the next year and the stock market is watching.  It already slumped with the announcement that the Fed is considering a modest increase in rates next year.  The Fed is communicating more to the public but emphasizing unknowns.  That satisfies no one but uncertainty is all we have.   

Friday, June 18, 2021

PR And Skin Tones 

 Google is pursuing good PR by searching for a better distinction of skin tones.  

"At issue is a six-color scale known as Fitzpatrick Skin Type (FST), which dermatologists have used since the 1970s. Tech companies now rely on it to categorize people and measure whether products such as facial recognition systems or smartwatch heart-rate sensors perform equally well across skin tones."

The measure has been known to be inadequate for people of color for a long time.  Yet, it persists because no one has developed a better alternative.  Should Google succeed, it will add a more equitable gauge to medical and social practices.  What could be better than that?  

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Forcing The Issue 

The National Football League is forcing the vaccination issue with its players through an onerous set of restrictions for those who don't get the jab.  It is an example of negative persuasion and it is intended to ostracize those who haven't complied with COVID rules.  Some players are complaining already.  It is hard to feel sorry for them.  They are jeopardizing the health of others by failing to get vaccinated and are selfish.  The NFL is on good PR ground with what it is doing and should be commended for its rules.  

Wednesday, June 16, 2021


It is hard to maintain good public relations when acting a bully.   That is the situation facing China as it sent 28 planes into Taiwanese air space then issued a warning to other nations to stay out of its internal affairs.  China considers Taiwan its possession and is intent on taking over the island.  It doesn't care what the Taiwanese think, and they are not in favor of joining the mainland.  China's aggressive moves have put the world on alert about its power and devil-may-care attitude.  Some day, China might move to invade Taiwan and that will force a choice on governments whether to let it happen or to provide assistance.  For now, playing a bully is all China seems prepared to do.  But that is enough.   

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Too Soon?  

The White House is targeting July 4 as a day of celebration for overcoming the COVID virus.  It wants to have a big bash of a time.  There is a risk in that, a reputational danger should the virus flare up again.  It would be blamed on Biden and not Trump for failing to see what might happen should unvaccinated crowds gather.  The difference this time is that more than half of the adults in the nation have received a jab so the risk is smaller than before.  But, there is still a chance it might go wrong, especially with more contagious variants on the loose.  Would it be better if Independence Day were kept at a low key without triumphant celebration?  

Monday, June 14, 2021


President Biden is sending his cabinet members throughout the US to sell his ambitious and costly agenda.  That is smart communications but is it enough?  The public wants to hear from the top with reassurance that proposed laws will help and not plunge the country into inflation and overwhelming debt.  Cabinet members are vital to the political process but the President is essential.  With Biden away in Europe, the media's focus has shifted across the pond for the time being.  While re-engaging with allies is essential after the Trump era, it is a task that doesn't move his domestic plans forward.  The President is being yanked in different directions at the same time at the cost of focus.  It's a reminder that the leader of the free world doesn't have the luxury of completing one task at a time.   

Friday, June 11, 2021

Smart PR 

The news that the US will donate 500 million doses of corona virus vaccine to poor countries is smart PR for the country.  Since WWII, the US has been seen as the leader of free nations and this gift to struggling countries maintains that leadership.  President Biden has positioned the largess as doing the right thing, and that it is.  But, it doesn't take much insight to see it is a gift meant to forestall the influence of China and Russia.  Neither of those two countries have shared publicly the effectiveness of their vaccines.  The Pfizer shot from the US is well understood and in hundreds of millions of arms already.  A downside to distributing the 500 million jabs is refrigeration.  Some disadvantaged countries don't have it in rural areas.  This opens a next step for the US and Pfizer to provide it -- another PR move.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Hanging Out 

The popular Republican governor of Massachusetts is in trouble with his own party.  He is too moderate and he is not a Trump supporter.  Democrats love him but not his own voters.  His is a PR problem that will require him to campaign across party lines if he wants to be re-elected.  And, there is no certainty that he can accomplish that.  As observers have noted, Republicans are intent on committing suicide by their unreasoning devotion to the former president.  They have lost the independent voter and they are talking only to their minority base. The governor can't change that and he might lose the primary as a result.  There is no good course for him unless he publicly moves right, which apparently he isn't ready to do.  It must hell to be a Republican office-holder today.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Leadership By Example 

 In Brazil, a country rife with bribery and corruption, the caretakers of Rio de Janeiro's iconic Christ statue have pledged to become a model of transparency.  As the news story relates:

"The Rio branch of the international accounting firm KPMG has signed an agreement with the administration of the Sanctuary of Christ the Redeemer to ensure operations are aboveboard.
“'With this partnership, Christ the Redeemer becomes an important milestone for establishing ethical relations, committed to values,” Rev. Omar Raposo, rector of the sanctuary, said at the base of the statue."
One might ask why this wasn't done a long time ago, but starting is still good and an example to all.  

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Tough Testimony 

The CEO of Colonial Pipeline is going before Congress to explain why he paid a ransom to internet attackers.  It is likely to be an unpleasant session and tough testimony.  The company wasn't ready for ransomware and when it tied up its operations, the company folded quickly and passed 75 bitcoin to the extortionists worth $4.4 million.  The explanation at the time was that Colonial needed to get its pipeline working again to avoid fuel shortages in Mid-Atlantic states and Southeast.  There was panic buying and service stations ran short of gas.  All this will be in the hearing but senators are likely to hone in on Colonial's lack of systems to counter ransomware.  It is a blackeye for the corporation's reputation and a PR disaster.  A roasting of the CEO will serve as a warning to other executives to get their companies ready -- or else.

Monday, June 07, 2021

We're Sorry 

Indigenous people of Canada are blasting the pope for failing to apologize for mistreatment and deaths of native children. The pope expressed pain and sorrow but not the words, "we're sorry."  The background of the situation were Catholic-run schools to educate young indians in the ways of the so-called first world.  They were forcibly removed from their families and sent to these institutions for a "proper" education and to remove any trace of indigenous language and lifestyle.  It doesn't help that the Canadian government thought it was doing the right thing at the time and the Catholic Church was complicit in that view.  When hundreds of children die and are interred in a mass grave, it shows a lack of empathy and concern for them by the religious authorities. It shouldn't be difficult to apologize for the past but something is holding back the pope.  What it has created is a PR blackeye for the Catholic Church in Canada, one that won't be overcome for a long time, if ever.  

Friday, June 04, 2021

Betting On A Dream 

United Airlines will buy 15 supersonic passenger aircraft from a company that hasn't built even one yet.  That's betting on a dream.  The company, Boom Supersonic, wants to fly passengers by 2029, but that assumes it can get certified by the Federal Aviation Commission by then. A big if.  UA has gained a temporary marketing coup by announcing the buy but it won't last long if Boom Supersonic falls behind its delivery schedule, which it almost certainly will do.  Call UA's move a publicity success but not a PR one -- not yet.  The aircraft has to fly safely before anyone can claim anything other than pursuit of a figment of the imagination.  

Thursday, June 03, 2021


Tesla understands social media and the damage false reports can do.  It patrols the web in China for inaccurate statements about its cars and demands apologies from miscreants.  And, it is getting them.  The company knows false statements that go viral damage its brand and sales.  It turns out some consumers who post lies do it for recognition.  They don't grasp the damage it can do or they are trying to pull down the company for personal reasons.  What Tesla is doing is essential for every other corporation as well in the internet age.  A difference is that Tesla has remote reporting from each of its vehicles that covers the auto's mechanicals, the speed it was going and the driver's reactions.  It has little trouble outing falsehoods.  Most companies don't have that granularity yet but they need it.  

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Loose Lips 

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has stated that Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, has violated his agreement with the SEC to have his material tweets approved by his lawyers before issuing them.  The agency cites two violations from 2019 and 2020.  Musk has run afoul of the SEC before and that is the reason it signed an agreement with him to monitor his tweets before they were issued.  Apparently that did not happen on two occasions.  Musk is known for loose lips, stating whatever comes to mind whether or not it runs afoul of regulations.  His fans love it.  The SEC and investors do not.  His pronouncements often have a tinge of flackery, promoting what is to come whether it does or not.  The government is not amused by publicity that doesn't come true because it is stock manipulation. Musk is getting himself into PR hot water and he could be scalded if he fails to pay attention.  He could lose the privilege of tweeting, much like the former president of the US.    

Tuesday, June 01, 2021


The French Open's tennis officials don't seem to know what to do with an athlete who fails to attend a post-match press conference.  World star Naomi Osaka withdrew from the tournament because she said her mental health was at risk while meeting the media.  She had previously declined to attend a post-match session after winning her match and was fined for it.  French officials said the player's well being was of high concern but penalized her anyway.  It was a two-faced move, and the result is the Open has lost the participation of a star tennis player.  The French Tennis Federation needs a better policy and response to such requests.  For now, it looks foolish and has been roundly condemned for hypocrisy.  It has only itself to blame for this PR crisis.    

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