Friday, July 30, 2021

Death of Speech 

 A Hong Kong court has given a pro-democracy demonstrator a 9-year sentence for protesting the Chinese government's restriction of free speech in the territory.  One can no longer criticize Beijing's rulings and tactics and not be held accountable.  The heavy hand of the state has destroyed diversity of political opinion.  The communist government is well into an experiment that has already failed  -- Marxist capitalism.  Business can operate in China but it must refrain from saying anything negative about the state.  The same restriction has now been applied to Hong Kong, traditionally a free-wheeling entity.  In such an environment, public relations is difficult.  One is constantly looking over the shoulder to determine what is acceptable to bureaucrats.  Publicity must be vetted.  What an organization says about itself must be approved.  Even mild disagreements raise the specter of prison time.  China can get away with destruction of speech for decades, but eventually its citizens will rebel again.  

Thursday, July 29, 2021


This scientist wrote that the universe has no meaning beyond itself.  It is pointless and there is no deity behind its creation.  You can imagine what believers think.  They have argued with him from the moment he penned the statement.  Yet, how do you communicate the existence of a God in a world where everything emanated from a Big Bang and continues according to natural laws that need no divinity?  It is not easy, especially since science has become a secular endeavor.  Belief is personal and stems from a need for justice in a world where there is little.  The rich get richer and the poor die young.  The innocent are accused and self-interest is the rule.  It's too harsh of a world for believers to accept, so, according to scientists, they invent a deity who makes things right before and after death.  The scientist's view is bleak and without hope.  Religion refuses to accept it.  The two sides talk past one another and leave people confused.  

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Making It Real 

The House panel investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol started off with testimony from four police officers who were assaulted by the mob that day.  Testimony was harrowing and brought the ugly incident to life. This was intentional by the Congressional investigators.  They want to communicate to American citizens not to forget what happened and crimes committed.  The panel will soon descend into dry analyses of documents, readiness and fixing the blame for the uprising.  It will get political because it has to.  Instigators of the event were the President himself and Congressional leaders who supported him with fiery speeches at a rally that morning.  The question remains whether their goal was to incite the crowd to overturn the election certification in Congress that day or to inveigh against an "unfair" result.  Either way, the people responded.  Trump will not get off lightly. His supporters in Congress will continue to dub the panel as a political hack job, but the testimony of the four officers is a reminder that a mob went out of control.   

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

By Force 

Governments and medical associations are calling for a mandate to force unvaccinated health care workers to get the jab.  The move is occurring from New York to California and is an acknowledgement that persuasion has failed.  All the coaxing, prompting, jawboning, inviting has come to naught for tens of thousands of nurses, doctors, aids and others who resolutely stood their ground and refused.  Authorities are not taking the mandate lightly. There is a worry that some healthcare workers will quit rather than be vaccinated.  And that has been the case but the numbers who have left so far are vanishingly small.  One wonders why this hadn't happened sooner and an answer is politics.  Republicans were waiting to pounce on any move to force compliance, calling such orders an abridgement of personal freedom.  With the variant of COVID growing madly, governors and mayors are no longer willing to wait.  They have issued do-it-or-else orders.  Communicators take note. There are times when persuasion must yield to the rod.  

Monday, July 26, 2021

Hard To Believe 

Philip Morris' CEO says the company will stop selling cigarettes in the UK in 10 years.   That's hard to believe, but the corporation is moving to other nicotine delivery vehicles, especially e-cigarettes.  Even if it goes smokeless, it will continue to sell an addictive product with negative health effects.  The problem with PM is that it lacks credibility.  It was in the vanguard of frustrating anti-tobacco campaigns for more than 30 years.  It has no intention of getting out of the tobacco business.  It has been sued and sued again and lost.  From a marketing perspective, it is on the wrong side of business even though it continues to serve millions of smokers whom it addicted.  To work for the company means one is in it for the money and has no ethics or is willing to compromise them or has blinders on with a twisted belief in the right to light up.  One must ask, "Can anyone take the company seriously?"

Friday, July 23, 2021


Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is vowing to move ahead with a Jan.6 riot investigation even if Republicans boycott the process.  The two sides are increasingly nasty to each other.  The GOP is moving to boycott the probe after Pelosi denied two Republican congressmen seats on the committee.  Pelosi has vowed to move ahead with or without the elephants.  The perception is that of quarreling children.  "I'm taking my ball and going home."  "Yah, we'll play without you."  President Biden is seeking bipartisanship in the two houses, but his quest seems fruitless for the time being.  The two sides have taken positions welded in iron and are talking past one another without listening.  They aren't communicating.  They are posturing, and it is a bad example for the American public.  Communications requires a measure of civility when there is a balance of power.  That is sadly missing in Congress.  

Thursday, July 22, 2021


In the tech world, developing a standard that everyone subscribes too, and more importantly honors in development, is hard.  There is always an urge to fiddle, to adapt it to one's own devices although that makes them incompatible with others' equipment.  That's why it is cautiously heartening to see Amazon signing on for an open-source standard for home speakers.   Amazon might not have invented the field but it made it popular and a highly useful device that takes the place of a number of household tools from alarm clocks to weather stations to information resources to music and more.  Amazon's move is not just good business but smart PR.  It knows what customers need and is willing to give it to them rather than sitting on its technology and refusing to accommodate. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

'Fessing Up 

President Biden, in whose long political career has misspoken time and again, has 'fessed up to doing it once more.  This time it was about an offhand remark accusing Facebook of killing people because of vaccine misinformation on its site.  Yesterday, he clarified his statement by saying it was a dozen participants who are harming the unvaccinated public by posting lies on Facebook, and he hoped Facebook would do something about it.  It was the right thing to do, but the press beat up on him anyway, as did Facebook.  He deserves it for being inaccurate.  Leaders can't afford to spread falsehoods.  We know what happens when they do with his predecessor being a prime example.  So, kudos for Biden admitting his mistake so quickly, but he had better not do it again. 

Monday, July 19, 2021


Toyota, a major sponsor of the Tokyo Olympics, has pulled all of its advertising for the games and its CEO will not attend the opening ceremony.  This is a stark message to organizers that Japan is not ready for world athletes and the games should not go on.  Olympic officials are not listening, however.  They are plunging ahead into what is becoming an abyss of COVID testing and positive results.  No one is happy -- not the public, not the competitors, not the sponsors nor advertisers, not the organizers who are watching their carefully planned games, already a year late, fall apart in the 11th hour.  It is a PR disaster for the Japanese and a costly one as well -- tens of billions of dollars spent for no return.  The games are going on because of the sunk cost, but few will attend because of the virus.  Athletes will compete in empty stadia and officials can only watch with deep regret.  

Friday, July 16, 2021

Pure Publicity 

NASA has done it again with a video of a flyby of Jupiter and its largest moon, Ganymede.  The animation of stills is scored to music and includes lightning flashes in the clouds of Jupiter.  It is a beautiful rendition, which humans might never see for themselves given the distance to Jupiter and hazardous conditions of being there.  The scientific value of the video is less than its publicity worth.  It is a reminder to the public once again that NASA is doing extraordinary work in deep space and has the images to prove it.  NASA in its existence has become a master of publicity and public relations.  It has capitalized on its many missions, the space station, the Hubble telescope, rovers on Mars, astronauts and more.  It has built a massive body of scientific research and discovery.  And, because it must fight annually for its budget, it has been a relentless communicator to the public to gain support.  The agency is a credit to America and will go down in history as one of the most successful government organizations ever established.   

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Public Interest Publicity 

The US Surgeon General is asking Americans to combat misinformation about COVID shots.  He says errors and lies about the vaccination and virus are a critical danger to citizens. His call is a recognition that health authorities have gone as far as they can to persuade reluctant individuals to get the jab.  Now it is time for personal influentials to step up and deliver the message.  It is disturbing that credibility in health authorities is so low among many Americans.  They won't listen to their doctors nor to government nor to any expert opinion.  Talk about forcing or penalizing them to get vaccinated have spurred outrage.  "The authoritarian state is infringing on my personal freedom."  The Surgeon General's efforts at publicity in the public interest might reach some skeptics but it is unlikely to be many.  Those who resist will only accept the message if they become ill and are hospitalized. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Early Obit 

This news organization wrote an early obituary for Pope Francis, confidently predicting he won't last another five years and reciting his achievements and failures in his job.  One must admire the chutzpah if not the accuracy of the article.  The best revenge for the Pope is to outlast the predictions and continue to do his job.  There is little a media relations practitioner can do to stop such articles.  The reporter has the freedom to speculate, and so he has.  It takes patience and serenity to endure and continue on.  A leader should put Monday morning quarterbacking in perspective.  Anyone can be a critic without the pressures of accomplishing anything.  

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

No Avoiding The Issue 

Sometimes there is no way to duck an issue and communications of intent are forced upon a leader and an organization.  That is what is happening to the Biden administration now with the Cuban demonstrations.  Biden wasn't ready to deal with the growing hunger and destitution on the island nation.  He left American sanctions in place from the Trump era.  Now he has to decide how to deal with Americans of Cuban descent who want freedom for the island but he has to thread the needle without looking like he is caving to the communist leadership who are blaming Yankee imperialism.  There might be no good answer but a series of postures that look like he is concerned without doing much.  Cubans are a large voting block in South Florida and they are Republican. If Biden says the right things, he might win some Cuban American support in 2022, but that will be hard to do. The Presidency is a stressful job.  

Monday, July 12, 2021

Been There, Done That 

Richard Branson, founder and owner of space tourism company Virgin Galactic, has taken the ultimate PR step of going to space himself.  He has proven his launch system works by riding it and he has beaten Jeff Bezos of Amazon to the punch.  Bezos is slated to mount his rocket later this month.  Both men are opening a bucket list opportunity for those who can afford it -- a chance to see the earth from the blackness above it and to float weightless for a few minutes.  Whether their firms are financially viable is still to be determined.  A third billionaire who has no intention of going to space at this time, Elon Musk, is running a highly successful enterprise, SpaceX, that has proven rockets are reusable and launch costs can be more than halved.  Of the three. Musk is in the better position, but that doesn't take much away from the achievements of the others.  Outer space has come to the masses.  

Friday, July 09, 2021

Double Down 

Elon Musk of Tesla is about to release a beta version of its Full Self Driving software/hardware package and he is hyping it to the public.  Given the accidents and lawsuits facing the company over the deficiencies of the current system, that is doubling down.  Tesla insists a driver is still in charge of the car but the vehicle can do just about everything without driver intervention.  The problem arises when the system is confused and fails to respond to a traffic incident.  Collisions and deaths have resulted.  Why is he leaving the system on the market?  It is arrogance and a belief that Tesla has what it takes to solve the complex problem of self-driving, something Google has yet to do with a far more sophisticated system.  Any way one wants to consider what Musk is doing, it is poor PR. 

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Will He? Won't He? 

President Biden is under situation over the latest ransomware attacks.  He has promised to punish Putin for the deeds of Russian hackers, but what can he do?  There is no easy answer without raising tension between the two nuclear powers.  Putin has been resistant to sanctions imposed by the US.  Biden wants a stable relationship with Putin while recognizing his hostility.  It is a new cold war with much of Putin's aggression showing online.  Biden has promised an answer to the latest transgression, but the public has yet to hear what it is.  The longer Biden waits, the harder it will be to mount an effective response.  That has started a guessing game.  Will he?  Won't he?  

Wednesday, July 07, 2021


The limits of persuasion are amply demonstrated in the COVID vaccination rate.  Despite the President, the national and state heads of disease control, physicians, neighbors, friends, relatives and more, there are still more than 30 percent of the population in the US who are refusing to get the jab.  It's unexplainable.  Resisters have a variety of reasons but nothing that overcomes the dangers of the virus, especially the new variant which is whipping around the country.  All one can do at this point is to ask why and to hope those coming down with the illness might survive.  At least as a testimony to what hardheadedness can produce.  The President is suggesting that health workers go door to door to root out the unvaccinated and give them the shot.  That might work for some but not for all.  It might be time to give up trying and to let the virus have its way.  That wouldn't be charitable but it would be justice.  "You chose this path.  Now, live with it."

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Face Of Disaster 

The Miami-Dade mayor is performing an essential but gut-wrenching role -- the face of disaster.  She is the one stepping before cameras daily to explain what rescuers are doing on the pile of concrete from the collapsed tower.  She didn't have to take the job.  She could have left it to a leader of the first responders.  But, she understands that in times of crisis citizens want visible leadership.  It is a fundamental communications role of good leaders -- presence in bad times as well as good.  No executive likes the job and some duck to avoid it, but those who do take it on are usually rewarded with elevated reputations and credibility.  The hardest part of her task will be to announce when the mission shifts from search to recovery with the understanding that no one else could remain alive.  She will come in for withering criticism from surviving family members, but that is part of the job too.  

Monday, July 05, 2021

When Will It End?  

The latest ransomware attacks and a demand for $70 million to get the encryption key raises a fundamental question: When will it end?  The world cannot afford to have hacker gangs and governments crippling essential resources of countries, and it raises a chilling thought.  Might hacker attacks be a form of warfare that lock up armies in the face of an attack?  It still seems companies aren't taking cybersecurity seriously enough and are living in a dreamland where it can't happen to me.  A potential alleviation of the present situation is transparency.  Governments should mandate that every victim disclose a successful assault.  The negative publicity will spur IT departments and CEOs to bear down on cybersecurity and to install company-wide protocols to prevent access to their systems.  That won't make them completely safe but it will make it more difficult for hackers to work.  It is a never-ending battle.

Friday, July 02, 2021

Change Of Heart?  

According to this article, NASA is fighting to save the Hubble space telescope.  If so, it is a change of heart.  NASA publicly wanted to mothball Hubble in favor of a new scope set to be launched soon. If it is fighting hard to save Hubble, it understands the positive PR the scope has produced over the last 30 years.  That PR was an unending series of magnificent images of stars, plants and nebula.  Hubble was an automatic media generator.  When NASA released photos, they ran around the world online and off.  Hubble was a proxy for the space that the space agency is dedicated to explore.  Should the scope be unfixable, it will be a pity.  But, Hubble has done its service in magnificent style and positioned NASA on the leading edge of explorers of the universe.  

Thursday, July 01, 2021

What Can They Do?  

The condo board of the collapsed building in Surfside, FL has hired a crisis PR firm.  The reason is to handle hundreds, if not thousands, of media queries and to stick to the facts of the case as they are known for the moment.  The situation in which the board finds itself is not good.  Already, engineers' reports on the degraded health of the building have come out, and there is little the board or crisis PR firm can do to change the course of the story.  Reports that the board was riven with argument over the projected cost of upgrading the building are understandable.  Few want to pay for maintenance if they don't have to.  But, the destroyed building is an object lesson for keeping  up repairs.  See what can happen if you don't.   What can the crisis PR firm do to guide the story?  Little.  The narrative is well out of its control.  

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