Friday, July 30, 2021
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Monday, July 12, 2021
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
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
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
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
Friday, July 02, 2021
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.