Thursday, September 30, 2021


Amazon knows how to use media to advantage.  It recently sent a 13-page pdf to the news source, The Verge, in response to Elon Musk's complaint about Amazon's Blue Origin's lawsuits over Musk's SpaceX company.  The 13 pages were a table listing SpaceX's lawsuits since its beginning in 2004.  That sparked a story examining the competition between the two space corporations.  Amazon could have released a statement without data to support it but it wouldn't have gone far. Instead the company chose to bolster its position with facts in depth and it gained a hearing.  That left Musk in a weak position with nothing but a tweet for his defense.  It is clear that Amazon has been tracking SpaceX and was ready to respond should Musk attack, which he did in a conference.  With a defense like that, Amazon is a difficult company to criticize.  

Wednesday, September 29, 2021


Scientists using the Hubble space telescope have determined that Jupiter's great red spot is speeding up in its outer ring while its inner ring is maintaining a slow pace. This counter-intuitive procession of winds was a surprising discovery in a feature that has been watched for more than 150 years, according to the article.  It is one more example of how science progresses -- by increments, fits and starts, closer observation of accepted phenomena.  Learning is endless and there is rarely a time when a subject is exhausted.  It is also a reason that we in communications can never stop learning in order to remain relevant.  What we think we know might change with a closer look, with a creative question, with a refusal to accept conventional wisdom.  Sometimes we get ahead of our audiences and have to wait for them to catch up, but we should stay in a position to lead rather than follow.  

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Alternate Universe 

When an individual denies facts that have been tested and proven time and again, he is living in an alternate universe.  There is no reaching the person with evidence.  His mind is made up and the only thing society can do is control his impulses and keep him firmly out of decisions that affect its members.  This is the case with former president Trump who now is indicating that he might be reinstated as president due to massive voter fraud.  He even denied the results of the laughable Arizona audit, performed by his supporters, which found that Biden won by a slightly greater margin than certified.  The danger is that Trump will impose his alternate universe on the public in the next presidential election.  He still has an enormous group of voters who follow his every word and believe as he does that the election was stolen.  Communications fail with a person living in an alternate reality.  Logic has no bearing.  Irrationality prevails.  It is a sad situation that the public has to deal with.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Too Little, Too Late? 

Two weeks after a Wall Street Journal investigation into Fakebook's Instagram software, the company is saying not so.  The Journal article cited Facebook's own internal research revealing that teenage girls are being hurt in body image while using the photo-based program.  What took the company so long?  In the modern era, that's numerous news cycles per day that passed before the vice president of research responded.  Corporations don't have the luxury of waiting any longer.  They need to respond immediately with facts to correct the record.  The problem Facebook is facing is that the data is its own that was leaked to the Journal.  The VP's delayed rejoinder is interesting because she is arguing her own work was misinterpreted.  The argument is "that is not what I intended to say."  It won't play well in the public opinion sphere where data points are facts until disproven.  Facebook needs crisis-response help.  

Friday, September 24, 2021


This is a crisis for the company that made the infant product.  The Boppy Co.'s recall of 3.3 million infant loungers because of suffocation puts the whole organization at risk of consumer boycott.  Parents will question whether its other products are safe and whether the company has tested them.  The Boppy Co. has only a limited time to inform the public that its other infant items are safe to use with no deaths reported.  Its reaction to the recall was proper with expressions of sorrow but in its favor, it noted that the lounger was never marketed as a sleep product and included a warning to avoid unsupervised use.  Still, it has eight deaths over 17 years to account for.  That might seem like a minimal amount but not to grieving parents.  

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Impossible Task?  

Apple computer is going after leakers in its ranks.   This comes after a series of confidential inside memos were given to the press.  Tim Cook, the CEO, sent a memo to all employees that Apple would hunt down leakers and get rid of them.  That too leaked. It seems the company has taken on an impossible task.  News will out whether or not one wishes to keep it secret.  The best approach is to take a PR strategy for the likelihood of a leak.  Ask how one is going to handle it, what the company is going to say.  Hunting leakers is a frustrating, no-win task.   

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

No Way Out 

Sometimes a leader is presented with impossible situations in which there are no good solutions.  How the executive addresses them reveals the character of the individual.  This is the situation facing President Biden now.  He is knee-deep in an immigration crisis at the Del Rio Bridge in south Texas.  An estimated 9,000 predominantly Haitian migrants are camped there in squalid conditions overwhelming the Border Patrol tasked with processing them.  The refugees have nowhere to go.  Haiti is a ruin from hurricanes and earthquakes.  The US won't accommodate them because they are the tip of a wedge of tens of thousands of migrants from around the world who want into "the promised land."  Biden has chosen to repatriate Haitians in the face of blistering criticism from his own party.  Republicans meanwhile are laying the whole immigration catastrophe firmly at Biden's door.  The public is outraged over mishandling of migrants by Border Patrol agents on horseback.  The Border Patrol union is scathing in its criticism of the President and the poor planning involved.  This is a time when a leader might like to step down but can't.  The mess won't fix itself.  It takes patient work under the greatest pressure.  No one would blame Biden for lashing out but his reputation is at stake and bitter words won't help it.  There is no way out.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Of Course 

An MIT study shows that Tesla drivers become inattentive when using the Full Self-Driving (FSD) system from the auto maker. Of course.  What else would one expect when driving on autopilot?  Tesla says drivers who turn their attention from the road are using the system wrongly, but what does hands-free driving mean after all?  Tesla is loathe to admit that its hardware-software system is inadequate and too primitive.  It has become a PR problem for the company, especially after high-profile crashes of its vehicles.  Rather than withdraw the technology, Tesla has chosen to double down.  It's wrong-headed and the automaker will face legal consequences as a result.  What a way to wreck a reputation.  

Monday, September 20, 2021

The Limit on Persuasion  

Anti-vaxxers who refuse to take the jab are rushing to a drug called Ivermectin used to kill parasites in livestock.  In doing so, they are turning their back on FDA-approved vaccines with hundreds of millions of successful injections and demonstrated preventive effects.  The irony is overwhelming and demonstrates again that humans are not rational creatures.  Communications built on logic and reason are foiled again and again.  So, how does one deal with irrational behavior?  Fear is one place to start.  Widely circulate the harmful effects of the drug if taken in excess.  Publicize cases in which patients failed to get better and died of COVID.  Spread the word that Ivermectin is dangerous when ill-used.  Some will listen:  Some won't.  Irrational people are convinced of their positions in the face of overwhelming evidence.  It is one more example of the limit on persuasion.

Friday, September 17, 2021


The Federal Reserve is investigating the ethics of stock trading among its members.  Two officials completed million dollar deals in the middle of the pandemic.  This has opened the agency to criticism that its governors might be profiting from inside information. Whether or not they gained from the action, it looks bad, and appearances count.  The Fed should act independently of the corporate economy because its actions affect business at every level.  There should be no hint of inside dealing among any of its executives.  That way, they can look with unbiased eyes to the state of the nation and what their decisions will do.  They will also inspire trust in their judgment, an essential factor in all the Fed does.    

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Clanging the Klaxon 

Here is a story that appears often but few listen.  Worries about a Social Security shortfall are decades long, but Congress, so far, has done nothing about it.  Instead, it keeps pouring money out of the fund and ignoring the consequences.  It is like the relentless warnings about COVID and the need to get vaccinated.  Some won't listen no matter the amount of communication. Only a crisis can precipitate action and it is still more than 10 years away.  Congress won't touch the system because it is a third rail in politics -- deadly to one's political career.  Yet, the problem will be made worse by delay.  The rational action would be to deal with the issue now, but logic has no part in the discussion.  It's a sad state of affairs.  

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Mean Spirited 

Former Trump officials are trying to rally Republican voters against Afghanistan refugees settling in the US.  They are using code words against immigration and asking how many of the new arrivals are terrorists.  It is a mean-spirited marketing campaign that has both Republicans and Democrats upset.  The former aides to Trump are deliberately overlooking the fact that these people worked for the US government and have lost their country.  They are cultivating xenophobia that ignores the tradition and practice of the US to welcome peoples from all nations into a melting pot of cultures, tongues and practices.  The former Trump officials themselves can look at their own lineages and trace back to when their forebears landed on American shores.  That they don't do it highlights the petty minds they have.  Their campaign will work for hard core right wing radicals but the majority of the US population will deplore or ignore it.  

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Condemning Trumpism 

Former President George W. Bush verbally assaulted Trumpism in a speech over the weekend.  Bush rejected politics of anger and hate that has divided the country.  He never once mentioned Trump's name.  He didn't have to.  The context was clear and Trump immediately fired back at Bush.  The speech commemorating 9/11 victims outlined a nation that came together and helped one another after the towers fell.  It was a time of unity that didn't last as cultural and economic divisions took over and were fanned into rage by former President Trump.  The speech reminded the public that a flickering, dying light of reasonableness remains in the Republican Party and could return again once craven GOP politicians stop genuflecting before Trump. Bush is in the wilderness of his party now and will remain there for who knows how long. But, the sooner we return to a united America, the better it will be.   

Monday, September 13, 2021

Every Man For Himself 

When it comes to taxes, it is every man for himself.  The proposed changes to the tax law that Democrats are considering are sure to bring out armies of lobbyists opposed to change.  The wealthy can afford representation at the highest levels of government.  From a communications perspective, the argument will be that the nation and states risk losing revenue from those who choose to leave a high-tax locale or the country or to move assets offshore.  There will be no one-for-all all-for-one moment and opponents will be fired up to stop any legislation even if the Democrats' social proposals pass Congress.  Duties of citizenship only extend so far and increased tax burdens are not part of them. 

Friday, September 10, 2021

Commercial Space 

Little says more about manned commercial space travel than the upcoming Inspiration 4 flight by SpaceX.  Four civilians will circumnavigate the earth for three days.  Billionaires have reached space already but this will be like a normal mission.  Successful completion of the orbits will demonstrate the ability of regular people, not astronauts, to complete work off the earth.  While Inspiration 4 is as much a publicity stunt as a practical demonstration, it will still make the point that organizations other than governments are in manned space for good.   

Thursday, September 09, 2021

20 Years 

This Saturday the nation will record the 20th anniversary of the World Trade Towers destruction, the attack on the Pentagon and the plane that went down when passengers fought hijackers.  It was the start of two decades of war against terrorists that continues today even though the US has left Afghanistan. That day is burned into memory and is the base on which Presidents and legal authorities decide how to combat terrorism.  We don't want ever again a day like 9/11/01.  It is a benchmark in history, a tragic symbol of how the world has changed.  The phrase 9/11 communicates helplessness when the world watched in horror as the twin towers fell and the Pentagon burned.  It was an event that proved to Americans that there is no safety from evil in the world.  We have to engage in the fight against terror no matter where in the globe it rises.  

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

130 Years Late 

Richmond, VA has removed its 12-ton statue of Robert E. Lee from Monument Avenue.  It was 130 years late.  The bronze never should have been erected in the first place.  The memorial was a communication about the lost cause of the Civil War and end of slavery.  When it was erected, segregation was at white heat and Virginians were acting as if they had won the war.  The Ku Klux Klan was in force: Lynchings were common. Reconstruction had ended and carpet baggers expelled.  Whites were nursing deep grudges against the North and hatred for Black Americans.  Robert E. Lee was a symbol of the survival of the Old South in spite of the catastrophe and a dream of what might have been.  Now it is in storage.  Reality has finally intruded on the psyche of Southerners.  It is a reminder of how deeply held beliefs can pass down from generation to generation before there is a change in heart.  

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Testing Limits 

 A new MU variant of the COVID virus has spread to 49 states already.  Scientists are thinking it might be more transmissible and resistant to vaccines than the Delta strain. Americans have only themselves to blame.  The millions who refused to get vaccinated allowed COVID to mutate.  Refusing to wear a mask and socially distance themselves only made things worse.  The whole episode has been a PR failure for which health authorities and the Federal government cannot be blamed.  They pushed, advocated, cajoled, pleaded, spoke out in every way possible to reach citizens who refused to listen.  In the process, they proved the limits of communications. It takes two parties for a communication to be effective -- a speaker and a listener.  In this case, the listener was absent and still is.  It is past time for mandates -- your vaccination or your job.  The nation can't afford even more variants to spread because of social resistance to getting protected.  

Monday, September 06, 2021

Great PR 

This article demonstrates how NASA's Mars-based helicopter, Ingenuity, is great PR for the agency and its scientists.  Since PR is more of what you do than what you say, Ingenuity with each flight proves the skills and knowledge of NASA's engineers and scientists.  There was concern from the beginning that the helicopter couldn't leave the ground in Mar's thin atmosphere, so it was built with high-speed counter-rotors that proved to be the answer for sustaining flight.  Since it takes 10 minutes to communicate one way with the machine, scientists built in automated instructions, which have worked perfectly.  Now the tiny flyer is serving as a scout for the much bigger rover on which it was transported from earth to Mars. What could be better PR than that?  

Friday, September 03, 2021


Little can ding a fast-food franchiser's reputation more quickly than an instore machine that doesn't work.  This is the pickle McDonald's finds itself in with its soft-serve ice cream appliance.  It has gotten so bad the Federal Trade Commission is investigating the device and the company's response to it.  It turns out McDonald's is fully aware of frequent breakdowns and had joked about it.  The manufacturer has defended its machine and laid the blame on store owners.  It says they don't know how to maintain it properly.  Store owners have complained that out-of-order events are harming McDonald's reputation.  McDonald's executives are on notice now.  They had better fix it -- and soon.  

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Not Here. 

 An African-American high school principle in Texas has been suspended pending firing for teaching critical race theory in the classroom.   His mistake was thinking Texas would allow him to go ahead.  It is interesting that the board of education received no complaints from parents, and it acted on the sole censure from a former candidate for the board.  This is yet another example of the environment stifling communication.  One dare not speak his mind when the powers in control are of a different mindset.  Or, if one does, he should be ready to be punished.  Freedom of speech cannot protect the speaker in all instances.  Common understanding does not like to be challenged and will lash back at one who goes against the grain as it did here.  Outside of Texas, which is conservative, the principle might not have heard a peep from the school board.  

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Hollow Promise? 

The White House is promising to evacuate an Afghan interpreter who helped rescue President Biden from a snowstorm when Biden was a Senator. He is one of thousands left behind that also include an estimated 200 Americans.  The challenge is no one seems to know how to do that in a country that has been left behind and whose airports are closed.  The administration has back channels it can use to talk to the Taliban but that is no guarantee the Taliban will cooperate.  The best the interpreter can do for the time being is hide and hope.  The US' reputation among the nations will rest on what it does for those left behind.  If they are abandoned, the US will never live it down and will be seen as an untrustworthy partner in diplomacy.  We might forget: Others won't.   

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