Friday, October 29, 2021

New Name, Still The Same 

Facebook is now Meta.  It changed the company name in the midst of scorching criticism over how it is running its social media platform.  Facebook will remain but only referring to the software-hardware that connects billions of users.  A new moniker will not deflect angry congressmen, regulators and critics who are calling for Facebook to be limited or shut down.  In fairness to Meta, it has been more than Facebook for a long time.  The corporation is a collection of social media platforms, virtual reality and messaging services.  It was due for a name change to reflect that.  But, the timing was terrible -- right in the middle of defending itself from tens of thousands of detractors.  It makes the company look ham-handed.  It wasn't the best PR move at this time and perhaps, given the anger toward it, it might not have been a better later on.  

Thursday, October 28, 2021


Complicating Democrats' effort to pass an infrastructure deal is trust -- the lack of it.  Progressive members are frustrated with two moderates who have again and again held up passage of the bill with late-arriving objections.  Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema wield enormous power over the fate of the legislation because there is only a one-vote margin in the senate -- that of the Vice President.  The two of them must agree on a final package for victory to occur and neither seems in a hurry to go along with Democrats' proposals. Meanwhile, the president is left frustrated and stewing in his failure to get a law to his desk.  What will happen to the two Senators is anyone's guess but be assured they won't generate support from colleagues at election time.  Democrats want both of them gone and replaced by more compliant legislators.  The two senators seem to have missed a maxim applied to politics, "Go along to get along."   

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Lousy PR 

This story is about a woman who went to a hospital for the birth of her sonThere was nothing out of the ordinary in her vaginal delivery but she was instructed when she arrived to enter through the emergency department.  Later when she got the bill from the hospital, it showed she was coded at the highest level of distress causing an inflated bill of thousands of dollars.  That is not only lousy PR, it is fraud.  Hospitals have been out control for decades when it comes to billing.  In fairness to their administrators, there is much they can't charge for and there are deadbeat patients who don't have money to discharge their debts.  So, hospitals have used those who can pay to subsidize those who won't or can't.  It's a bad system and no one deserves to live by it -- not doctors, not administrators, not nurses, not anyone.  It is long past time to clean up billing practices, but it won't happen without relentless public and government pressure.  

Tuesday, October 26, 2021


How could one of the most heavily automated companies in the world be underpaying workers on leave?  That's the situation in which Amazon finds itself.  The company is making no excuses and is tracking down employees who have been stiffed in order to correct their pay stubs and give them cash they were promised.  That's the good part of this story.  But, the reputational damage from a faulty pay system is likely to linger. Amazon's people will examine their paychecks for months to come and any little mistake will be writ large.  An error like this should never have happened.  Amazon needs an audit of its payroll system and likely is undergoing that process now.  

Monday, October 25, 2021


Elon Musk has pulled back the latest beta of Full Self-driving software for more development.  It is an admission that FSD is a work in progress and not ready for the road.  He would be smarter if he pulled back the earlier edition of the software as well because it has been involved in fatal accidents.  FSD is not a self-driving program despite its name.  It is advanced driver assistance and drivers are supposed to keep their hands on the wheel.  That some have not and have barreled into other vehicles is a warning that the software isn't ready, no matter which version is being used.  A part of the communications problem is the name -- FSD.  It promises too much.  A name makes a difference in people's understanding.  Musk will find that out if he doesn't know it already.   

Friday, October 22, 2021


The Federal Reserve has issued tough new rules for stock holding and trading by its governors.  It bans both and limits its executives to mutual funds while imposing limits on purchases and sales. While there has been no verified illegal insider trading, the appearances of having done so are what counts.  The Fed has to be perceived as clean because it controls the nation's money supply and interest rates.  The Boston and Dallas presidents have already stepped down because of trading during the pandemic even though what they did was acceptable at the time.  The Fed has joined accounting firms, which limit employees and partners on what they can do in investing since they possess so much insider information. Perception is an issue that will never go away.  

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Sausage Making 

The public is experiencing a moment of sausage making in Congress. There, an effort to craft President Biden's legislation to "build back better" infrastructure and benefits, is engrossed in hourly deal-making with no visible signs of progress.  Citizens are frustrated and Biden's poll numbers show their dissatisfaction.  President Biden for his part is barnstorming the country to deliver messages supporting his bills.  He is mobilizing the public along with his efforts to spur fruitful bargaining.  What he is attempting is nearly without precedent.  He has only a one-vote margin in the Senate and two Democratic senators acting as independents.  They are controlling the discussions more than the President.  Biden is in a time when he needs to pound his messages.  To win, he needs to reach average citizens and gain their vocal and voting support.  It's a tough task but that is what Presidents are for. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Fessing Up 

No matter what you might think about Netflix's CEO, give him kudos for fessing up to a mistake.  He says he "screwed up" his message to employees over a Dave Chappelle comedy special that has sparked controversy.  He stands by his decision to run the program but he says he could have been more sensitive to employees in what he wrote.  Employee communications are important in a time when workers are withholding labor for better conditions and higher pay.  The minions hold the leverage now unlike in decades past.  How long that will be the case is anyone's guess, but CEOs can't afford to alienate their staffs now.  It is well the CEO apologized.  It makes him more human.  But, he had better not do it again.  

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Professional Suicide 

Washington State's football coach was fired for failing to get a COVID shot.  He didn't seem to have a message for why he refused to get jabbed nor a particular stated reason.  He just didn't do it.  The mandate was clear.  He ignored it and as a result, he has been dumped from his $3 million a year coaching job.  As we have seen throughout the pandemic, there is a group of citizens who have refused the jab for inadequate reasons and are suffering for it.  Well they should.  They have jeopardized not only themselves but millions of others in spite of intense publicity reminding them of the common good.  They have tested the limit of communications and proven again that there are people resistant to persuasion no matter what form it takes.  Society will never be rid of them and it is well to remember as a communicator that such people  always will be there.    

Monday, October 18, 2021


What do you do when your employees refuse to commute to work in an office?  American employers are finding out as the pandemic wanes for the moment.  Communications from workers are that they will quit rather than return.  Messages from companies are that they must come in for a number of days per week.  It is a snag in employee relations.  As a former commuter for 30 years, I can attest to the burden of waking, waiting, riding to and returning from a daily job.  Commuters are revolting and looking for employment where they can work from home.  This has serious consequences for real estate, for bus and rail lines, for merchants who served the shifting crowd.  Time will tell if the work-from-home movement is passing or permanent.  Right now, it is reality.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Poor PR 

Moderna reaped enormous positive publicity when its COVID vaccine first came to market. That was then.  Now the company is on the defensive for failing to share enough doses with developing and Third World nations. The turnabout in PR came swiftly.  The company can still protect its reputation if it boldly and publicly ships millions of doses to the poor and needy.  A  major consideration is its manufacturing capacity.  Does it have enough?  If not, it might have to ration the US and Europe in order to ship to Africa and elsewhere.  This is something that could be hard for the company to do, especially with pending booster shots in the US.  The company is not in an enviable PR position and is faced with potentially hard choices.  

Wednesday, October 13, 2021


The Catholic archbishop for the military has written that members of the armed services who are Catholic can refuse the COVID vaccination on religious grounds.  The reason is that individuals should not have to violate their moral conscience.  The failure of reasoning is that the vaccination is for the common good and not just for the person alone.  While the archbishop has expressed support for vaccination, he is too easy in letting Catholics off the hook when it comes to health.  As a Roman Catholic myself, I find the archbishop's logic to be unfortunate, especially since COVID remains a societal health crisis. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Ducking Responsibility 

The CEO of Southwest Airlines says he is not in favor of vaccine mandates and he blames President Biden for having to enforce the executive order.  He is ducking responsibility for the order and checking out when he could have reinforced the requirement.  From a public perception, he looks like he is against the COVID vaccine, whether he is or not.  That doesn't put him or the airline in good stead with the millions who have received the jab.  It would have been so easy for him to say, "The president has ordered it and we will do it."  But, he didn't.  So now, Southwest looks foolish.  

Monday, October 11, 2021

Danger Zone 

Politicians understand the public is fickle.  Voters' question is constant.  "What have you done for me lately?"  Given this, President Biden is in trouble.  He declared independence from COVID in July and here it is October with the virus still reeking havoc.  His poll numbers have plummeted and he is stuck in trying to pass his legislative packages.  Right now, he is looking inept, a situation that can turn around but there isn't much time to do it with midterm elections next year.  It doesn't help that Democrats in Congress are quarreling among themselves and for all of his jawboning, they still can't see their way to making laws.  As a communicator, Biden must be beside himself.  His messages aren't getting through no matter how hard he tries.  He is in the danger zone.

Friday, October 08, 2021

Searching For A Mission 

The US Postal Service is searching for a mission that can dig it out of the massive hole created by falling first class mail delivery.  The organization lost its primary reason for existence with the rise of the internet and email.  It has struggled ever since and now is cutting delivery times.  It remains vital for a segment of the population, which has yet to benefit from faster package delivery by United Parcel, Federal Express and Amazon and has poorer internet. But that group is small and diminishing by the year.  The result is that the Postal Service is spending billions annually to keep open offices around the country that are losers.  Congress won't let it pull back so it is stuck in a death spiral.  There is little it can say to get the public to return.  Its marketing is in the past along with its massive operations.  It is a zombie service.  

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Show Me 

Ice cores from Antarctica have revealed environmental damage from the Maori people clearing land in New Zealand by burning 700 years ago.  In other words, harm to the atmosphere is not new, but it started on a massive scale at the start of the industrial revolution in the 19th Century. And, it has caught up with us.  There appears to be an emerging shift in public opinion about the environment.  This comes as a result of catastrophes around the world predicted by scientists and climate models.  It raises an interesting question for communicators.  What does it take to get the public to believe and act on facts?  The average citizen seems to have a "show-me" attitude.  "I won't believe it until you show me harm from excessive heat and violent weather."  "I won't believe vaccines are helpful until you show me a neighbor or friend or member of the family who has died from COVID."  Warnings have little to no impact.  They make some people all the more stubborn, even smart, well-educated individuals.  There are limits to messaging and they lie with the receptivity of individuals, some of whom are beyond persuasion.  

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Black Reputation 

The Supreme Court will decide how much of the CIA's torture interrogation program can be revealed to the public.  The CIA has been hiding behind a veil of secrecy for nearly 20 years.  What is known already gives the agency a black reputation from which it can never really recover, and it stains the democracy of the United States.  Admittedly, the CIA was under pressure to find, apprehend and punish the culprits for 9/11, but that doesn't justify the torture it undertook nor does it justify aggressive methods on the part of any US organization. Once the program came to light, the US government put a stop to it but it was too late.  The damage had been done and the agony of the prisoners couldn't be alleviated after the fact.  The US will live with the reputation of practicing inhumane interrogation techniques.   

Tuesday, October 05, 2021


In the internet age, data will out.  It is harder than ever to keep secrets, especially when they are injurious to citizens.  Consider this case.  The Pandora papers have exposed tax dodges and acquisitions of hundreds of country leaders and politicians, particularly those from Third World nations with high wealth inequality.  The millions of leaked documents from law firms kept 600 journalists busy for months and expose thievery that has kept citizens down for hundreds of years. It has continued the theme of political power giving license to steal.  With the exposure of these facts, maybe, just maybe, citizens will revolt against their kleptomaniac leaders and demand transparency once and for all.   

Monday, October 04, 2021


No company wants to see this on 60 Minutes.  Facebook is in a tough position on the strength of its own research leaked to The Wall Street Journal and the CBS news magazine by a whistleblower.  The most Facebook can do is to sputter that its data was inaccurately interpreted and taken out of context.  That won't fly in the public perception and in the Congressional hearings about to take place. Facebook is facing a public castigation for inattention to the effects of its system.  The company can hunker and hope it blows over or it can take steps to monitor its users better and introduce new controls for harmful information put on its service.  Either way, it will be expensive for the company's reputation and bottom line.

Friday, October 01, 2021

Chased Out 

Smith & Wesson, a gunmaker in Massachusetts since 1852, is leaving the state and moving its headquarters and manufacturing to Tennessee. It is being chased out by pending legislation that would forbid the production of assault-style weapons.  While this is Massachusetts' loss, it might make little difference to the state to sacrifice 750 jobs.  The image of weapons builders is in deep trouble with most Americans and even the National Rifle Association can't help.  (It has troubles of its own.)  How does an industry in decline guard itself against a conventional perception of its harmful effect on the public?  The company is finding out along with all the other gunmakers. They are in the same position as cigarette manufacturers when the public finally swung against smoking.  

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