Tuesday, November 30, 2021


A Federal Judge in Missouri has temporarily blocked a COVID vaccine mandate from the Biden administration targeted at healthcare workers.  It is another example of the frustrating job of persuading resisters to get the jab.  There is little left undone in communications from health authorities, regulators, government officials, doctors, celebrities and many others.  Some people just won't get vaccinated even at the cost of their jobs.  The irrationality is shocking and a harm to the nation.  They don't accept the idea of the common good taking precedence over personal freedom even at the cost of death to loved ones.  Now that the government can't force them to get vaccinated -- at least not yet --, it might be time to admit defeat even with the new Omicron variant spreading quickly through the world.  Letting millions go, however, jeopardizes the hundreds of millions who have been vaccinated and are at risk from the mutating virus.  It is a decision and job for the nation's leaders that no one envies.  

Monday, November 29, 2021

Trying A Case In Public 

Steve Bannon, the former Trump aide, is trying his court case in public.  Or so says a Justice Department complaint. Bannon, who refused to testify before the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 revolt, has said he is going on offense and will use his time in the public eye to attack  President Biden and the attorney general.  He is entitled to do that under the First Amendment and the publicity he generates will be meat to those who refuse to believe Trump lost the election.  It is a reminder that publicity can be used by anyone, good or bad.  It is a tool to gain attention and when one is in the media's glare, the opportunity to exploit is always there.  Bannon is a publicity machine and thrives on controversy.  He has lessons for those seeking the public's attention.  Project outrage.  Use colorful language.  Take an unbending position.  Seek the media. All this will work for him even if he should be convicted.  

Friday, November 26, 2021


 A new COVID variant has emerged and Wall Street is hitting the panic selling button at this hour.  There are fears of worldwide shutdowns, useless vaccines to stem the spread of the mutated virus and economies once more going into the toilet.  Authorities are deeply concerned and the rush to examine the new disease has begun.  The situation is a reminder once again that it is impossible to predict the future and one of the key qualities of a leader is to remain humble.  There are events that are out of one's control.  One can only back and fill and attempt to get ahead of the situations.  Limiting damage is the best one can do.  As communicators, we should never advise CEOs to make bold predictions.  We don't know nor do they what is going to happen.  The future remains unknown.  

Wednesday, November 24, 2021


JPMorgan's CEO, Jamie Dimon, is the latest businessman to kowtow to China's communist party.  He did it because he wants the bank to operate in the country and its authorities are notoriously sensitive to perceived slights.  In this case, Dimon's remarks were that JPMorgan would last longer than China's communist party.  He knew better when he made the comment but he did it anyway.  Now he is bowing and scraping and apologetic.  Dimon, of all CEOs, should understand the lack of free speech in China.  The government shut down Hong Kong because it was too open in its criticisms.  It has imprisoned activists.  It tolerates no public demonstrations against the government.  Outsiders are subject to the same restrictions.  PR in China is targeted toward bureaucrats who have the power to end one's presence in the country at any time.  It is not fair nor liberal but that's the way it is.  

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Corporate Greed?  

There is a school of thought that US corporations are using inflation to boost prices and earn more than they historically have. In other words, much of the inflation that Americans are enduring is due to corporate greed.  If true, big business will have its reputation dinged again and progressives will seek to rein them in.  In a capitalist society, profit maximization is an imperative.  Business has no responsibility to pay attention to the needs of citizens other than how it affects their bottom line.  This is the University of Chicago School of thought.  CEOs have been edging away from that philosophy in light of global warming and corporate governance concerns, but it is still in the back of their minds.  They must satisfy investors to keep their jobs.  This sets up a clash between corporate and societal needs.  It is no wonder CEOs are taking the opportunity to earn as much as they can. The future will be a more difficult environment in which to operate.

Monday, November 22, 2021


Two conservative contributors to Fox News have resigned over its relentless support of former President Trump and his lie that he won the 2020 election but for fraud.  They are being celebrated by liberals and some right-wing commentators for their honesty, but it won't make a difference at Fox, which continues to pound its false messages.  Fox understands that if one broadcasts a consistent theme over and over that people will come to believe it.  Viewers will accept its lies and propaganda as truth.  George Orwell wrote about this in Animal Farm and 1984.  It is hard to believe that such miscommunication exists in the US in 2021, but it does.  The two conservatives did the right thing but it won't stop Fox which is hiding behind the First Amendment.  One wonders if Fox is a clear and present danger. 

Friday, November 19, 2021

About Time 

The chairwoman of the Republican National Committee has finally admitted that Biden won the presidential election. It took a year for her to state publicly that Trump lost.  But, she hasn't gone far from the Republican line that the election was tainted by fraud and Democratic finagling.  Still, it's a crack in the wall of accusations spouted by former President Trump himself.  From a PR perspective, the evidence has been overwhelming since election day, and Republicans looked foolish supporting Trump's claims.  They have tried mightily to bend reality to fit their vision of the 2020 elections.  It hasn't worked and the party has come off as dangerous to democracy in light of the Jan. 6 uprising.  Now they are looking forward to the 2022 elections.  With Biden's approval rating so low, they see it as a referendum on his leadership.  It's about time.   

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Didn't Mean It 

Republican Congressman Paul Gosar says he didn't mean to foment violence against Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and President Biden in a posted video.  He said no threat of injury was intended by himself or his staff.  Democrats were not convinced and Gosar became the 24th House member to be censured.  Communicators should be aware that in the present time, violent rhetoric, whether visual or written, is against the interests of the country.  That is because of the Jan. 6 uprising, which took over the Capitol building and the existence of nationalist groups who espouse a forceful takeover of Washington DC.  One can be forceful in opinions but not call for injury as a consequence of disagreement.  This is the not the first time anger has motivated both sides.  Before the Civil War in 1856, a southern Congressman caned an Abolitionist Senator in the well of the Senate.  There has been no physical act of violence yet in today's case, but the potential is there and the potential is what led the Democratic majority to react.  Republicans were outraged and said it was unfair.  Look for them to return the favor should they retake the House next year.  Meanwhile, all sides should cool down and try to be more reasonable.  

Wednesday, November 17, 2021


President Biden used a decaying New Hampshire bridge yesterday as a prop to sell the public on his new infrastructure law.  His intent was clear -- to bring the message home that the legislation helped citizens in localities across the US.  The bridge isn't famous nor is it that old but it is in bad shape and needs fixing.  The administration gave the vital statistics on the structure, the diminution of trucks allowed to cross it, the unsafe conditions on its decking for cyclists, the 10-mile detour fire trucks will need to make if it isn't fixed soon.  Biden went in the door of concerns for New Hampshire and came out his own of selling the law.  It was smart publicity and used the presidential bully pulpit well.  

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Selling The Law 

President Biden and members of his administration are fanning out across the nation to sell the new infrastructure law to the American people.  Their message is likely to fall on deaf ears.  The law is a multi-year grant of billions to states and municipalities.  It doesn't impact the cost of food and fuel, both of which are rising quickly.  It won't help the logistics backup at ports where hundreds of thousands of shipping containers sit undelivered.  Citizens want action now on those pain points, and they are unlikely to get them.  Democrats' control of Congress is likely to hinge on inflation -- whether it can be controlled early in 2022 or it continues to soar.  Sometimes a positive communication comes at the wrong time, and this is one.  The challenge for the Biden administration is how to refocus attention on infrastructure from prices in the supermarket and at the pump.  It won't be easy.  

Monday, November 15, 2021


How does a bad businessman maintain his reputation for being an extraordinary dealmaker and builder of  major properties?   This is a question that should be asked about former president Trump.  His organization has just sold the lease for his Washington DC hotel after losing $70 million on the property.  Trump had boasted he had made millions from it.  This is not the first time he has lied about his business acumen.  The records show he has lied about his prowess since the beginning of his career.  Yet, his followers continue to believe he is successful and has a golden touch.  Perhaps it is Trump's' narcissistic believe in himself that has made the difference.  He cannot accept that he has failed at anything.  For the dispassionate observer, the facts are damning, but for Trumpists his actions are only for the better.  

Friday, November 12, 2021

He Ought To Know 

Elon Musk has spoken out about his competitor in electric trucks -- Rivian -- which just went public and soared on the exchange.  Musk said the true test of the company is high production and breakeven cash flow.  Musk ought to know.  Tesla gushed money in its early days, losing billions before turning the corner.  And, it had deep problems scaling production to the point where it had to build a tent outside its plant to finish cars coming off the line. Musk's comments strike one as forgetful of his own experience.  On the other hand, he could be the voice of reality speaking from a position of having been there and made it through.  His comment that Tesla was the only car company in the last 100 years to cross the divide between money loser and money maker is true but ignores the patience investors had with him as he struggled to turn the company around.  Rivian may share some of the same fate as it grows.  Musk should acknowledge that he was fortunate in his success.  

Thursday, November 11, 2021


Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, conducted an unscientific poll on Twitter asking if he should sell 10 percent of his shares in order to pay taxes.  Responders said yes.  So, Musk sold but only 3 percent.  While one might admire him for paying Federal taxes after paying nothing in 2018,  he is apparently relying no optics rather than forking over the full amount he promised.  This makes for a curious bit of PR.  He complied but only partially.  Does one praise him for being a billionaire who isn't hiding behind capital gains?  Or, does one criticize him for not going the distance?  It depends on your stance toward the ultra-rich.  On paper, he is the wealthiest man in the world with two successful companies -- Tesla and SpaceX.  He built these companies in the face of skepticism and disbelief.  He deserves the capital he has earned.  But, how much is too much?  It is a judgment call only Congress and regulators can make in how they shape and apply tax law.  Optics or not, Musk will pay taxes this year, but maybe not enough.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

How The Mighty Fell 

Larry Culp, CEO of General Electric, is breaking the conglomerate into three parts and sending them on their way.  The stock market approves. In my day, GE was the envy of corporations around the globe.  CEO, Jack Welch, had a golden reputation.  He could do no wrong.  His management training group was the envy of CEOs everywhere.  GE's PR was the best.  Then came Jeff Immelt as the new CEO, and it all fell apart.  Immelt had to guide the company through the 2008 financial meltdown and its key money-making division, GE Capital, was in \distress.  Suddenly, GE was the ne'er-do-well of corporate America.  It bumped along the bottom for years with a huge debt load.  An outsider, Larry Culp, was brought into turn it around.  GE's fabled managers were not good enough.  The company is a brutal reminder that nothing lasts forever, and communicators and marketers should approach their jobs with a measure of humility.  Avoid chest-beating pronouncements.  Maintain a healthy respect for time to come.  Let the organization's actions speak but not boastfully.  Understand that it can all go away in an instant.  Remember GE.  

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Protecting The Franchise 

The Las Vegas Raiders cut a talented cornerback when video of him holding a gun and making death threats surfaced.  The Raiders stated that such behavior had no place on the team or in the community.  The Raiders' general manager had sharp words for what the CB had done.  It was proper PR with an ethical position clearly expressed.  The GM said it was a painful decision for the team and certainly it was since the CB had been a first round pick in the 2020 draft. But, the GM said no individual player is bigger than the team or the community.  It is not the job of a team to coddle disturbed individuals.  They need to turn themselves around before they can play.  The CB has now entered a netherworld.  He will have to convince other NFL owners he has changed his behavior and is worth a second shot.  It won't be easy.  

Monday, November 08, 2021


No live concert producer wants the audience to get hurt.  It's a PR disaster if it happens.  But, this is the situation facing Live Nation and performer, Travis Scott.  An audience surge toward the stage where Scott was performing left eight people trampled to death and dozens of others injured and unconscious.  Scott was apparently unaware of it for 37 minutes into his set.  Now Scott and Live Nation are being sued and there is a good chance that should it not be settled out of court, a jury trial won't go well for either the performer or producer.  Should they have known that an audience surge could occur?  It has happened at other venues with predictable injury and death. There should have been a plan for it and rehearsals.  Scott is devastated but it is too late.  Live nation is humiliated.  It will take time to live this incident down and rebuild trust among concert-goers.  

Friday, November 05, 2021

No Free Lunch 

The governor of the Bank of England has warned that prices will rise as world economies turn carbon free to hinder global warming.  It is not a message the public wants to hear.  Citizens want a painless transition that doesn't require them to change their lifestyles.  But, there is no free lunch.  Coal and oil are root energies and getting them out of the system will cause massive dislocation for a long time. Governments, activists, scientists and others will need to pound the message that pain is for our good.  Look for pushback and division with segments of societies going along and segments opposed.  Look for politicians to lose their jobs over the issue and for stalling the shift.  It will happen because it must but it will be messy and it might not occur in time to prevent the world from warming more.  It might be the publicity issue of our time -- how to persuade citizens to accept expensive carbon-free energy without revolting.  

Thursday, November 04, 2021

Status Quo 

Minneapolis voters decided to keep their police department despite an intense campaign to replace it with a department of public safety.  Some are saying it was a communications issue despite knocking on 100,000 doors, making 200,000 phone calls and sending 300,000 text messages.  Maybe so, but the primary reason appears to be that the public doesn't want a defunded police department.  They aren't persuaded it will work, and they fear for the safety of their city and its citizens.  Radical ideas require prolonged persuasion -- months of outreach -- and even that might not be enough.  Success is gained only through ground-pounding engagement with the same questions answered over and over again.  The concept has to be made comfortable and not just an idea.  Minneapolis activists didn't have enough time to break the proposal down into how it affects me, the Average Joe.  

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Lost Touch? 

At this hour, the Virginia governorship has gone to a Republican and the "walk-over" New Jersey governor's race is too close to call.  Democrats are crushed that independents have abandoned them.  This raises the question whether the incessant wrangling in Washington DC and the inability of the Democratic party to pass Biden's bills has worked against them.  People are fed up.  They want something done but nothing seems to progress in the halls of Congress.  It is a case of bad PR with voters.  Promising but not delivering.  The public has turned sour.  Democrats have lost touch with the Americans in the short time since Biden's election.  Voters knew they didn't want more of Trump but they were expecting something more from a Biden presidency.  So far, they aren't getting it.  I had written in a previous post that Biden had entered a danger zone.  He's not far from disaster now, but he can still succeed if he can marshal 50 senators to pass his bills.  That's a big if.  

Tuesday, November 02, 2021


Barclays Bank's American CEO has quit over his relationship with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.  The board had accused him of a lack of transparency over the connection while he was the head of JPMorgan's private bank, a job he held prior to Barclays. This is a case of contamination of reputation.  There is as yet no evidence the CEO knew of Epstein's sex trafficking or that he participated in sexual assault of the young women Epstein had recruited.  But, association was enough for the board, which feared for the reputation of the company should the CEO stay on.  Is it fair?  No, but that is the way life works.  A CEO serves at the pleasure of the board and if the board turns against him or her for any reason, it is time to step down. Communications and PR are helpless in such instances. They can only issue a board's decision. Defense of the CEO is out of the question.     

Monday, November 01, 2021


Once the media take up a story, they can be relentless in pursuing it whether fairly or not.  Consider this.  Conventional wisdom has concluded that Melania Trump can't stand her husband.  There have been several indications she doesn't like him and the media have jumped on every little telltale sign to hype the story.  In this case, it is from the liberal press.  They want Melania to dump her husband whom they can't stand.  With the mega-voice of social media and the internet, they refresh the meme again and again.  There is nothing the Trumps can do about it except to deny it and stay together.  Should they part at some point, the media will declare victory and have their wish fulfillment.  It's an ugly part of media behavior.  

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