Friday, January 28, 2022

We Don't Mean It 

Russia is adept in sending mixed messages to the West.  It has based 100,000 troops on the Ukraine border but says it doesn't want war.  US and European governments are skeptical and are sending defensive weapons to the country.  Russian diplomats dismiss proposals put before them as inadequate and demand that Ukraine never be allowed into NATO.  It might be that Russia is playing a game of brinksmanship and will use an excuse to invade when it claims its hand has been forced by the intransigent West.  "We didn't want war but you made us do it."  In any event, victory should be swift for Russia should it go in.  Its manpower and weaponry far outclass Ukraine's.  That would call the bluff of Europe and the US regarding sanctions. We're in dangerous times where any unwanted communication might tip the balance. 

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Guessing Game 

The news that a Supreme Court justice is about to retire has launched a traditional guessing and lobbying game to determine who will take his place.  It's a dumb activity.  No one, including the President, knows at this point who the nominee will be.  There is still vetting to do, interviews to take place and political calculations to undertake.  But, that doesn't stop DC pols from opining and the media from running stories about whom it is likely to be. The only thing we know now is that President Biden promised on the campaign trail to pick an African-American women to sit on the court.  If he is true to that pledge, the field is narrowed to less than 10 qualified judges.  But, who is to say that he has to pick a sitting judge?  He doesn't and there is a history on the court of picks who were never on the bench.  So, we still don't know, but that won't stop the publicity, the "leaks", the efforts to find out before anyone else knows.  One would think the political class has better things to do --like passing laws.   

Wednesday, January 26, 2022


A company is in a poor position when it pleads with creditors for more time to repay them.  Such is the case with Evergrande, the Chinese property developer with $300 billion in defaulted bonds.  It has been reduced to telling international holders that legal action could result in a "destructive outcome."  The company has fallen far from its pinnacle over the builders of China.  Today, it is a beggar pleading for mercy.  The only message creditors want to hear is their funds plus interest is coming to them on a date certain. Should Evergrande declare bankruptcy, the best they can expect is pennies on the dollar.  One can ask, however, is how creditors believed the company's messages in the first place.  Wasn't there any skepticism about the story they were told?  Or, did their greed overcome business instincts?  Was Evergrande lying to them?  Or, was the CEO na├»ve?  There is still time, not much of it, for Evergrande to turn around but trust has been broken irrevocably.  

Tuesday, January 25, 2022


Investors in bitcoin are worried they are entering a "crypto winter" since the currency has lost 50 percent of its value in a "sharp sell-off."  Perhaps holders are starting to realize there is no value in the heart of it.  Bitcoin is a perceptual currency without asset or government backing.  Its worth is only what people believe it is, and it works on the greater fool theory.  It rises when greater fools invest in it.  One might call bitcoin a triumph of publicity.  People flack it and greater fools believe them.  Perhaps, some day, bitcoin might find a stable value without huge swings in price it suffers now, but don't bet on it.  There is no "there there" as Gertrude Stein once opined.  

Monday, January 24, 2022

When it rains... 

Peloton is in an unhappy position as of late -- stock crushed, inventory building up, sales flat to falling. Now it has a TV show to worry about -- Billions.  An episode of the drama has one of its lead characters suffer a heart attack on one of its stationary bikes.  The company put out a statement that tried to make a lemon into lemonade but there is a question whether it worked.  The show chose Peloton because it is a well recognized name in exercycles -- a peril of successful publicity.  There is little the CEO can do except to forge ahead and get the business on track again if possible and hope no other TV show decides to use its machines negatively.  

Friday, January 21, 2022


 Peloton's CEO has a crisis on his hands.  CNBC reported the company was halting production of its exercycles and other products for two months because demand for its products had dropped.  The CEO denied it, but the credibility issue is in play.  Who do you believe?  CNBC can disavow its reporting or stand by it.  If it stands by its story, it is the medium's word against that of the CEO.  This has made investors nervous if not customers.  The quickest way for the CEO to disprove the story would be to allow reporters to tour its plants and watch workers assembling its gear.  If the company doesn't want to do that, the credibility issue will remain and the company's stock will continue to be pummeled as a result.  The shares have already taken a beating.  Transparency is needed and only the CEO can provide it. 

Thursday, January 20, 2022


Starbucks has rescinded its mandate that all of its employees get vaccinated against COVID.  The decision is curious because infected workers can pass the virus on to customers as well as colleagues.  From a public relations perspective, it is a dumb decision.  Granted that Starbucks might risk losing thousands of baristas who don't want the jab and would quit rather than getting it.  Even so, the company is demonstrating a tin ear for the health of its employees and customers.  With the highly contagious omicron variant, the company is entering a danger zone.  One would think the CEO knows better, but apparently he doesn't.  

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Speaking Out - At Last 

President Biden is holding a formal press conference, only the second in months since his inauguration. Members of the press corps are already opining on what he will talk about.  There is an expectation he will feature what the administration has accomplished while acknowledging challenges it faces, notably inflation and COVID.  Journalists won't go easy on him.  The question is how he will respond to tough questions.  Will he be testy?  Will he rise above?  Will he be clear?  Will he obfuscate?  This is an important public relations moment for the White House and not just for citizens who will listen in.  It will be notable for how he will treat the media in the room.  He can't afford for the press to turn against him.  His predecessor lost journalists early on and was painted in dark tones.  Biden can't handle the same outcome and expect re-election.  

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Scientific Religion 

Scientists are still trying to find evidence of life on Mars.  Long ago, they gave up looking for anything beyond microbes but belief persists that there still might be residue left in rocks of the planet.  So, they keep looking, drilling and heating samples with the robotic rover there.  It is akin to scientific religion that life must have started in numerous planets throughout billions of galaxies.  All the scientists must do is to find one, just one.  So far, nothing has shown up or been proven to be incontrovertible evidence of former life.  Now that a new telescope is in space, they will look for planets in goldilocks zones around distant stars.  The message their fruitless search is sending is for all practical purposes we are alone on earth, so we had better take care of it.  There is nowhere else to go.  

Monday, January 17, 2022

Making An Example 

The Australian government has made an example of Novak Djokovic, the tennis player, by sending him home for violating COVID protocols.  Djokovic was cavalier in his treatment of the disease and expected to get a medical exemption to play in the Australian Open.  The government was under pressure from its citizens to prevent Djokovic from playing.  This was a successful public relations action by Australia's politicians and courts.  No individual should be so important that he can flout rules that apply to everyone else.  Australians have a keen sense of fairness and equality.  Anyone who tries to stand out is looked down upon.  Djokovic should have known that before he took a plane to the country.  He does now.  

Friday, January 14, 2022

Digging In 

Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema have dug into their opposition to changing the filibuster rule so voting reform bills can pass.  President Biden left a meeting with them empty-handed yesterday.  There is no possibility of getting laws enacted given the narrow margin in the Senate with a 50-50 split and Republicans united in opposition.  The only thing left for the President to do is to get tough and to use persuasive techniques bordering on strong-arming.  Even that might not be enough.  Once again, the situation is an example of the limits of communication and persuasion.  If listeners refuse to be open-minded, there is no chance of convincing them.  Both senators are in opposition on the basis of principle.  Little can change that.  Biden will be without voting reform as a result.   

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Mea Culpa 

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson is the latest politician to say he is sorry for something he had done.  This time it was an apology for attending a party during the country's lockdown from COVID. Admitting the truth and expressing sorrow for one's deeds is an art form with unpredictable outcomes.  Sometimes, a pol will step down.  Sometimes, he will gut through and continue to serve although wounded.  It depends on the mood and anger of citizens and peers.  Former governor Cuomo of New York lost all support and caved.  Johnson has already lost much of his own party and all of the opposition. Both men acted above rules they had set for citizens as if their strictures didn't apply to them.  It is this hypocrisy people dislike.  If they must give up their freedom for a time, they want to know they are in the situation together. One would think leaders would be sensitive to such a basic PR faux pas. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Afraid Of The Truth 

Former president Trump abruptly ended a phone call with NPR news when the host pressed him on his election lies.  Trump repeated his falsehoods during the nine minutes he was on air and rejected the host's statements that Trump's beliefs were false.  It is hard at this point, more than a year after the election and also after a number of ballot audits, that Trump can be making the same case.  Not only that, but Trump is still condemning any Republican who dares say Trump lost the election.  He is either brazen or so far lost in self-regard that he cannot accept his fate.  Either way, he is afraid of the truth.  That he carries the majority of Republicans in the Congress and Senate with him in his falsehoods is a testimony to his power in the party.  The more politicians side with him, the worse it gets for Republicans and the country.  It is the worst kind of messaging.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Stay Home 

A coalition of voting rights groups won't attend President Biden's scheduled speech in Atlanta on voting rights. They are telling the President to stay home and to get legislation passed defending the right to vote.  It is an odd sort of PR message.  "We want action and not your visit."  What the coalition is forgetting is that the President needs to use his bully pulpit to spur movement.  The President's hands are tied by Congress and with the Senate so closely divided, Biden needs every vote on the Democratic side to get a bill passed.  Republicans won't help.  Biden's appeal to the nation is a way to put pressure on the Senate.  The coalition's boycott of Biden's speech doesn't help his efforts.  It looks bad and sends a message that can be easily misinterpreted -- and will be.  

Monday, January 10, 2022

Observation Bias 

A Chinese moon rover spied a "cube-shaped" object on the back side of the satellite and speculation started as to what it might be.  A hut? An alien symbol? A sign of life elsewhere in the universe?  Now that the rover is closer to the object, it turns out to be a rock, and it is not cube-shaped.  It has been resting on the edge of a crater for millions or billions of years.  A lesson from this episode of space exploration is that people see what they want to view.  Those looking for signs of life will interpret imagery that way until proven wrong, but they won't give up their observation bias.  The rational approach is to hold conclusions in abeyance until more is known.  But, that is hard for those who jump to explanations.  It is a failure that infects all humans from conspiracy theorists to scientists.  It is difficult to live with an unknown.  Humans demand explanations and will invent them as needed. The message that should be given is "we don't know, but we will find out."  There is no failure in pleading ignorance.   

Friday, January 07, 2022

A Quotable Line 

CNN has selected what it considers to be the most quotable line from President Biden's speech yesterday on the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol. 

"You can't love your country only when you win."

Trump has failed to understand that and he continues to whine that the election was stolen from him.  By contrast, the CNN commentator quotes Al Gore at length when Gore lost on a Supreme Court decision for how to count Florida votes.  Gore was gracious in defeat and pledged to support George W. Bush for the good of the country.  He could have thrown a tantrum and refused to concede, but he didn't.  From any perspective, Gore was a patriot at that hour.  Trump has given patriotism a bad name by calling on the public to support his contention that he won instead of Biden.  Trump is a sore loser and should never have entered politics.  It is sad that even now Republicans continue to support him.  

Thursday, January 06, 2022


The world's largest technology show -- CES -- is underway in Las Vegas.  Fifty to 75 thousand people are estimated to be there in spite of the omicron variant surge across the nation.   The organizer of the show, the Computer Technology Association (CTA) maintains that it is important for manufacturers, distributors, vendors and media to have face time rather than communicating via email and Zoom.  In coming days, the CTA will find out whether its stance is the right one.  Normally, face-to-face meetings are best, but these are not normal times.  CTA has taken a risk opening the show in spite of several manufacturers declining to attend.  From a PR perspective, it was not a smart decision, but with vaccine protocols in place and testing, there is an outside chance CTA can pull it off.  If not, its reputation will take a major hit and well it should.

Wednesday, January 05, 2022


Former President Trump was prepared to give a speech on the one year anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection.  Fortunately for him, he canceled it and will give his remarks on Jan. 15.  Legal experts and others were appalled at his willingness to expose himself after the worst event during the four years he was in office.  It is self-destructive behavior from a man who is a narcissist and can't understand even yet why he was voted out of office.  His mantra that the election was stolen from him has been shown time and again to be false, but he clings to it because he can't accept that people would reject him.  Any spokesperson for him would have to accept an alternate reality that flies in the face of facts.  It would be an impossible job, but someone sadly would take it out of devotion to the man.  

Tuesday, January 04, 2022


A jury has convicted Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, the blood testing company, of fraud.  Its verdict sends a message to other Silicon Valley entrepreneurs that "faking it until you make it" is poor strategy and illegal.  It is a needed reminder to those who start businesses that honesty and transparency are essential and lying is wrong.  There is no telling how many success stories in the Valley have been built on falsehoods at the beginning but there have been more than Theranos.  Founders have spun stories of imminent success and untold riches when their technologies are bug-ridden and inoperable.  They seek to buy time until their systems work.  That's what Theranos did and a jury has now said it is just wrong.  Who next will prosecutors go after?  

Monday, January 03, 2022

Sending A Message 

Twitter has banned a politician's account for spreading misinformation about COVID.  Marjorie Taylor Greene,  a Georgia Republican, has persistently spread falsehoods about the disease and refused to back off when the company warned her.  So, her personal account is gone after five strikes.  Has she learned from the move?  No.  She accuses Twitter and Democrats of stopping the truth. She is beyond persuasion and fixed in her lies.  There is nothing else to be done other than to take away her megaphone. It was a responsible act by Twitter to stop the spread of falsehoods and the company should be commended for it.  Unfortunately, Greene's followers will bray, "Foul."  Let them shout.  Sometimes it is better to be right rather than loved.   

Saturday, January 01, 2022


The year is starting on a down note with the surge of corona virus victims, fierce fires in Colorado, pending invasion of Ukraine and a meltdown of the airlines that can't get enough crews to fly passengers home.  One hopes the rest of the year will be an upward trend and we can master finally the disease, which has infected hundreds of millions and killed 5.44 million worldwide.  Signs are hopeful that the omicron variant doesn't attack the lungs and is relatively mild.  We don't need another 12 months of social distancing, masks and working from home.  Those who have not been vaccinated are still resisting the jab and will continue their rebellion in 2022.  They are beyond the reach of persuasion and communications and proof that messages don't work if  receivers refuse to listen.  2021 was a year of frustration.  May 2022 be better.  

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