Thursday, June 30, 2022
Trump and pro-Trump forces have mustered a counterattack against the former aide to Trump's chief of staff who delivered hard-hitting testimony to the Jan.6 committee. They are preaching to their supporters and denying everything she said. What they aren't doing is testifying to the Jan. 6 committee and that makes their denials less forceful. Trump is losing the perception war surrounding the insurrection because of his stubborn refusal to go on the record. The committee is piling damning evidence against him, mostly from Republican witnesses whom Trump has tried to discredit in social media. The perception of the former president is that everything is about him, that he is an autocrat unconcerned about anyone except himself and that he is a narcissist with a limited grasp of reality. Some Republicans say the party is slowly turning against him, but he still maintains millions of supporters who accept his version of the Jan. 6 events. Are they enough to help him regain the presidency?
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
Eye Witness And Hearsay
The former aide to Trump's chief of staff presented damning testimony yesterday of Trump's complicity in the Jan.6 insurrection and of the spineless reaction to what was happening as the Capitol was inva
ded. The aide witnessed many of the events and was told about others. She is vulnerable when it comes to hearsay. It wouldn't stand up in a court nor in public opinion for that matter. But, there was no counter-argument for her testimony because Trump and Trump's staff have boycotted the hearings. They refuse to get their message out and it is hurting them. Their denial started with the formation of the committee and continues. Meanwhile, the Jan.6 leaders continue to present evidence to the American public and to paint a picture of a president as an unhinged autocrat who abused his office and power for personal gain. It is an ugly picture but one from which we cannot turn away. We came this close to losing a democracy that day. The message of the committee is to make sure it never happens again.
Tuesday, June 28, 2022
The Supreme Court's decision to allow a football coach to pray at the end of games at the 50-yard line opens a communications puzzle for public schools. How far must administrators allow teachers to go without restricting their First Amendment rights? It was a simple message before the decision. No prayer. Now school districts must ask if a teacher starts and/or ends a class with a head bowed, is that going too far? What are the limits that should not be crossed? The court's ruling places a new burden on principals and superintendents, one that must be distilled into policies that guide the action of staff. The court's decision carries a weight of its own in extending free speech.
Monday, June 27, 2022
Roe V. Wade
Anti-abortion activists have won a key battle in the Supreme Court but by no means have they won the war. They are facing 50 to 60 years of struggle to communicate, persuade and take action in American society in order to convince a majority of women that their position is right. it is a public relations effort that will put the decades-long struggle to stop smoking to shame. Most importantly, it will be a one-on-one battle woman by woman to convince each that a pregnancy should be continued to term. This requires resources in counselors, help for nine months and post-birth aid -- all of which are lacking today. And, it demands an extensive system for caring and raising unwanted children in a humane manner with extensive adoption services, orphanages and foster homes. All this is needed while fighting state by state battles in legislatures to ban the procedure. It is a daunting task. Are they up to it?
Thursday, June 23, 2022
The House GOP leadership is communicating a craven disregard for human life in its plan to vote no on the Senate gun control bill. The proposed legislation, as weak as it is, still moves forward with an effort to keep guns out of the hands of troubled adolescents. One would think after the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde that GOP Congressmen would be lining up to support a bill. But no. Perhaps they are preserving their rating from the NRA and almost certainly they are acting out of fear of their conservative constituents. Whatever the case, they are against progress and they are stating it publicly with their "no" votes. If they get re-elected, and they will from safe districts, they can communicate an "I told you so" to the rest of the country.
Wednesday, June 22, 2022
Belief Over Science
The dietary supplement and vitamin industry is a case of belief trumping science. Experts say there is no clear evidence that supplements help in preventing heart disease and cancer but people take them anyway -- just in case. The industry makes bogus claims to bolster belief and so far, has not been stopped. This is just one more case in which perception twists reality, even among people with abundant common sense. The industry is worth billions. It would be difficult to shut it down, so it continues for now, a modern example of the 19th Century medicine man with his patent cures.
Tuesday, June 21, 2022
Why did millions of investors sink fortunes into cryptocurrency when there is no value behind the coins? The meltdown was predictable but no one paid attention. This raises the question of crowd dynamics. How is it that people act like sheep, mindlessly following the persuasion of influencers rather than questioning? A healthy communication with the public should acknowledge skepticism. Working with media, we are often dealing with reporters' questions and bulls....t detectors, and we accept that as a condition of doing business. In that regard, PR can be closer to truth but not when its practitioners are spinning and deliberately trying to pull the public away from reality. Too many of us do that. It's cynical and dishonest but always tempting because there are millions waiting to be duped who don't think on their own.
Monday, June 20, 2022
Today is a Federal holiday, which not all states observe. But, for those who do, it is a reminder that emancipation did not come for African-Americans all at once. They had to wait until after the Civil War in Texas. This day is a commemoration of that event. It was not that slaves lives changed much. There was still hideous discrimination that lasted well into the 20th Century, but it communicated a beginning of the long journey to equality, a trip still unfolding. It comes at a time when race relations in the US are in turmoil again, and African-Americans continue to fight for their rights and their vote. Juneteenth was a vague promise of a better life in freedom but was better than nothing and today we celebrate.
Friday, June 17, 2022
When Right Is Wrong
SpaceX fired several employees for writing a letter complaining about the behavior of their owner and boss, Elon Musk. The text of the letter recited basic PR principles and would be looked upon as appropriate in most circumstances. It was deadly for the authors. SpaceX's president claimed that it pressured employees and "bullied" them to support the dissident employees' view and was "overreaching activism." Maybe so, but Musk hasn't made many friends lately and his behavior has been erratic. He is acting like an imperial CEO who can do no wrong even though he is on the wrong side of federal regulators, such as the SEC, frequently. Good PR often goes one way -- from the top down.
Thursday, June 16, 2022
Sending A Message
The Federal Reserve sent a message to the economy by raising the benchmark interest rate 75 basis points. It demonstrates once again that communications needn't be in words but in deeds, and deeds are most effective. Such is the nature of public relations. People want to know what you do more than what you say. The Fed is making a statement that it is serious about controlling inflation and will do what it takes even if it throws the country into a recession. Mortgage interest rates are already rising and putting a damper on the over-heated housing market. The predictions now are that the economy will slow dramatically in its growth rate. There are times to jawbone and times to act. This is a time for action.
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
I've written here often that NASA is one of the great PR and publicity organizations of the modern day. It is at the forefront of astronomical and space discovery and takes every opportunity to remind the public of that, which doesn't hurt when time for funding arrives. Now the agency is bruiting the first images from its Webb space telescope. It will be a multi-day event with press conferences, reveals and explanations of what the instrument is seeing. The hoopla is warranted and the photos almost certainly will be revelatory and set the scientific community buzzing. NASA knows what the world wants, and it is a master of exceeding expectations. Kudos to the agency once again.
Tuesday, June 14, 2022
True believers in the value of bitcoins are facing reality with billions in losses. It turns out cryptocurrency is just another risky asset. One might pity those who fell for the influencers and marketers who hyped the concept of pure value, but it is hard to shed a tear. Investors knew or should have known the libration of mythical coins. They were warned by some of the most successful investors today, but they didn't listen. It became a herd effect with tens of thousands stampeding into the crypto market because they didn't want to lose out. Now, they have given away trillions in value. Maybe next time they will pay attention, but don't bet on it.
Monday, June 13, 2022
A bi-partisan group of Republican and Democratic senators have reached a deal on gun control and are writing it into legislative language. It is the first such progress since 2013. The bill will be a watered-down version of what advocates say is needed but it is something. That in itself is a sign. The two parties can work together if they try. The problem is they don't. Moderates have been squeezed out and what is left are two radically opposed groups. Both want power but so far, neither side has been successful in wielding it because the chamber is equally divided. It is past time for senators to talk to one another and meet in a middle on a body of proposed bills. It won't happen this year and if the midterms go as Democrats fear, it won't happen for the remainder of Biden's term. Still, better communications is a necessary long-term goal.
Friday, June 10, 2022
Former president Trump is unrepentant about his actions and non-actions on Jan.6 when the Capitol riot occurred. He is so completely lost in his own beliefs that nothing can or will persuade him that he lost the election fairly. This made and still makes him a dangerous public figure. That he still draws support in the Republican party and among right wing groups should be deeply concerning to the nation's leaders. The threat to Democracy is still present and will be for some time. How long no one knows. If the ongoing public hearings convince independent voters to shun Republican candidates who support Trump, then they will have performed their persuasive function. If not, the country is in for a rough ride.
Thursday, June 09, 2022
Into The Lion's Den
President Biden took a risky PR move by going on live TV with a tough interviewer -- Jimmy Kimmel. Fox News had predicted a softball session with the comedian but Kimmel honed in on a number of hot button issues, including gun control and the failure of Congress to pass more progressive legislation. The question is why Biden would do that when there are dozens of White House reporters who are grumbling that he won't sit with them. The answer appears to be reach. Kimmel gets to a broader audience of voters in a format that is easier to handle for the President. It is no secret that Biden has been a life-long gaffe machine who misspeaks regularly and needs a staff who cleans up after him. But, the President is getting desperate with midterms approaching. He will lose all influence with Congress should Republicans take over. In other words, it is time to enter the lion's den and hope he doesn't get eaten.
Wednesday, June 08, 2022
Going Their Own Way
The decision by Mexico's president to boycott the US summit for regional Latin American leaders is a sign of the times. Countries below the US border are no longer beholden to its power and prestige. They feel they can run their lands as well as the US, whether or not that is true. So Biden's summit is a bust before it even begins. The best the US can do is to put on a brave face and go through the motions. We might have expected the outcome because there has been animosity toward the US since the 19th Century. That came from interference with the politics and courses of a number of countries. Rather than admiring the US, they don't like its intrusive leadership. The US has long had a PR problem with Latin America and the current summit shows it is still there.
Tuesday, June 07, 2022
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson survived a no-confident vote in which 148 of his party members opposed his continuing leadership. Johnson vowed to "bash on" and called his win
"decisive." Outsiders have dubbed him a "dead man walking." Johnson is pursuing the business-as-usual perception and attempting to bull his way through bad press and a revolt. Sometimes it works. There is no telling whether the strategy will win this time. Business as usual is a fiction, which can carry the day if the leader believes it strongly enough and can hold onto subordinates and the public. It takes nerve, more than most leaders have. Johnson has shown himself before to be insulated from criticism. Will he again survive in the face of terrible PR?
Monday, June 06, 2022
Too Much, Too late?
This week the House will start public hearings on the Jan. 6 insurrection. It has amassed volumes of detail on what happened even without Republican support, but are they too late? The public has moved on and voters are looking to the midterms, in which Republicans are trumpeting lies about the election and getting away with it -- so far. The leaders of the hearings are already downplaying their potential impact, citing the multiplicity of media outlets today compared to Watergate. Conservative outlets have already discounted what might be revealed and are ready to pounce on every detail that favors their view. The slogan, "Stop the Steal" has taken deep root in the far right wing and no one there will pay attention to a recounting of what happened. So, the hearings will most likely be ignored by the very citizens who should pay attention. They will likely change few minds but at least the facts will be in the public domain.
Friday, June 03, 2022
No One's Listening
The Biden administration is struggling with communications. Biden is out front in public regularly but it seems no one is listening. It appears the President is out of touch with social media and dependent on traditional venues like newspapers and TV. His aides are stumped by his inability to break through and pointing fingers at each other for the failure. That, of course, helps no one and only deepens the dysfunction of the White House. Everyone who gets close to the President says the same thing. He is an empathetic, caring individual the country needs in a time of political face-offs and culture wars. But, he remains a cipher to the average voter. Direction comes from the top. If Biden wants to project, he will have to work at it himself. No one can solve the problem for him.
Thursday, June 02, 2022
I Was Wrong.
The Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, is now saying she was wrong about inflation. It's refreshing to hear a Washington politician admit an error. They are more human and believable. Yellen in her small defense could not foresee the continuation of the pandemic and the Ukraine war. The administration, albeit late, is pressing hard on rising prices and giving the Federal Reserve leeway to stamp it out. Biden is still hoping rising interest rates won't tip the economy into recession, but there is a slim chance of that succeeding. Biden's time in office has been one calamity after another. No President should have to live through that.