Friday, December 30, 2022
Hershey, the chocolate company, is being sued for the presence of lead and cadmium in its dark chocolate bars. The toxic metals are apparently naturally occurring and Hershey had nothing to do with putting them in its chocolate. No matter. It is a crisis the company will have to handle. There doesn't seem to be a day that goes by without a lawsuit. Some are frivolous, some serious, but all have the potential of damaging the reputation of the organizations involved. This is why crisis PR readiness is a necessity in business. It can defuse a situation quickly and get facts out to the public before a situation gets out of hand. I'm sure that neither Hershey nor Godiva nor any other chocolate maker were aware of toxic metals in their products, but from now on, they will have to control for them.
Thursday, December 29, 2022
Southwest Airlines has destroyed its reputation as a well run business with cancellation of thousands of flights as a result of a winter storm. While other airlines are mostly back to normal, Southwest continues to cut back on its schedule because it can't find crews for its planes. Apparently, its system lost track of them during the monster storm and the airline is still trying to locate them. The CEO has publicly apologized but it is not enough for weary and irate passengers who are stuck in airports with lost luggage. It is a business and public relations crisis and the airline is not handling it well. What the airline needs to do is to build a better crew-tracking system and to stress test it before another storm like the last one happens again. That's easier said than done but the airline has little choice if it wants to stay in business.
Wednesday, December 28, 2022
Stocks rise and fall on the reputations of companies' CEOs. It is a key reason for PR -- to protect the image and character of an organization's leaders. Elon Musk is proving a point that practitioners have made for decades. Aberrant behavior affects the price of equity. Tesla's stock price has plummeted over worries about Musk and his inattention to the car company. Musk stretched himself too far and it shows. He has acted in willful ways and it has harmed his reputation. His car company is not on the ropes yet but there are plenty of worries about its near future and that has resulted in waves of selling. Maybe someone will get through to him but that will be tough. He lives in his own world that the markets were happy to accept as long as Tesla was successful, but now that it has matured and Musk continues his ways, the mood is sour. Musk can't get away with his behavior for much longer.
Tuesday, December 27, 2022
Monday, December 26, 2022
Friday, December 23, 2022
Thursday, December 22, 2022
Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy conducted the highest form of public relations in his appearances and speech to Congress. He was rallying support for the war effort. He was thanking the US for its backing. He was laying down a marker of defiance to Russia. In all these, he spoke a mixture of Ukrainian and English, but no one could doubt his sincerity or his message. He won Congress over. President Biden was already on his side. By the time, he gave a Ukrainian flag to Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the House chamber and accepted an American flag in return, his triumph was complete. Now, he has returned to the bleak countryside of bombing and artillery and destruction, but he brings with him the visible backing of America, an essential force to win the war.
Wednesday, December 21, 2022
3M Corporation is bowing to public and government pressure to end production of "forever chemicals" that don't break down and are seen as hazardous to health. This civic-minded move will cost it more than a billion dollars, although 3M says it is a small part of its revenue stream. It shows the power of public relations that a company voluntarily gives up profitable product. 3M's CEO acknowledged as much by stating that the company is moving toward sustainable growth by "optimizing its portfolio." This might mean that 3M is ready to move away from other chemicals that are controversial and considered health hazards. If so, the company will show that is attuned to public concerns and ready to act. Time will tell.
Tuesday, December 20, 2022
Monday, December 19, 2022
Elon Musk says he will step down as CEO of Twitter if a poll goes against him, and so far, it is. Could it be a return to rationality for the mercurial entrepreneur? He has made a PR and reputational mess out of his short time as leader of the social medium. He stands to lose much if not most of his $44 billion investment in the service if it goes bankrupt. It is gushing red ink as advertisers pull out. Musk is a case of self-destruction, which will be a study for years to come in business schools. His self-belief that he could do no wrong set him up for a terrible outcome and now his other businesses are suffering for lack of his attention. The best result would be for him to step down, admit that he didn't know what he was doing and appoint a CEO who can guide the medium back to breakeven or put it into bankruptcy. That would require admission of ineptitude, which will be hard for someone who has been so spectacularly successful for so long.
Friday, December 16, 2022
Thursday, December 15, 2022
Elon Musk has been flailing at Twitter and putting the social medium in danger of complete collapse. Now Musk is after a fellow who tweets the location of his jet. Musk's' rationale is that it is a danger to him for the world to know where he is. In other words, respect my privacy. This is a curious move because Musk has removed most of the controls on Twitter speech with the explanation that he is making it free. And, the plane watcher is using public flight tracking data. Musk is invoking a privilege of privacy for me because I'm wealthy and the owner of Twitter but not for you, the common folk. Had Musk kept controls on speech on the platform, it would not look so hypocritical, but he didn't and it does.
Wednesday, December 14, 2022
Tuesday, December 13, 2022
Monday, December 12, 2022
In this environmental era, oil pipeline failures are a blow to a company's reputation. The operator of the Keystone Pipeline system is busy cleaning up after a breach of its system. The mess is giving environmentalists a reason for calling an end to pipeline distribution of tar sands oil from Canada. The total spill of 14,000 barrels that flowed into Mill Creek is a major breach. Initial investigations indicate joint failure in the pipe. Whatever the cause, hundreds of men with equipment are busy mopping up. Meanwhile, it will take the operator months, if not years, to overcome the smear on its name.
Friday, December 09, 2022
The prisoner swap with Russia raises the issue of celebrity and its effects on public policy. The US said it wanted two prisoners in exchange for a notorious Russian arms dealer. It got one, the basketball star. The other, Paul Whelan, remains in jail, accused of spying. Would the outcome have been the same had Brittney Griner not had such a high profile? There is criticism in the press and social media that makes that claim. It is true that constant publicity since Griner was taken into custody kept her in the public eye. Her family, teammates, coaches and friends wouldn't let the government forget or stop working for her release. Whelan does not have such an impromptu PR effort. So, he sits behind bars. One lesson here is that keeping an issue in the forefront of public awareness does work. It is not a discovery. It is as old as Caesar and his book on the Gallic wars, but it is good to be reminded.
Thursday, December 08, 2022
NASA has released high resolution images of Orion's flyby of the moon. As this article says, it is good for the agency's public relations. NASA learned decades ago that "wow" shots of outer space produce public support for its missions. It has learned its lesson well: Here is a portfolio of the mission. As I have written here often, NASA understands PR and uses it superlatively well.
Wednesday, December 07, 2022
The Associated Press issued a story explaining why it called the Georgia Senate race for a Democrat. It is one more example of the distrust of the media and the need for journalists to justify their views. The AP's rationale was simple enough. Uncounted votes are in heavily Democratic-leaning areas and there wasn't enough time for Walker to catch up. However, that won't be enough for election deniers who will challenge the AP's call. Even with all votes counted, they won't believe and they will fall back on the charge of fraud. It is sad there are so many Americans who deny facts and hold tightly to falsehoods. One can only hope that some day they will see the light of reality.
Tuesday, December 06, 2022
Two rights clashed in a Supreme Court hearing yesterday -- the right of religious freedom and the right of equal treatment. They dealt with a web designer who does not want to design pages for same-sex weddings and whether the designer will violate a Colorado law legislating equality in business dealings. The justices apparently struggled with the issue in a two-hour hearing. From a PR perspective, there should be little difficulty. We want most of our messages to be heard by everyone. If not, we restrict the media we use. Even with that, what we say is likely to end up in social media where everyone can read it.
Monday, December 05, 2022
Georgians have a choice of two black candidates for US Senator. It's an historic time for a state that overwhelmingly votes for whites. The difference between the two is stark. One emphasizes his relationship to the black community. The other tells white Republican voters that they should not apologize for voting white. One is a minister who has won the seat already once in a special election. The other is a former football star at the University of Georgia. There is no way of knowing at this hour who will win but it is a time of decision for African Americans in the state. Should they choose a celebrity who starred on the field or a man who has demonstrated his potential already in office? To an outsider, the choice would seem obvious, but to the voter it might not be. Both men have spent millions communicating to the electorate. It is enough to overwhelm anyone with conflicting images of who the candidates really are. Political marketing sows confusion.
Friday, December 02, 2022
Russia has responded to President Biden's statement that he is willing to talk to Putin by saying that Putin would agree to talks only if the West accedes to Russia's demands. Ukraine, on the other hand, says it won't negotiate with Russia until every inch of its territory is returned to it. The two nations are so far apart that peace talks are out of the question. So, the war grinds on. The two sides are fighting a communications battle -- who appears weak and who appears to have the upper hand. Neither is willing to admit a willingness to back down. The destruction of men and material is breathtaking. At some point both sides will be scraping the logistics barrel for guns, artillery and shells. Will they come to their senses then?
Thursday, December 01, 2022
Amazon's CEO says he won't stop selling an anti-Semitic documentary film. He justifies his position in the face of criticism as having a difficult task of deciding what people should see. His statement is founded on a Free Speech philosophy. He is right unless the documentary foments violence against Jews. But, being on the right side of the law won't help him if he becomes a PR pariah. It has already started with numerous groups protesting the film and calling for Amazon to stop offering it. The CEO's principle looks like greed from one angle. Amazon will chase a dollar wherever it might be rather than taking steps to monitor products for objectionable content. Even if he is right on principle, he risks a major PR gaffe.