Friday, December 30, 2022

Another Day, Another Crisis 

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

Reputation And Stock Price 

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

Gutting It Out 

Rep.-elect George Santos of Long Island has finally admitted that he fabricated his resume used in his successful campaign for the House.  In other words, he lied about his background so completely that virtually nothing holds up to scrutiny.  Still, Santos is intent on being sworn in.  So far, no Republican leader has said anything about him.  Some Democrats have stated he should be expelled.  Santos now has a reputation of being a serial prevaricator and an untrustworthy individual.  Nothing he can do or say can change that.  He has to gut out his time in office if he intends to serve and there is a good chance he won't get re-elected.  

Monday, December 26, 2022


Of the many embarrassing actions of former President Trump, one of the latest and most curious is his venture into trading cards.  He released 45,000 non-fungible token (NFT) cards priced at $99 each.  They soared in price for a day or two then bombed and left purchasers with little but cartoon images of Trump.  The whole episode strikes one as a man so desperate for publicity and money that he will try anything.  It further erodes Trump's reputation.  But, now that Trump has done it, others will try it as well at some point.  One hopes it will be done with more class.

Friday, December 23, 2022


The outgoing Republican governor of Arizona will now remove a border wall with Mexico that he had constructed from double-stacked shipping containers and concertina wire. The problem?  He had constructed it on Federal land and the Feds are not amused.  It is one more case of grandstanding by Republican governors to cast a spotlight on illegal migration.  It worked -- sort of.  The $95 million effort made national news but it didn't stop illegal migration as far as is known.  The reason is that few migrants attempt to cross the border in the mountainous terrain.  One could easily condemn the governor for wasting public money, but he will counter that he has made his point.  Still, it was a wild, useless gesture that did no good for the governor's reputation.    

Thursday, December 22, 2022

The Highest Kind Of PR 

Ukraine‚Äôs 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

Bowing To Pressure 

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

Sea Change?  

According to this article, Republicans aren't rallying around former President Trump this time with his criminal referral as they have in the recent past.  Why? Voters appear to have turned against him.  Trump-backed candidates lost in the November elections and new faces are appearing for the 2024 run for president.  While Trump held a lock on the party, none dared oppose him and the few who did, saw an end to their political careers.  Is this a sea change in the electorate?  Conservative citizens are finally seeing the man for what he is - a boastful. ego-driven celebrity who thinks only of himself and not of the country or others?  If so, reporting on the man and his failings is finally taking effect and his reputation is in decline.  It is too early to count Trump out.  He is a master of publicity and self-promotion and he still has millions of followers, but maybe, just maybe, voters now see him as a hollow husk of a man.  

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

A Warning 

An uncontrolled leak from the Russian space capsule is a warning that space is hostile. Even a micrometeorite can put a system out of commission.  No amount of PR nor propaganda can cover up the danger astronauts face.  While space stations and trips to the moon are engineering and science marvels, they exist in an environment that can turn on them in an instant.  Interviews with astronauts and publicity for space exploration concentrate on adventure. They rarely focus on the perils of leaving the atmosphere of the earth. The warning is coming at the right time with NASA eager to return to the moon.  Once before, a NASA mission went wrong -- Apollo 13 -- and it was a feat bringing the astronauts home safely.  There is no guarantee that it can't happen again.  

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Privacy For Me, Not You 

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

The Lost Cause 

Richmond, VA, the capital of the Confederacy, has finally removed the last statue of a city-owned Confederate Civil War general.  Confederate statues of Civil War generals were placed around the town in defiance during the Jim Crow era. They were PR symbols of a Southern culture that vowed never to forget its way of life.  They were paeans to a society built on slavery and a commitment to states rights over the union.  As long as they stood, African-Americans had to tolerate visible insults to their drive to become equal members of society.  It is good they are gone and the false nostalgia of a better time exposed for what it is -- racism.  It is also a lesson to communicators.  It takes a long time to change culture -- in this case, more than a 150 years --, and there are millions still in the US who subscribe to the old way of life. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Maybe This Time 

Scientists are poised to announce a major breakthrough in nuclear fusion. We've been there before and before and before.  Sustained nuclear fusion where two atoms are forced together and thereby release huge amounts of heat is a hope for a future that has never come.  Scientists and engineers have been working the problem for decades.  As such, nuclear fusion has a reputation of an unsolvable problem.  The story notes that even with the advance, there are decades more to scale up the machinery so it can be used as a power plant.  It is a good bet we won't see it in my lifetime.  Meanwhile, phalanxes of researchers will continue to pursue the dream.  Maybe my daughter will see it come to fruition.  In the end, will it be worth the billions in development? 

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

High Resolution 

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

Explain Yourself 

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

A Choice 

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

Still Far Apart 

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

Free Speech Or PR Gaffe?  

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.  

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