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Friday, March 06, 2015

Disconnect 

Scientists measured record levels of CO2 in the atmosphere during the month of February, and they expect to break that record in March.  The public either didn't know or yawned.  Who cares about atmospheric warming when there are record levels of snow and cold in the Midwest and Northeast.  It has been obvious for some time that there is a disconnect between the scientific community and average citizens.  The missing link is the impact of global warming on the individual.  There is no good way to show the personal effect of melting glaciers and the receding arctic ice packs.  Scientists talk of impacts in 50 to 100 years, but most of today's citizens except the youngest will never see these changes.  So, researchers continue to sound the klaxon in frustration.  It will take a catastrophic event or series of them to bring the public around.  That is a poor communication but there is little else that might work.  

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Boom And Bust 

There is something about the human psyche that disdains moderation.  When a good deal arises, people go all-in and forget that it will end someday.  Consider the New York hotel market.  It is in the middle of a bust with thousands of rooms under construction.  Apparently developers decided that one can't go wrong by building new hotels in Manhattan.  That might be true in the long run, but today, occupancy is down and the market is weak.  The hotel boom and bust is a reminder to communications practitioners to moderate their language.  One never knows when opportunity has passed and one will look like a fool to continue touting yesterday's fad.   The energy market is in a similar situation.  The oil boom brought thousands of wells on line and stimulated the growth of reserves.  Now, tanks are full and the price has plummeted.  Tens of thousands face layoffs in the oil fields and upstream.  Apparently, no one considered the effects of abundant supply.  Good times come to an end.  Only a few niche players can take advantage of opportunity for decades.  Chances are your company is not one of them.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Rules And Reputation 

Hillary Clinton did not use State Department e-mail during her time leading it.  This was a clear breach of regulations done with intent.  The questions now are what the government will do about it, if anything, and how it might affect her candidacy for the White House.  Chances are that nothing will happen in either arena, since she doesn't have a visible opponent in the Democratic Party for the nomination.  One wonders why she would risk her reputation by doing what she did.  She must have had strong personal reasons for staying invisible in government e-mail servers.  If so, she might need to air them now to put the controversy at rest.  What it does show is that Clinton has no reluctance in bending or breaking rules if it serves her purposes.  Whether that is good or bad depends on the circumstances.  It will cost her some votes, probably not many, and it is an opening for an opponent's attack in the race to the Presidency.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Still Packs A Punch 

Once upon a time, nearly every media training session included a reference to CBS' "60 Minutes" news magazine.  It was a boogeyman that spurred corporate executives to work hard and understand how to handle hostile TV interviews.  Today, it isn't what it once was, but it can still pack a punch.  Consider this case.   An airtight "60 Minutes": expose of Lumber Liquidators has crushed the flooring company's stock.  It makes no difference that the company claims the program used the wrong testing method.  The damage is done and the company faces hundreds of millions in fines and settlements.  The harm to its reputation could destroy its business.  Why?  Because the company failed to keep a close check on its Chinese suppliers.  It is a fundamental principle of PR and marketing that one deliver a product that is what it claims to be.  Caveat Emptor is a poor way to do business and an invitation to "60 Minutes" to visit.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Disruption 

Who would have thought a fitness tracker on one's wrist could kill a diet business?  But apparently it is doing just that.  Sales and earnings of Weight Watchers International are down as people move to direct measurement of physical activity.  It is hard to know whether Weight Watchers saw this coming.  Marketplace disruption can happen from anywhere at any time and is a reason why CEOs should have a bit of paranoia.  There are competitors, known and unknown, who can make a company irrelevant quickly through a better business model, technology and access to capital markets.  This should engender a sense of humility in how companies communicate to shareholders and customers.  A large part of that communication should be listening to detect early the trends that will affect a business in two to three years.  Companies that get into trouble have an attitude that they know best what customers need.  The corporate graveyard is populated with them.  I have witnessed the decline and fall of a number of businesses that couldn't adapt in time to new rules of the marketplace.  One in particular was so blind that the CEO refused to believe his own market research department that was tracking declining market share.  He kept pumping out machines that no one wanted.  The implosion of the company was rapid and complete.  The CEO had forgotten or failed to believe that disruption is real and constant.  Communications practitioners should know better.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Hubris 

There is little a PR practitioner can do when a leader is lost in hubris and insists that he knows better.  Take, for example, this case.  In trying to show his command of events, Gov. Scott Walker boasted that if he could beat the unions in his state, he was also qualified to be President and take on ISIS.  

""We need a leader who will stand up and say we will take the fight to them and not wait until they take the fight to American soil, If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same in the rest of the world."
Maybe so.  Maybe not.  Predictably Democrats mocked him for comparing unions to a terrorist group.  Had Walker thought about his remarks more carefully, he might have noted that while appealing to conservative Republicans, he was jeopardizing himself with the larger electorate.  If he has objective advisors working for him, surely one of them cautioned him.  Remarks like this come back to haunt a candidate later on.  Walker has no friend in the unions and should he campaign officially for President, they will oppose him every step of the way.  Who needs that?  A bit more humility might have helped.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Gotcha 

The silly season for Presidential campaigning has begun and journalists are playing "gotcha" with candidates.  Consider this case.  The question was irrelevant to any campaign, and the candidate, Gov. Scott Walker, parried it a bit clumsily.  This gave the reporters an opportunity to write an article disparaging Walker.  Whether or not one approves of such media misbehavior, it is an integral part of campaigning, and it is justified on the basis that Presidents have to be able to think on their feet.  CEOs are largely spared such press needling but it can happen, if they aren't careful.  There is nothing under the First Amendment that prohibits such baiting.  Hence, it continues and the media wrap themselves in righteousness as they do it.  What this means for candidates is that they have to prepare themselves for the odd-ball question that can detonate in their faces.  One wonders why anyone wants to be President.

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