Thursday, April 28, 2016
The FBI is scrambling to correct flawed forensic analyses that go back decades. In this case, it turns out that hair sample examiners had given inaccurate testimony on matches in 95 percent of their cases. The FBI found that 26 of 28 hair examiners in its forensic laboratory overstated evidence in support of prosecuting attorneys. It is a black eye for the Bureau, but one the FBI is trying to correct. The question arises of how this happened in the first place. The answer appears to be that the forensic examiners were eager to put "bad guys" away and saw no problem in confirming matches that weren't really there. This is one more instance that shows how dangerous the power of government can be and why it needs to be restrained. It is hard to give kudos to the FBI for cleaning up a mess of its own making, but there should be some recognition of the Bureau's efforts. It could be resisting efforts to fix the problem -- a not uncommon response from bureaucracies. What the FBI can't fix are 14 executions of criminals based on hair sample evidence.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Fortune has written an article that is a case study for anyone interested in PR and crisis communications. It has to do with instant noodles called Maggi made by Nestle. They are sold widely in India and were the favorite of mothers for children, cost-conscious students and others looking for a cheap but nutritious snack. The crisis began when an Indian laboratory discovered elevated lead levels in a package of the noodles. Nestle said that it wasn't possible and that its own advanced laboratory hadn't found anything of the sort. When the news leaked to the media, a firestorm resulted and Nestle had to pull tons of noodles from the market The problem was partially of communication, which was poor, and an arrogance on the part of Nestle, which exacerbated the problem. The article is lengthy but it merits a read. One questions whether Nestle has learned how to communicate in a crisis as a result of this.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
When a primary care physician is already overloaded with responsibilities, asking him/her to do more is poor management and poor PR. Poor PR because it is tasking them to take on yet another burden in dealing with an endless stream of patients. Yet that is a proposal for ending abuse of opioids. Activists want doctors to consult a database to check if opioid users are doctor shopping to feed their habit. There are several things wrong with the idea, not the least of which is that someone has to maintain and update the database and that someone is almost certainly the primary care physician or the doctor's staff. There needs to be a better way to stop abusers and good PR should be the reason for finding it. Primary care is the first line of treatment and hence, it should allow doctors time to assess and refer patients, if need be. Unfortunately, primary care has become an assembly line for many doctors in order to handle the patient load -- 15 minutes and out the door. That is barely enough time to figure out what is wrong with the person and what should be done. It becomes too easy to write a prescription and go on to the next patient. Opioid abusers know that.
Monday, April 25, 2016
The auto industry is under stress because of Volkswagen's cheating. Manufacturers are trying to steer clear of the controversy but regulators are on the hunt. We now know that Mitsubishi diddled its test results as well and investigators are looking into Peugeot. So far, American manufacturers have avoided official action but that doesn't mean they are off the hook. The effects of the Volkswagen dishonesty will reverberate for months if not years. It is a watershed moment for the industry and anyone who might be thinking of getting around regulation is on alert. Volkswagen's managers must be asking themselves why they were so stupid. Other auto manufacturers are furious with the company as well they should be. They have been tarred by association.
Friday, April 22, 2016
Blood testing company, Theranos, is under investigation by the Federal Government for making false claims for its products. This is proving to be a PR disaster for Walgreens, the drug store chain that was using and promoting Theranos devices. The question is when Walgreens will formally break with Theranos to stop being tarred by association. Observers have wondered since the beginning of the Theranos saga months ago why Walgreens persists in its alliance with the company and its faulty droplet testing product. Granted that the drug store chain stopped opening wellness centers that use Theranos products but it has proceeded cautiously on any final break with Theranos. That means it is hurt by every negative story that comes about Theranos, and Walgreens reputation is ruined along with its vendor. Few believe that Walgreens is contractually bound to Theranos. There are clauses in nearly all agreements for breaking a relationship due to the criminal behavior of one or the other parties. Maybe the full story will come out in the months ahead, but until then Walgreens is in a perilous position.
Thursday, April 21, 2016
Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill. She was supposed to replace Alexander Hamilton on the front of the $10 bill, but Hamilton fans objected -- strenuously. Using the power of PR, they got the decision changed. It makes sense. Hamilton was the founder of the fiscal process that runs the United States. He was anti-slavery. He was the brilliant exponent of the constitution in the Federalist Papers. He had worked his way up from poverty to be a renowned lawyer in New York. Jackson was a man of violence -- a slave owner and persecutor of indians. He killed the National Bank of the United States, which put the country on a perilous course throughout the 19th Century and into the early 20th. One wonders why the Treasury Department chose to replace Hamilton in the first place. But, it listened and acted, and everyone seems satisfied. Welcome, Harriet, to the 20 dollar bill.
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Amazon has the reputation of being the world's online store, but to its employees and ex-employees, it has a reputation of being an onerous employer. One wonders how much longer it can grow with a reputation as a brutal place to work. At some point, it won't be able to recruit talented workers because they will know before going in that Amazon is undesirable. Jeff Bezos doesn't appear to be publicly concerned about what employees think. As founder of the company, he is the principal driver of its culture and the unhealthy environment, which employees claim exists, stems directly from him. He and his executives will have only themselves to blame if workers take action against the company.