Friday, May 17, 2013
The attorney general of the US is the latest boss to say he didn't know what was happening in his own department. Maybe he didn't but it is a poor excuse. A boss is supposed to know what is happening, and if he is surprised, he is also supposed to take responsibility rather than ducking. Courts take a dim view of executives in the docket who plead ignorance. Inevitably there is a smoking e-mail or memo somewhere that shows the boss he was informed. He failed to grasp the significance of what was written. My guess is that the same holds true for Eric Holder, Jr., but he is trying to lawyer his way out of the spotlight and fire. It is understandable that he doesn't want to stand up. The media are furious that the government would snoop into their phone records. Holder's defense of those who took the action doesn't make it any less of a PR gaffe. The media believe they are set apart and they react badly whenever they learn they aren't.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
The former Catholic Cardinal of Scotland is leaving the country to perform penance and reflect on his past behavior. He stepped down after it was revealed he had made inappropriate advances to fellow priests. A PR counselor would tell him to remain out of the country. There is little he can do to restore his reputation. His power is gone and unlikely to return. He is an embarrassment to the Church in Scotland by his presence. Roman Catholics believe in forgiveness but that doesn't mean one should get his old job back or remain on the scene. Scripture relates that Jesus forgave Peter's denials of Jesus and handed him the keys to the Church. The modern day is not so tolerant, particularly when a religious figure embodies criticism for how society behaves. Critics are only too ready to charge hypocrisy if an errant priest remains in power. The former cardinal can perform good works and demonstrate repentance in the time he has left on this earth. And, he might return to grace by doing so, but not as a cardinal and not in Scotland.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Here is another worry for PR practitioners and marketers -- a phone app that allows one to determine if a company or individual is behind a product. One can envision a time in the not too distant future where a protest group organizes a national grassroots campaign through use of the app. The only safety for targeted companies and individuals is that most people might not care enough to scan products in their shopping carts. In other words, apathy might be the best protection. Still, practitioners cannot discount the rise of such mobile tools. Say there is a scare about genetically modified foods. People would use an app like this in the store, and it would be a major issue for producers and retailers. It is less likely, however, that millions would shun a product because the Koch brothers are behind it. Still, the more tools developed for individual expression, the greater the likelihood that people will eventually use them.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
The quickest way to lose the support of the media is to investigate them to find their sources. The Justice Department has poked the bear with its seizure of phone records of Associated Press journalists. To call the move dumb would be to dignify it. The media have treated the Obama administration well to this point. There is a good chance that they won't from now on. This revelation comes just a couple of days after the IRS admitted it investigated conservative organizations to see if they should maintain their not-for-profit status and during the Benghazi free-for-all that Republicans are trumping up in Congress. The President should ask himself how many investigations of his administration he wants to have running at the same time. From a PR perspective, the Obama administration is squandering the good will it gained from winning the election last November. It is about as bad as the previous President who thought he had political capital to spend after his second election only to blow it away in a year.
Monday, May 13, 2013
When an organization already is deeply unpopular, having it exert authority can spark trouble. The Internal Revenue Service is learning that all over again. Its efforts to check the tax-exempt status of 501(c)4 quasi-political organizations has erupted into volcanic rage from the groups affected. No matter that lower-level employees in the agency thought they were doing their jobs. It is clear that in this instance the agency should have investigated everyone or no one. The slightest perception that it was targeting was unacceptable. And, it was targeting. It is understandable from a management point of view what the agency was doing -- selective audits. The IRS has neither the manpower nor time to audit everyone so it uses criteria to determine whom to investigate. It stumbled badly in this instance and should have known better, even in the lower echelons. Now the IRS and the Obama administration have a mess to clean up, and suspicions of opponents run deeper than ever. It is a good example of "Can't win."
Friday, May 10, 2013
Consumer Reports gave the Tesla Model S electric vehicle an outstanding rating, but is it enough to get over anxiety about the range of these cars? The Model S is a luxury car designed for short to middle-distance commutes. For longer ranges, it is hampered by a lack of charging stations and by the time it takes to top off its batteries. There is an opinion that without major breakthroughs in battery technology, electric vehicles will never be popular. Citizens will refuse to wait even 30 minutes for a quick charge. From a PR perspective, Tesla has a challenge that might be insurmountable. It might do well as a niche vehicle but can it ever become a mass-market product? Should the company every think that way? Perhaps remaining a small company is the most profitable course of action to take -- a company that is close to its public and listens to them carefully. Other car companies have taken this course successfully, notably Porsche whose sports cars were never built for the masses. Tesla has the credibility, but what can it do with it?
Thursday, May 09, 2013
Newspapers have long considered themselves change agents. They pride themselves on speaking truth to power. So it is ironic that this deep into the digital age newspapers still are unable to change, if you believe this anonymous newspaper executive. While it is always dangerous to take someone's word who insists on concealing his name, what he says in this article rings true. Even major newspapers continue to bleed while their digital operations are unable to make up for the revenue loss of display advertising. It is a humiliating experience for an industry that once minted money. It should be a warning to those who freely criticize business that they ought to get their own houses in order first. But, of course, reporters won't be cautious. They will continue to point to the peccadilloes of the mighty while groaning about pay and lack of career advancement. Some things never change. From a PR perspective, it is sad to see publishers in such a sorry state. We need newspapers as much as they need us (although they would never admit to that.) PR, however, will survive even if newspapers disappear. It might even absorb many of those journalists who are out of work.