Thursday, July 24, 2014

Not PR... 

And not good publicity either...  Say, you have a client, a mayor of a city, and you fake a press release for the client.  A reporter picks it up and calls the client who knows nothing about it.  That is what happened here.  It comes under the category of "What was the PR person thinking?"  There is a rule in the agency business.  Clients approve all releases that go out on their behalf.  There is never a time when that rule is violated, especially for flackery.   I don't know what has happened to the publicist who sent then tried to justify the release.  In agencies I have worked in, it would be a firing offense, one that would also have the client leaving for another firm.  The Raleigh mayor might not be so upset, but he should be.  If you can't trust your agency to do the right thing, who can you trust?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


So, you short a company's stock and set out to destroy it.  You give public presentations explaining why the company is fraudulent.  If people believe you and sell the stock, you will win big.  If they don't, you will lose billions.  That's the position that Bill Ackman, a hedge fund manager is in in his quest to destroy nutritional supplement company, Herbalife.  Yesterday, after his detailed presentation on the company, its stock rose rather than fell.  The feeling was that he didn't produce a smoking gun that proves the company is a culprit rather than besieged.  There is something about Ackman's anti-PR that makes one want to see him fail.  On the other hand, if Herbalife is shady, he will have done a public service.  Time and stock trading will tell soon enough whether his shorting the stock was a good or bad idea.  And the government has yet to weigh in based on its investigation into the company.  Should the FTC sue the company, Ackman will be a winner.  If it decides against penalties, Ackman will have to start over to rebuild his fortune.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Perception Vs. Reality 

Russian citizens are being given a broad range of excuses and conspiracy theories over the downing of Flight MH 17 in rebel-controlled Eastern Ukraine.  The reasoning is preposterous and outrageous and one wonders how any citizen could swallow such drivel.  But then, during the previous disappearance of a Malaysia Air flight this year, CNN explored the possibility that aliens had taken the plane.  Fortunately, there were many news agencies covering the event so one could get a variety of views on what happened.  However, in Russia's case now, there doesn't appear to be reporting that alleges the plane was shot down by a missile.  In other words, Russian citizens are being given an altered perception.  How many of them believe their government?  Putin has vested interest in keeping the spotlight away from him and so far, he seems successful at home, if not in the rest of the world.  Sooner or later, however, the reality of the tragedy will reach Russian citizens and will create a public relations problem for Putin and his autocracy.  Will it be enough to cripple his power?  Probably not, but his strong man image will be dented, and that is a first step in eventual downfall.

Monday, July 21, 2014


A food retailer like McDonald's depends on suppliers for its fare.  The fast-food chain sets standards for quality and cleanliness and suppliers pledge to abide by them.  To make sure, restaurant companies audit suppliers regularly.  Still, it is possible for suppliers to cheat when not watched.   That is why this incident is maddening for McDonald's and Yum brands.  It is expensive to stand over a vendor's employees to make sure they are following rules.  Yet, that is what the fast-fooders might have to do.  They cannot continue to grow in China if they are compromised regularly by their supply chains.  It seems part of the problem is cultural.  Chinese employees might not be concerned about picking something off the floor and throwing it back onto a conveyor belt or mixing old meat with new.  The vendor, OSI Group LLC, works around the world, and it is unlikely that it tolerated what its workers were doing.  Almost certainly, it didn't know.  This means management at the Chinese plant was lax and should be changed.  Now, McDonald's and Yum have to rebuild their reputations in China.  It won't be easy, but one can be certain they will watch their suppliers closely.

Friday, July 18, 2014


The death of 298 passengers and crew from a missile is a tragedy not only for the families affected but also for the company -- Malaysia Airlines.  The company must feel it is snakebit to have two major accidents just a few months apart and both mysterious.  We may never know what happened to the first plane but one theory is that it was flying on auto-pilot until it ran out of fuel.  If it was on auto-pilot, something dreadful happened to the pilot and co-pilot.  As for the present situation, it is unlikely anyone is going to "fess up" to having fired a missile.  Rather each side will blame the other, and only a careful examination of the wreckage might lead to a conclusion.  Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines must calm the nerves of potential passengers who might be leery of flying in its aircraft.  An airline can go years without an accident then suddenly, something happens.  It is a blow to the reputation of the company and there is nothing one can do but carry on and make adjustments, such as no longer flying over Ukraine.  There are times when business is crappy, and this is one.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

One Bad Egg 

You've probably seen a news story and heard the recorded customer call to Comcast that has gone viral.  Comcast has apologized for the rudeness of its service rep who wouldn't accept that a customer wanted to cancel.  The company is already one of the lowest rated for customer service and this incident only confirms the view of many.  It is one more example of a bad egg supporting the public's perception of a company's reputation.   One would think Comcast would be working overtime to win favor, and employees like this one would be reassigned or rooted from the ranks.  But, apparently not.  Hence the company continues with the poor reputation for service it has had for years -- and that is too bad.  When our family was a Comcast customer, its service was prompt and their techs easy to work with.  We left Comcast, not because of outages,  but because we could get faster line speeds.  Our present vendor has proven stable and easy to work with as well.  Comcast has lost us, probably forever, as it has lost millions of others.  Had it a better reputation that needn't have been the case.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Great PR 

The best PR is a melding of self-interest with the interests of the public.  Under that definition, what Google is doing to fix the internet is PR at its finest.   With the name, Project Zero, the company is hiring the best programmers it can find to roam the internet and close off vulnerabilities wherever it finds them,  whether or not the software is Google's.  This is the kind of big project that only the largest of companies can afford to undertake.  One might have expected Microsoft to handle the project since it has worked hard to identify and isolate hackers, but Google acted first.  The internet, in spite of Google's efforts, will never be perfect.  There are too many holes that brilliant programmers can exploit.  However, it can make it more difficult for rogue hackers and that alone will be a benefit to the world.  Some fear Google because it is a large and pervasive company, but if it keeps acting like this, there is little to worry.

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