Thursday, October 30, 2014
When you call an ally, "chickenshit", you are engaged in strange diplomacy. That was what an American government official called the Israeli prime minister. Gutter language is not a part of diplomacy, even if one hates the opposition. One must always leave a door open for talks and for peacemaking. It is a fact that the Israeli government pounded the Palestinians in the latest outbreak between the two countries. America advised against it, but Netanyahu went ahead. So too, the decision to build new housing in Jerusalem territory claimed by Palestinians. Bad and self-interested behavior is a norm in diplomacy. One should hardly be offended by it. Countries and their leaders think of their own security first. That is as it should be. It takes unusual circumstances and a leader with courage to put a country into potential jeopardy in order to seek peace. In Netanyahu's defense, Palestinians haven't merited much outreach with their continuous effort to rocket and mortar Israel. One would think the American official would understand that. At least to the point where he would not have called Netanyahu poultry manure.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Just as the Exxon Valdez caused multi-decade problems for Alaska, BP's Deepwater Horizon well in the Caribbean has left a wide bed of gunk on the ocean floor. The damage might not be visible but it is there on the seabed where marine creatures can ingest it to what effect is unknown. This means that for decades, BP will be defending itself in the court of public opinion. Every time a new study comes out, the image of the burning, tilting platform will recur along with black lakes tarring the shores of multiple states. There isn't much BP can do about it. The damage is done and whether it is permanent or not is a question that will keep scientists busy for years. How does a company come back from such a devastating accident. BP in advertising has tried to rejoin the Gulf Coast community with testimony from its workers, but it also has lashed back at those who would take advantage of its restitution money. The company has adopted a "moving on" stance that seems hollow given the damage, but what choice does it have? It does the company and the public no good to continue wallowing in the accident and its aftermath.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
The University of North Carolina has imposed a burden on its reputation that will last a long time. This comes from an academic scandal in which athletes could take courses that did not require them to show up for class. The university is in the process of cleaning up the mess it made, but it hasn't done so willingly and it took after the whistle blower who exposed the fraud. It is sad because UNC was once known for its academic standards. Now it is just one more university mesmerized by big time sports and willing to do anything to reach the winner's circle. What is worse is that it has violated its bargain with its student athletes. Play for us and we will give you an education. It would have been better if its athletes had gone directly into professional sports and skipped college. The only PR tactic that will work for the university now is for it to set down tough standards for its athletes and to enforce them year after year.
Monday, October 27, 2014
Israelis are using slow aggression to move Palestinians out of Jerusalem. The government has just approved 1,000 new homes to be built on land that Palestinians consider to be theirs. Once settlers are embedded in the territory and have the defense of the Israeli army behind them, there is little chance that Palestinians can regain the districts. Meanwhile, Israel's allies oppose the move but not so strongly that they are willing to break diplomatic ties with the country. Israel is concerned for public opinion internally and the new housing is an act of PR for its citizens. It is hard for countries like the US to complain too loudly. After all, we were believers in Manifest Destiny, and we systematically uprooted, slaughtered and contained native peoples on reservations in the 19th Century. One can say that Israel is imitating the US. The outcome of building new housing in Palestinian territory is more violence that will occur in months and years to come. One wonders if there isn't a better way?
Friday, October 24, 2014
Mark Zuckerberg understands great PR and he was caught engaging in it during his visit to China. He spoke to college students there in Chinese. It was, according to Chinese speakers, a halting performance with incorrect tonals and a heavy accent, but the students loved it, and his effort immediately went viral around the globe. Zuckerberg later explained that his study of Mandarin was influenced by his wife who is Chinese, but no matter. Here was the CEO of a huge company in the US who was struggling to make himself understood in a difficult language and succeeding. Give him credit for great PR and for the courage to try. He has set a high standard for the rest of CEOs in their efforts to carry their messages around the world. English is the global language for now, but there is a strong chance that Chinese will be in coming decades. At least one CEO is ready.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Honda and every other auto manufacturer that used airbags from the Takata Corp. is involved in a massive recall. They have been sunk by a supplier who made a defective part. The recall will involve tens of millions of dollars, most, if not all, of which will come from Takata. Takata also will face lawsuits over the defect that will drag on for years. At issue will be whether Takata knew or should have known that its airbags will blow up under certain circumstances and injure rather than protect a passenger. One can feel sympathy for the auto builders in this instance. The recall is for something they didn't do. The industry has been involved in massive recalls this year and doesn't need another one. But, it is here, and the auto companies have to deal with it. The PR departments of the affected manufacturers must be working at full speed to handle both this and the introduction of new vehicles. It won't help them much to point a finger at Takata. Consumers drives Hondas, not Takatas..
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
This is the reason why every organization should have a succession plan in place for its CEO and other top executives. It is also the reason why the PR department should have a crisis plan that envisions the loss of the CEO. Death at the hands of an allegedly drunk snowplow driver is unusual and might be a first but mortality itself is not unheard off, especially through disease. This is another reason why CEOs should not be put on pedestals and worshiped by their organizations as Steve Jobs was, for example. The chief executive is the visible leader of an organization, but in the end, has no more power over his or her destiny than anyone else. Understanding of the tenuous nature of leadership has increased with more active boards that are now independent of their CEOs. If a chief executive is removed today, it is more likely though poor performance or a scandal. Most of the time, PR is far removed from boardroom deliberations, but that doesn't absolve it from having a plan in place and rehearsing how to handle the news of the death or departure of the CEO.