Friday, August 22, 2014

No Win 

One position a company does not want to be in is a political pawn.  That is where McDonald's is in Russia.  There is nothing the company can do as long as Putin plays tit for tat with America.  There is no communication that can make the situation better.  The company has to wait until one side or the other blinks and backs off.  It is likely this gamesmanship will continue in countries with powerful political centers that don't respect the rule of law.  Companies have to be prepared to lose their businesses at a moment's notice.  It is a risky situation and corporations might choose not to invest in unstable nations.  Meanwhile, competitors can enter and solidify brand positioning.  Neither McDonald's nor any other corporation deserves this kind of treatment, but who said governments are fair?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

End Of The Road 

How do you communicate on behalf of a company that has reached the end of the road?   The marketplace has turned against it and efforts to find new products to merchandise have failed.  Its stock is pennies per share.  This is the unlucky position that Radio Shack finds itself in.  Consider what the company can say about itself publicly.  "We haven't gone bankrupt yet.  We're attempting yet another turnaround."  Hardly positive news to the public and to shareholders.  The communications practitioners at Radio Shack have little material to work with and less as the days go by.  Radio Shack needs a savior and the rescuer needs time -- just what the chain doesn't have.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Is it possible to outsmart a search engine and hijack a company's name?  Yes.  It has been done.  Consider this example. Activists faked-out Google and directed searches to a web page with an insult.  Google was apologetic, but there was little it could do except change its algorithm to block the page.  Gregg's was good about the situation and Google responded in kind.  But, the episode raises a question for PR practitioners -- how to protect web pages from re-direction.  The only way to know for sure whether one has been subverted is to check the web page daily and to respond quickly if something strange has happened.  For most practitioners, this is not a problem, because they are on the web page everyday.  For those who aren't, it should become a habit.  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Reputation And Business 

How much does a government sanction hurt a company's reputation and business?  PricewaterhouseCoopers is about to find out.   The auditing and consulting firm is barred for 24 months from doing any work that requires a sign-off from the New York Department of Financial Services, and it is paying a $25 million fine.  The government unit accused PwC of watering down a report on foreign transactions at the Bank of Tokyo.  News of the penalty and punishment has been broadcast widely.  PwC is in damage-control mode, but it might not be enough given that it cannot work for two years for the top banks in New York.  While it is too early to predict that the consulting unit will implode because of the punishment, it is almost a certainty it will suffer financially.  Then, once the two year sidelining is up, how will the unit win back business lost in the interim?  PwC is officially standing by its work in the case, but unofficially there must be terrible morale in the unit and a fear for jobs.  One of the first steps the company should take is to boost internal morale, then it needs to figure out what its consultants will do while sitting on the bench.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Yesterday's News 

One might have to think twice to remember who Julian Assange is and the role of Wikileaks in spilling government secrets.  But, that was only two years ago.  Since then, Edward Snowden has seized the headlines with his disclosure about NSA operations.  But, here again is Assange who might be reporting that he will leave the Ecuadorian embassy, but then again, he might not.  There is a good chance he will disappear from the headlines again and return to his room, forgotten.  The lesson here is that in the internet age, notoriety, both good and bad, comes and goes quickly.  Andy Warhol was more right than he knew when he said everyone will get 15 minutes of fame.  It requires unceasing work to maintain one's image in the media, whether social or traditional.  This is something publicists have always known, but have a hard time convincing clients about.  If recognition is what they want, they have to spend time each day in generating it.  To senior executives, publicity is often a "waste of time."  Then, they wonder why their messages aren't getting through to the world and more importantly, to employees. The frustration of the publicist is the constant repetition of the need to be out there.  When a publicist does get a hearing and more important, action, there is a good chance one can score media success regularly.

Friday, August 15, 2014

It All Starts With Me 

It is fun to pick on Donald Trump because he is everything PR shouldn't be.  His belief that the world starts with him is symptomatic of a towering ego.  His explanation for the failure of Atlantic City casinos because he stopped investing in them is funny.  There were, according to the Donald, no problems until he left town  One wonders how Trump survives, and one explanation is that he is a court jester of business -- an ignorant fool who provides the public with a laugh at his own expense.  The worse outcome for him is to be ignored.   Trump understands this and is a master of self-indulgent publicity.  He has long played the media, which can't seem to tear itself from his ludicrous statements.  He is a quote-generation machine, a loud-mouth who pushes himself into one situation after another and claims that if HE were allowed to operate, everything would have worked out.  Time will eventually catch up with him, and he will fall from favor, but meanwhile the public suffers his proclamations.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Gut Wound 

Activists have gone after SeaWorld for its treatment of marine mammals.  SeaWorld is admitting for the first time that media attention to the issue has hurt attendance and earnings.  This is the equivalent of a gut wound.  SeaWorld depends on its orcas to draw spectators in.  If it should lose their services or the public boycott its shows, there isn't much the company can do but shut down.  SeaWorld isn't at that point yet but it is in need of a major PR campaign to explain to the public just how it treats its animals.  The company can't win by hunkering or even by political lobbying.  It needs to go all out to counter activists' charges by opening its venues for scientific and public inspection.  It needs to prove that its mammals are at least in the same shape as they would be in the wild -- or even better off.  Simply countering charges that its animals are suffering by denying the allegations won't be enough.  It's a tough time for the company but not yet fatal.  It is up to SeaWorld to turn around public opinion.

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