Friday, August 29, 2014

Two-faced PR 

Vladimir Putin is trying to master a two-faced appearance to the world and his country.  On the one hand he is sending soldiers and armor into the Ukraine.  On the other, he is calling for a corridor of safety for Ukrainian troops trapped in the fighting. Each day, however, it is becoming clearer that he wishes to annex at least the Eastern part of the Ukraine, and there is little that the Ukrainian government can do about it unless it gets armaments from the West to fight back.  It seems that Putin wants to be seen in Russia as a compassionate leader while he cares little for feelings of leaders in Europe and the US.  He just might pull off this coup de main because the West is dithering.  The more the West worries and doesn't act, the easier it is for Putin to move forward.  So Putin earns a bad reputation in Europe and the US.  What does he care?  As long as he controls the gas lines to Europe and can shut them at will, he can undercut any actions against him.  His idea of PR is a mailed fist.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Too Fast 

Sometimes, a company can run too fast in its effort to stay ahead of the market.  Here is a case.  Had Zara spent an extra moment considering the design of the shirt with its large yellow star, it might have realized that it was too near the concentration camp clothing that millions of Jews wore during World War II.  So too, with a bag that had swastikas worked into its design.  The two incidents do not prove that the company is anti-Semitic but there is a case for carelessness.  What is needed in the high-speed fashion merchandiser is a steady presence that evaluates designs against world events and sensitivities.  It seems that in its mad rush to be first, it has overlooked customers' concerns.  Rescinding and taking back clothing is not enough to allay suspicions about its intent.  Maybe, just maybe, if the company was a fraction slower, it could evaluate designs from a PR point of view.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

He Said, He Said 

This is a good example of conflicting witness reports.  Who do you believe?  It's important because one view is that of homicide.  The second view is that of self-defense.  That eyewitness testimony is suspect is also a part of this case.  Maybe one or the other or both are stretching the truth or unclear in what they saw and are filling in mental lacunae.  That doesn't mean they are lying.  The brain does funny things when encountering sudden and threatening events.  It doesn't act as an impartial observer and it is hampered by the perspective the witness has -- whether close or further apart or at an angle.  The case will most likely be made for or against on the forensic evidence, which is extensive and alarming.  The officer hit the victim with six shots.  What is needed to bring a suspect down?   I feel sorry for the jurors who will take this case.  They will be under pressure of public expectations to convict the officer, and maybe they should -- or maybe not.  The courtroom is where this incident must be decided and not in the public arena language and agitation muddy opinion.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Making The Case 

Military and political experts are making a public case for the need to destroy the Islamic group ISIS.  It is similar to the public opinion effort President Bush made against Saddam Hussein and his control of Iraq.  Much the same circumstances apply.  ISIS has performed outrageous acts of brutality.  The group is steeped in blood and trumpets its cruelty.  Call it an anti-PR campaign.  That has made the Western Powers' work easier.  The more ISIS talks about blood, the faster the West will work to de-fang the group through bombing and perhaps, boots on the ground.  Meanwhile, the government of Iraq is a mess of conflicting loyalties that can barely manage to operate.  Whatever is done to ISIS will be in spite of Iraqis rather than with them.  The result is that the US remains stuck to the tar baby of the Middle East.  It is not a pleasant thought for Americans who want the US out.  Will public opinion in the US force disengagement?

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.  

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