Friday, September 19, 2014

Precarious Balance 

The DNA testing company, 23andMe, is in a precarious position with its customers.  Some want to know everything about their background, including finding lost relatives and siblings.  Others don't.  They want to keep embarrassing episodes of family history buried and lost in mists of time.  After one customer discovered he had an illegitimate sibling, the news caused his parents to divorce.  23andMe put brakes on its pending decision to automatically tell clients who their immediate relatives are.  This decision didn't sit well with those who are eager to find out and fill out genealogies.  So by making one set of customers happy, the company ticked off another set.  There is no good answer for 23andMe to pursue, and there never will be.  Its service reveals the past in ways that are difficult to argue with. The company's decision to remain conservative in letting people know their immediate relations is probably right for now, but is it true for the future?  That is unclear.  The only solution for 23andMe is to monitor customer feelings from this point on and to be ready to change from one position to the other.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Credibility Again 

This credibility destroyer keeps happening and one wonders when people are going to learn.  Lying about one's academic credentials opens the possibility that one will lie about other things as well.  It is embarrassing to every employer this fellow had that he was able to slip through credential screening and end up for eight years with Wal-Mart.  He was a good spokesperson for the company before he got caught, but that doesn't matter now.  He damaged his credibility, and he threatened the reputation of Wal-Mart.  One wonders when such individuals will be honest on their resumes and the answer is never.  Ambition gets ahead of honesty and once done there is no turning back.  Perhaps this is the only lie he has ever told but who is to know?  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hope Springs... 

Technology companies are banding together to co-develop and set guidelines for open source software.  They are working under the banner of TODO -- Talk Openly: Develop Openly.  Put this effort under "Hope Springs Eternal."  Historically competitors have failed at collaboration because of fears that someone might gain an edge in the marketplace before they do.  In other words, they are more concerned about the short-term injury to themselves than long-term benefit to the public.  It takes leadership from the top to make collaborations successful.  The CEO has to dampen fears of what other companies will do and rein in impulses in his own company to steal a march on others.  PR supports the idea of better user experience and software that works on any platform.  It is better customer relations, and it removes a major headache for owners of multiple devices from different companies.  However, it can reduce hardware to a commodity if companies fail to innovate within the platform standard.  Think of an electric plug.  In America, we think nothing of it today because the three-prong plug is standard.  Go to Europe, however, and you will encounter multiple plugs depending on the country.  The cost of that lack of standardization is a headache for manufacturers and users.  So, here's to TODO.  "May the odds ever be in its favor."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Case Study: Silence 

Amazon.com is choosing to remain silent in its dispute with publisher Hachette.  Its reputation is taking a beating from authors and publishers who are speaking out.  Amazon is becoming a case study for CEOs and PR practitioners in the dangers of failing to make one's case public.  The company has a history of avoiding the media so its current stance is not new, but previously its decision to remain close-mouthed was not as dangerous as it is now.  What is known about its dispute with Hachette puts Amazon in a pro-consumer light, but one wonders why the company isn't merchandising its point of view.  Instead, it is letting authors complain publicly about its stubbornness and its decision to stop pushing Hachette books.  The word that comes to mind with this stance is arrogance.  Amazon is so convinced of its position that it doesn't feel it has to make a public case for it.  If so, the company could not be more wrong.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Why Marketers Shouldn't Create Content 

My colleague, Mike Cargill, sent this story to me for which I thank him.  It is an example of why marketers shouldn't create content.  The article is a collection of some of the best and worst tweets commemorating 9/11.  The bad ones are terrible and disrespectful.  They push product on a day when commercialism should be at an ebb.  The best ones do a credible job of remembering the day without attempting to sell the reader anything.  How can a marketer use an international, world-changing tragedy as a bench for selling anything?  The answer to that is marketers are trained to ask for the order at any and all times.  "So, thousands were killed, here's a coupon to buy my product."  The marketer doesn't see the offer as tacky and inappropriate.  It is one more opportunity to sell, sell, sell.  On the other hand, the PR practitioner should and usually does consider the feelings of the audience being addressed.  Marketers should leave content creation to professionals, all of whom should have PR training.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Crises Come From Anywhere 

The commissioner of the National Football League is living on a razor's edge.  He was dealing with a crisis of concussions and their effects on players.  Suddenly he is dealing with domestic abuse by a player against the player's fiance.  In each scandal, the NFL has been perceived to move too slowly to address the underlying problem.  Part of the reason the league has been tardy might be that it isn't set up to handle scandal quickly.  It might be too busy marketing itself to watch the horizon for incidents and events that can compromise the image and reputation of the teams and the office of the commissioner.  As this second scandal demonstrates, the league has to get better at disciplining players who cross the line.  But that means it must move faster and not wait until video of an ugly incident is made public.  By then, it is too late. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Stiff Challenge 

Apple debuted its version of mobile payment on Tuesday.  Already, skeptics are weighing in on the cloudy future for the technology.  The reason for doubts is one that held back other systems from success -- conservatism on the part of retailers and consumers.  So far, there hasn't been a clear advantage to waving the mobile phone near a merchant's point of sale system and having it record data wirelessly.  Merchants will need to upgrade systems to handle Apple's technology.  That costs money.  Apple will want a percentage of each transaction as payment for its system.  More money out the door.  Consumers have to adapt to passing their phones near the system and not swiping a card.  That requires a change in behavior.  Consumers also will be concerned about the safety of such systems.  This will take time and intensive communication.  Way back when banks introduced ATMs, they stationed people next to the machine and had them walk consumers through depositing and withdrawing money.  Banks had a vested interest in doing this because they wanted to cut down on tellers and bricks and mortar.  There is no equivalent reason for mobile payment.  Apple has taken on a huge marketing and PR job to make sure its system is a success.  The company is capable of doing it, but there won't be much progress initially.

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