Friday, April 18, 2014


Scientists have discovered a planet similar to earth and in the right  zone for habitation.  It is 500 light years away.  Or, to put it in context, if earth had sent a message to the planet during the time of Henry VIII of England, it would just be arriving.  For all practical purposes, man is alone in the universe, and earth is the only sustenance.  This, more than any other reason, should be the driving force for maintaining the environment and creating harmony among nations.  The argument that there is nowhere else to go is powerful persuasion.  Yes, it is interesting to get lost in science fiction, but the facts of our existence intrude the more we know about space and its vast emptiness.  One can't fight physics and win.  It might seem irrelevant  to invoke the isolation of humanity as a reason for peace, but the sooner that nations realize there is no place else to go, the faster they will overlook their grudges.  Scientists have discussed colonizing the moon and Mars but there is little chance that self-sustaining populations can arise in either of the dead environments.  We are alone.  Understand what that means.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

PR Today 

Isn't the PR that you learned in school or practiced for much of your career.  Now it is data-driven communications.  The traditional model of earned media that couldn't be measured is being swiftly replaced by social media that can be counted and tracked.  Agencies that do not have access to the data are being left behind and might shrink to a niche of the industry.  There will be room for smaller clients and  B-to-B where there is less data, but the large consumer packaged goods, electronics and transportation accounts will gravitate to where they can get answers to their ROI questions.  In other words, the legacy challenge of the PR business -- that measurement was difficult -- has largely been solved.  Practitioners need to adapt  or be left behind. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


The IRS has proposed an experiment in which millions of Americans can submit simple, pre-filled tax returns.  One would hope the IRS finds the test positive and saves filers an annual headache.  But, one company sees it as a threat to its business and is lobbying against it -- Intuit, the maker of TurboTax.  Rather than opposing it in the open, it has been using lobbying shills who are doing its work for it without attribution.  They have sparked a faux grassroots campaign to protest the IRS action.  Apparently Intuit doesn't want to be seen as against a program that might benefit Americans, but it does want to kill it.   There is a cliche that describes this -- trying to be half-pregnant.  If one is opposed, it is better to say so publicly and make the argument even if the rationale is self-serving.  Sneaking around is bound to be outed, as it was in this case.  Not only does Intuit come off as self-interested, which it has a right to be, but it seems craven.  The campaign has backfired on the company, as it should have.  Maybe now, it will present its case to the public transparently.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Live By The Fad. Die By The Fad. 

A failing cupcake chain is trying to get its products into supermarkets.  Cupcakes were a fad not that long ago, and there were cupcake wars on reality TV cooking shows.   Now, pffft.  The chain went public at the height of the fad and today is closing stores.  It is hard enough to run a business.  Hopping on a flash trend and trying to ride it is worse.  One must be ready to cut and run instantly when consumers turn their attention elsewhere.  The problem with fads is recognizing they are just that.  There are no guidelines to tell one that 14 to 24 months hence, consumers will be on to something new.  It is easy to do publicity while a fad rages.  It is nearly impossible once it passes.  It's yesterday's news like pet rocks, wall crawlers and other gizmos that have come and gone.  PR practitioners would do well to avoid momentary trends, but they don't always have a choice.  However, they should be wary enough to treat fads for what they are -- momentary crowd behavior -- and not enduring changes in culture.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Groundbreaking Protest 

Opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline has taken to the ground to send a message.  It is part of publicity that a coalition has launched to persuade the President to reject the pipeline's northern route to Canada.  Pressure on the President has increased over the last five years, but he keeps putting off the decision.  It's a no-win for him.  Either he sides with environmentalists and rejects the pipeline -- thereby losing the union vote -- or he sides with the pipeline and jobs and loses the environmentalist vote.  No wonder he has shoved off the decision year after year.  The problem with delay is that it has not decreased opposition but exactly the opposite.  If and when, Obama makes his decision, there will be an uproar from some part of his supporters.  However, why should he care?  He is a lame duck.   There is no good way to handle a case like this.  It would seem that a speedy decision is better than none, but that isn't always true. Sometimes delay allows a center to form on which one can build compromise, but there doesn't appear to be a center for the Keystone pipeline.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Punishing Persuasion 

A Federal court has ruled that the Federal Trade Commission can sue companies that have had data breaches.  It is past time for such punishing persuasion.  Data theft is a daily occurrence now that puts consumers at peril.  Many companies have accepted it as the cost of doing business.  But, it isn't.  It is poor public relations.  Yes, data security is expensive and never-ending because thieves are creative, but that doesn't excuse one from working to prevent incursion.  High-profile incidents since late last year have demonstrated that particularly retail companies have not done enough to protect customers.  There is no excuse now and fines in addition.  The FTC is going to be busy for a while until the last of the security holdouts fall in line.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

It's Hardest On The Workers 

Too often companies overlook workers when there is a product defect.  The company takes the blame and by extension those who built the product.  However, it is often not the workers' fault.  They installed a defective part correctly and with pride.  Only later do they find out that the part is bad.  This is the morale-breaking situation that assembly line workers of GM's Lordstown Assembly Plant are facing.  The new Chevrolet Cobalts that left their hands were built with quality and craft.  Suddenly, all of them are suspect for a bad ignition switch that has caused loss of life.  GM's CEO is under fire for what appears to be a cover-up at the engineering level of the company.  The workers aren't at fault.  They trusted management to design and build good parts for the car, and it didn't happen.  As a result, GM has both an internal and external PR problem.  It needs to regain the trust of its workforce at the same time it is battling with the government over the issue of a long-delayed recall.  It won't help for the plant manager to tell the workforce they aren't to blame.  Employees still feel bad and let down.  This is a situation in which words mean little.  Good parts are what is needed -- parts employees have confidence in putting into a new car.

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