It Starts


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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There are still months before full-throated campaigning begins for the Presidency.  That, however, hasn't stopped sniping, which is coming early and often.  Consider this.  Joe Biden hasn't officially declared he is running for the White House, and already he is being criticized for new-found wealth.  It is a PR challenge he has to meet sooner rather than later.  He has cashed in on his long political  career during which he was avowedly and actually middle class struggling to make ends meet.  Now he is wealthy from speaking tours and a best-selling book.  His likely opponents for the Democratic nomination are holding that against him.  Can he overcome the charge?  Only time will tell on the campaign trail, which is long, strenuous and exhausting.  It isn't for the weak.  Reputations are torn down,  insinuations made, lies told.  Campaigners will Continue reading "It Starts"

No Shame


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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What can be said about a company that is caught multiple times doing wrong yet persists?  It has no shame.  This is the situation with Huawei and its advertising of its cell phones.  Huawei persists in using DSLR images to hype the quality of its cell phone camera.  It's as if the company doesn't trust its own product.  The problem with that is that Huawei has been caught each time it has tried to trick the public.  One would think that if you can't away with something the first time, you wouldn't want to try it again.  Not so.  This leads one to wonder how the rest of the company operates.  Is it an amoral, win-at-all-costs organization?  If so, why would anyone want to deal with them?  If a company can't be honest in little things, what can be Continue reading "No Shame"

Scandal And Reputation


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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The Roman Catholic Church is learning the impact of scandal on the tolerance of believers.  A recent Gallup poll in the US  "found that 37 percent of respondents said 'recent news about sexual abuse of young people by priests' has them personally questioning whether to remain Catholic — a 15 point increase since 2002."  The results were predictable.  The issue affecting every level of male clergy from Cardinal to parish priest has struck at the heart of an image of dedication and holiness.  It makes no difference whether a minority of malefactors caused the problem. The entire body of the Church is smeared.  It will take decades to dig out of this crisis and regain a semblance of moral stature.  It might take generations.  Meanwhile, the faithful who remain must endure questioning, suspicion and mockery.  Perhaps Church authorities have learned that transparency Continue reading "Scandal And Reputation"

Changed PR Forever


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Yesterday's Google Doodle celebrating the birth of the World Wide Web was a reminder of how radically it has changed PR.  Those of us ancient enough to remember the days before the Web will recall how difficult it was to convince CEOs of reputation issues, of persuasion that did not include advertising and the power of third party credibility.  Today, especially with social media, reputation protection and advancement is a major thrust of corporate communications. Response times have moved from hours to minutes.  The Web has given voice to millions of individuals who were unable to express themselves in the media because it was not available or was too expensive.  We use to worry about letters to the editor.  Today we are on alert for Tweets, for Facebook messages, for blogs, for complaints on consumer sites such as Yelp.  Youngsters in the business look Continue reading "Changed PR Forever"

Regrettable


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Political operatives are opening fake local news websites.  They are attempting to mislead voters into thinking stories on them are objective when they are nothing more than partisan propaganda.  It is regrettable and dishonest.  There is nothing wrong with taking sides.  Newspapers in America started that way, and some still survive with a political bent.  What is wrong is a pretense of objectivity when there is nothing of the sort in online columns.  The publishers have no scruples, but that's not unusual in politics.  The lowest forms of persuasion and publicity have all found their way into campaigns.  There is no dignity in doing anything to win, which is the way many campaign operators act on both sides of the political spectrum.  The malefactors this time are Republicans. Look for Democrats to follow suit.  

Crisis


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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When two of your newest commercial aircraft crash in just a few months, you have a crisis of major proportions.  This is what Boeing is facing.  The company's reputation is on the line since its 737 Max jets have gone down and killed all on board.  Suspicion has focused on new flight software that pilots might not have understood but the company says is designed for extra safety.  Under certain circumstances, it will force the nose of the plane down and pilots lose control. No one is sure yet what the cause might be although the black boxes have been recovered. If Boeing is shown to be at fault, the plane maker has years of litigation facing it and a real possibility that airlines will stop buying its workhorse aircraft.  Already nations have grounded their fleets of 737 Max airliners.  The company is treating Continue reading "Crisis"

Credibility?


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Does a wealthy heiress have the credibility to damn CEOs for their high pay?  Abigail Disney thinks so.  The granddaughter of the co-founder of the cartoon kingdom has long been outspoken about the issue.  However, CEOs can respond that she hasn't had to work for her fortune while they have risen through the ranks for 30 or so years and grasped the golden ring.  They earned it and are not apologetic.  Who then might be credible critics?  Boards have tied CEO performance to pay but that hasn't ameliorated outsized compensation.  A push to gauge CEO remuneration against a ratio of what workers receive hasn't been successful so far.  Increased taxation results in ever more clever ways around the system.  Perhaps this is an issue without resolution in the short term.  Let the wealthy speak.  They are as believable as anyone.

Great PR


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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This article is great PR for the computer game, SimCity.  The tale that it influenced a generation of city planners is a testimony to its power.  It is also a reminder that games can be for good rather than just shoot-em-ups.  I used to play SimCity but it has been a decade or more since I launched it and started terraforming land for a new town.  I remember that it was a challenge putting in housing and commercial blocks, getting mass transit started, supplying electricity from power stations, building sewer and water connections, deciding on whether to put in a sports stadium and most importantly, doing all this while not going broke.  The game teaches balance among opposing demands. One must proceed with care to build a city of several thousand.  While critics note that the game is not perfect, it is good enough Continue reading "Great PR"

Empty Gesture?


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Eli Lilly has announced it will make a generic version of its diabetes drug, Humalog. that will sell for half the price of its branded product.  It seems like a good PR move until one examines the price -- $137.35 a vial.  That's still too steep for diabetics who must pay for the treatment out of their pockets and need more than one vial a month.  It also overlooks the fact that Humalog's list price has risen more than 1200 percent since it was approved for use in 1996. While patients will be happy to get a price break, they won't be satisfied for long, knowing that the generic version could and should be much less expensive.  Lilly's move is close to an empty gesture.  It looks good but there is little to it.  It is also unlikely to appease Congress and the Continue reading "Empty Gesture?"

Man Bites Dog


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Google said it discovered it was paying some women more than men for similar jobs.  This is a man-bites-dog story.  It is so unusual that it garnered headlines nationally.  While it is never good to have pay inequities, it is a sign of company concern for women that it inadvertently got itself into this position.  This comes in spite of multiple claims against it for discriminating against women.  From a PR perspective, the company needs to do a better job of policing its compensation policies. It shouldn't be caught on either side of the pay question. Software engineers with the same responsibilities should be getting equal remuneration.  It is good PR that the company is examining wage scales at all levels and trying to balance them, but one can ask why it wasn't done before now.

Great PR


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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When a company pulls off something spectacular, it is great PR for the organization and its employees.  This is great PR.  SpaceX has demonstrated flawless flight and docking of its crew capsule that is now locked to the international space station.  It was five years worth of work and untold man hours to reach this success. and if the Crew Dragon returns to earth without trouble, the spaceship will be ready for regular service.  One can criticize Elon Musk for arrogance and insensitivity but his company has triumphed.  That is the measure of the business.  Along with reusable boosters, SpaceX has dramatically changed the economics of space flight. Musk's car company might not be doing that well but his space company is hitting new targets again and again.

Arrogance


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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When a leader publicly criticizes a government agency that regulates him, it is dangerous. The agency can strike back.  That is the position Elon Musk is in.  He has attacked the SEC and says he doesn't respect it.  The SEC in turn has asked for a contempt judgement against him.  Musk is arrogant and seems to think that rules for other leaders of public companies don't apply to him.  He is about to find out that they do.  Will it restrain him in the future?  Time will tell.  He could find himself outside of the companies he founded and in a wilderness of irrelevance.  If it happens, it will be his own fault, but he probably won't see it that way.  Those affected with hubris tend to blame others when they fail.  "It can't be me."  Musk's board Continue reading "Arrogance"

Limits


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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PR and publicity can go only so far.  At some point recipients of messages accept or ignore them.  One can persuade but not compel. Consider this example.  Railroad authorities have repeated ad nauseum a warning to respect gates at crossings and to never, never go around them when they are down.  Yet, a driver did.  Three people died in the car, a train derailed and passengers suffered minor injuries.  We may never know what the driver was thinking but surely there must have been some cognition of the risk that was about to be taken.  As a reporter decades ago, I covered a number of vehicle-train accidents.  The railroad wasn't at fault in any of them. Some people don't listen.  They don't believe warnings apply to them. They will do what they want until tragedy overtakes them. Three people died needlessly Continue reading "Limits"

Passed By?


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Major brewers and packaged good marketers in the US are facing a conundrum.  Consumers are passing them by and buying other products off grocery shelves and from liquor stores. Sales of Budweiser, particularly, have stalled.  Anheuser-Busch is working frantically to turn around.  The company is being assaulted by thousands of craft breweries whose production is a fraction of what the A-B produces, but each one is a small slice into its sales and combined, a large cut.  It's facing "brutal facts" and developing beverages that might meet the demand of today's millennials.    The American consumer's tastes have changed, maybe for good, but A-B is configured to produce millions of gallons of high-quality beer a year.  It can't easily switch off bottling lines without sustaining huge losses.  The company is not nimble after decades of dominating beer sales.  The same Continue reading "Passed By?"

Empty Words?


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Survivors of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy are angry at the pope. They were expecting a specific plan of action to come from a conference of bishops at the Vatican.  They didn't get it.  Rather, the pope delivered a speech that did not convince those who have been hurt so deeply.  They are railing at the pontiff.  "He's the boss.  Why won't he do something?"  Church commentators with an understanding of how the Vatican bureaucracy works say specific rules and regulations will come.  It takes time. Survivors want to see cardinals and bishops sacked right now.  Today.  Immediately.  One American cardinal has been cashiered and several bishops have resigned worldwide, but that is not nearly enough to quiet the protest.  The hierarchy will remain under fire, and it may take decades for the Church to win back its reputation.  Words alone are never enough: It takes doing.

Great PR


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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NASA has always been adept in sparking publicity and PR for its mission and for space.  This is another example.  Naming a facility after a female African-American mathematician who was vital to the early manned space flights is a recognition both of its past and its progress in race relations.  NASA started out segregated with black female computers separated from white female calculators.  As the movie "Hidden Figures"  revealed, it took changes within the agency for black women to be recognized.  But, to the agency's credit, they were over time even though NASA remained a bastion of white male engineers.  It is great PR for the agency to recognize one of its own this way, but it needs along with the rest of the government to continue working on diversity.

Evil Wins


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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YouTube is learning that, despite its efforts, evil is winning and destroying the video channel's reputation.  Major advertisers have left because child pornographers have found a way to penetrate YouTube's algorithms.  The company has reacted by "terminating more than 400 channels, deleting accounts, and disabling comments on tens of millions of videos."   But, it is not enough.  YouTube needs to do more, much more and it has to establish that it is a safe place to do business.  The challenge is that those with bad intent will find other ways to get in, and YouTube will need to root them out as soon as they do.  That is a huge challenge.  Humans are ingenious in inventing new means to get around barriers, and they won't stop trying.  YouTube's problem is the web's headache.  It is a reminder that evil Continue reading "Evil Wins"

Sorry ‘Bout That


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Google committed a technology faux pas by failing to tell customers that its Net Secure Smart Home hub has a microphone built in. People concerned about privacy were unhappy. How could the company forget to mention it in technical specifications?  The company says it was a mistake and was never intended to be a secret.  When it compiled specs, somehow the microphone was not included.  Skeptics are not accepting that explanation.  They are chalking it up to one more intrusion into consumers' lives.  Congress is on the edge of stepping in with new regulations to protect privacy, and this error doesn't help.  Google says the microphone is for home security when enabled, which it isn't.  It could capture the sound of broken glass and movement through rooms.  However, it could also record conversations and intimate details of people's lives.  Google lost Continue reading "Sorry ‘Bout That"

Fiddling


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Sometimes transparency is a curse.  One is naked to the public and criticized constantly for everything.  It would be better to make decisions behind closed doors and to reveal them later.  Consider the Oscars and their ongoing mess.  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been fiddling with the ceremony in a futile effort to keep it three hours in length since it is losing its TV audience.  Every change it has made has provoked roars of outrage.  Even naming an emcee has been a will-he-or-won't-he exercise.  The Academy has damaged its reputation in the process and there is no guarantee the show will be shorter.  It might have been better off if the ceremony and its categories were left alone.  It has turned into a PR disaster.  But, the show will go on and award recipients will talk Continue reading "Fiddling"

Know How They Feel


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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I know how the media feel about PR practitioners who flood them with irrelevant pitches and releases.  Every day I get a dozen or so emails from PR newswire.  I use none of them.  There is one agency that importunes me to interview authors.  I don't do book reviews or author sit-downs.  Just once, recently, a blogger contacted me about something I had written and suggested a page that makes sense for my blog.  It is here.   Practitioners have been warned ad nauseum to tailor their approaches, to read what the target has written, to make sure the reporter, even if he or she doesn't do the story, still welcomes the information.  They know better yet they still spam.  I've concluded that it will never change.  It is easier to send 500 emails through a distribution service than 10 requiring Continue reading "Know How They Feel"