Publicity Stunt

Can a huge aircraft be a publicity stunt?  Airbus thought so, and now we have the beluga cargo plane.  It was achieved on the one-off parts ferry for Airbus' factories.  The bulbous craft now sports a smile and a pair of eyes that make it look like the whale.  The BelugaXL will not be readily spotted since it is flying from factory to factory, but the paint job has already achieved international recognition.  Not bad for generating news copy and a few gallons of paint.  Kudos to Airbus.

First Amendment

Mark Zuckerberg is wrapping himself and Facebook in the First Amendment by allowing Holocaust deniers a voice.  The unknown question is whether the public will tolerate free and unpopular speech on the platform.  It might be a risky move for Zuckerberg to take.  He has already been forced to excise political speech and advertising traced to Russians. There is no telling what authorities will ask for next or what activists will condemn.  He has set limits for hoaxers and for those who would urge harm to others.  However, he says, "Okay, you have your page, and if you're not trying to organize harm against someone, or attacking someone, then you can put up that content on your page, even if people might disagree with it or find it offensive.' But that doesn't mean that we have a responsibility to make it widely distributed Continue reading "First Amendment"

Dangerous

MGM is engaged in dangerous litigation.  It is suing victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas in order to release itself from responsibility for the disaster.  Lawyers for the victims are outraged as are the victims.  On the other hand, one can see some of what is happening here.  MGM is a deep pocket, and anyone wanting compensation for injury and/or stress must go to the money. Their attorneys, of course, see a payday in their torts against MGM, and a lucrative one it could be.  Should MGM win its suit and pay out nothing, it still has a negative PR image to deal with.  The perception of the hotel as unfeeling and not caring will linger and might hurt its long-term business.  The company has put itself in a bad position, even if it decides to drop its suit.  

Disgraceful?

President Trump's press conference with Vladimir Putin yesterday has been condemned by members of both the Republican and Democratic Parties.  The media haven't been silent either.  Anderson Cooper said, it was "perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president."  Trump went against conventional wisdom and a body of facts in his embrace of the Russian president.  It left both his supporters and opponents sputtering with rage.  One wonders what Trump was thinking or if he was.  The outcome was to put him in a worse light at home, especially after his faux pas in the UK and his attacks on NATO.  From a PR perspective, Trump shot himself in the head. He has a lot to make up if he decides to run again.  Many American voters hope that he doesn't.

It’s Coming

The day of the robotic car on the racetrack is here.  The autonomous vehicles aren't competitive yet, but it is only a matter of time before they start to show in winners' circles.  This will have a profound PR effect on the sport.  Rather than drivers being the heros, attention will be deflected to pit crews and engineers.  They are the undercard in today's sport-- celebrated but not nearly as much as the human who steers the car.  Will racing lose its luster with self-driving vehicles or will it adapt by using ever more difficult courses that software can't handle well?  Both outcomes are possible. The goal of robotic racing is to develop technology that can be used in street vehicles.  That defines the history of motorsport.  All that is old is new again.

Too Good To Work

Build-A-Bear Workshops conducted a promotion that was too good to work and now has to deal with the wrath of disappointed customers.  The creative idea was a "pay your age" discount.  Rather than a usual price range of $20 to $35, a parent could get a bear for a three-year-old for just $3 or for a five year old for just $5.  It worked too well.  Long lines of customers formed at its stores and the company was forced to shut down the promotion, leaving scores of potential buyers disappointed and angry.  There was no way of knowing in advance that its idea would turn into a monster.  There are no good ways to forecast foot traffic for a new promotion as Victoria's Secret recently learned.  One proceeds with hope that it will work.  When it does as it did for Build-A-Bear, Continue reading "Too Good To Work"

Emerging Crisis

Bayer recently closed on the acquisition of Monsanto, and now, it is faced with an emerging crisis around Monsanto's blockbuster weed killer, Roundup.  A judge in San Francisco has allowed lawsuits to go forward that accuse the company of failing to warn that the chemical in Roundup, glyphosate, causes cancer.  There are hundreds of suits and damages could run into billions.  Monsanto has strenuously denied the substance causes cancer, but now it will have to take its battle to court and hope it can find a sympathetic jury.  Chances are not good it can.  Chemicals today have a poor image in the minds of Americans.  They are no longer the promise of a bright future but substances of pollution and disease.  Monsanto will have to fight that perception at the same time it is proving glyphosate is not a cancer-causing agent.  This could get expensive for Bayer.  

PR Brawl

President Trump announced the nominee for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, on Monday evening and already a multi-million dollar PR brawl has broken out.  Democrats want to gain the votes of three Republicans against the nominee.  Republicans want to gain the votes of three Democrats for the nominee.  In the worst case scenario, Republicans will have to muster all hands to approve him, including Senator John McCain who is fighting brain cancer in Arizona.  The fight promises to be ugly with no holds barred.  Kavanaugh will have to be extremely careful during Senate hearings if he wants to survive.  There is a lack of open-mindedness on both sides of the nomination, which will make persuasion difficult.  Democratic senators will ask loaded questions and attempt to bait him into error.  He will have to use his rhetorical skills to sidestep verbal grenades and Continue reading "PR Brawl"

Mockery

The Brazilian soccer player, Neymar, is known for two things -- his brilliance on the field and his over-acting when it comes to injury.  During the World Cup, international audiences had a chance to see his hammy performances as he faked hurt.  They did what one might expect.  They mocked him.  Upon calling out, "Neymar", people fall to the ground and roll about in feigned agony.  For Neymar, it should become clear, if it has not already, that the public is on to his performances as are officials.  To preserve his reputation, Neymar needs to stop faking injury at every slight brush with an opponent.  If he insists he has not been overdoing it, then one might ask how he got into the game of football in the first place.  He would be too delicate to play.  Neymar's coaches need to Continue reading "Mockery"

Return Of Sanity?

Britain's decision to leave the EU wasn't right from the moment it was voted on.  Now that the secretary for Brexit has abruptly left his post in the UK, there is a chance for sanity to return.  The country stood to lose far more than it gained from the rupture.  It was as harebrained as Trump's decision to begin trade wars with allies.  It makes one wonder what has happened to the political world.  Democracy is under threat.  Strong rulers have risen to bend nations to their will.  Free expression has been constrained in one country after another.  Given economic strength, it should be the best of times.  It isn't.

Smart PR

Hawaii has passed a law banning certain sunscreens whose chemicals are thought to harm coral reefs.  It is smart environmentalism and smart PR.  The state has thrust itself into the forefront of places where efforts are being taken to keep reefs healthy.  The worldwide problem of coral destruction is not going to be stopped by the banning of two chemicals but it will help.  Coral bleaching is thought to derive from warmer water temperatures. The banned sunscreens won't help with that, but they will lower potential harm the state's reefs are suffering as they adapt to global weather change.  

Searing Spotlight

The world is paying attention to the 12 boys and their coach caught three miles inside a Thai cave.  If anything goes wrong while divers extract them, it will be international news.  This is a time when one doesn't want to make even a single misstep.  Not only would it harm someone but it would paint the rescue operation as incompetent.  Thai rescuers are proceeding cautiously but they don't have much time.  Monsoon rains are coming and the cave complex already is flooded.  As much as they pump, they can't dry it out.  Left out of the conversation at the moment is the foolhardy venture into the cave in the first place.  Signs warned against it but the soccer team and their coach went in anyway.  There will be time for that once everyone is home safe, but now the reputations Continue reading "Searing Spotlight"

Getting Closer

Artificial intelligence is getting closer to taking on and beating humans even in highly complex and unstructured games.  DeepMind announced that its AI agents exceed human level gameplay in Quake III.  This is an ever-changing 3D environment in which one captures the flag.  The scientists who prepped the play had their AI program compete each time in a new configuration as it learned .  Hence, it could not solve the problem in one space alone but had to learn how to play in all of them.  After about 200,000 training games it passed the strong human level of play.  Along with AI's success at Go and Chess, it is one more leap in computers' abilities to transcend humans.  Some are terrified that computers will take over some day.  Others say it is highly unlikely.  While I'm in the latter camp, the Continue reading "Getting Closer"

Smart PR

Dairy farmers can't sell their milk at a profit.  Many have taken to dumping it. Cows don't know that so they keep producing.  Here is a program that pays farmers for excess milk and then turns it into cheese and yogurt for the poor.  It's smart PR.  Product that would otherwise go to waste is being put to good use.  It is not a new idea.  The government had a surplus program that stored tons of cheese.  The difference here is that private charities are tackling the problem and getting good results.  There should be more of this in the US.  Food dumping is almost a crime when hundreds of millions around the world go hungry.  The richest country in the world can and should do better.

Rot Within

Mexico's new president is a leftist who has swept out the ruling party.  He won, by all accounts, because Mexican citizens are tired of violence, poverty and corruption in the country.  They want a new start and a clean slate. There is no guarantee Andrés Manuel López Obrador can bring about the necessary change to make the country better again.  But citizens want him to try.  It is a public expression of will.  Obrador had better heed it during his years in office.  The fear is he will take the country into the same direction as Venezuela where strongman politics rule and the country is riven by inflation. Obrador has a long list of things to fix but not the money to do it.  He will have to prioritize his work and conduct careful public relations to keep citizens from revolting again.  It is a difficult position to be in.

Dreaming?

Puerto Rico has introduced a bill in Congress to become a US state.  One wonders if this is a dream or a real possibility.  Puerto Rico has terrible PR and the island is a ruin since the hurricane savaged it in 2017.  Should it become a state rather than a possession, it will quickly hold its hand out for rebuilding funds, something Congress might not want to give.  There is good reason for statehood, however.  Its citizens are US citizens although they cannot vote in presidential elections.  There has long been migration to and from the island to the US mainland.  The island has been a US territory since 1898, and has tried before to muster votes for statehood.  In its present condition, it might be time for a 51st state to be created.  There is a long way to go, Continue reading "Dreaming?"

Time For PR

The Supreme Court's decision yesterday to strike down mandatory payments to public employee unions was a blow to the unions, which depend on a consistent flow of money to survive.  The leaders must now persuade public servants to join their ranks and fight for better wages and benefits.  It is a time for PR -- what your union is doing for you. The campaign must be unrelenting because new employees enter the ranks constantly while older ones retire.  The unions must also remind their ranks daily of the value of staying together and dealing with government.  It is not going to be an easy task, but the unions' future depends on it.

Not You

The Comcast Disney fight over Fox assets might get more bitter as days pass.  Comcast is determined to have Fox for its content and networks.  Fox doesn't want Comcast, however, because it is concerned a merger will be disallowed by the government.  Disney and Comcast are engaged in a multi-billions bidding war.  Comcast is looking for new funding.  Disney has upped the ante.  Lost in all this is the fate of Fox employees.  They are helpless bystanders to the wrestling of giants.  They know in the end someone will own them and their business lives will change.  Meanwhile, there is little PR and employee relations can do to ameliorate fears and rumors.  Hallway gossip is speculation while everyone waits for Comcast's next move, if there is going to be one. It is not a good working environment, but it is a Continue reading "Not You"

One Error

This is a reason why accuracy is of utmost necessity in the media and in PR.  The picture of the crying toddler as her mother was detained turns out not to be what it was thought to be.  The little girl stayed with her mother and was not ripped away as everyone thought.  With heightened attention to border issues, it gave a perfect opening for critics to claim the media was merchandising "fake news."  The mistake diverted attention from the fact that more than 1700 minors were being held away from their parents.  PR practitioners know -- or should know -- not to make unforced errors like this.  The media can correct the record and wipe egg off its face.  PR often cannot without losing the trust of reporters and journalists they deal with.  There is no substitute or getting it right the first time.

Boxed In

Sometimes an organization is boxed in and cannot speak when it should.  This is especially true of personnel matters.  Consider the case of an African-American, female astronaut who was slated to spend a lengthy period of time on the space station.  She trained and was ready to go when NASA cancelled her mission without explanation.  Months later, she still doesn't know why she was barred from the space station and NASA isn't talking.  It doesn't make NASA look good but there might not be anything for the agency to say that wouldn't cause controversy.  Fortunately for NASA, the astronaut, Jeanette Epps, is not making an issue out of the denial although her brother is.  In NASA's defense, other African-Americans have visited the space station and completed missions there.  Epps was supposed to take on a long-term role, the first for an African-American Continue reading "Boxed In"