Curious Marketing


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Taco Bell is opening a hotel for a short time that will have its restaurant themes throughout it. While it is creative, it is curious marketing.  What does Taco Bell have to do with rooms?  It is a stretch to say that Mexican food has deep relationships to room service and overnight stays.  And how do you square a swimming pool with tacos and chalupas?  Sometimes, marketers can buy strange ideas. In their favor, the news that it is launching the location in Palm Springs has generated media copy, but is that worth the money spent?  The company must have reasoning behind this stunt.  It would be worth knowing what it is.

Reputation


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Since becoming President, Trump's resort hotels have experienced a revenue plunge.  The fall has been attributed to his actions in the Oval Office.  It is an example of reputation in one arena bleeding into business.  Had Trump known it would harm his image and his brand, would he still have run in 2016?  We may never find out.  Trump is aiming for reelection in 2020, a course that is looking steeper by day.  His lack of discipline and chaotic behavior is against him.  While he keeps a core of supporters, they are too few to ensure that he will stay in office for the full eight years.  Meanwhile, his properties continue to lose money and he will have a mess to straighten out whether or not he remains at the helm.  

A Challenge


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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What kind of marketing and PR do you need when your customers are moving away from you?  This is the challenge facing cable companies.  Millions are cutting the cord to cable TV.  Industry executives continue to say it is not a problem, but at some point they will need to face the issue.  There are too many entertainment, news and sports services out there now, and price-conscious consumers can pick and choose among them.  It might help if cable cut its rates and unbundled its channels, but it could be too late for that.  What remains for the cable giants is internet service.  Customers are dumping TV channels but not broadband delivery.  Rather than building on that, cable companies are taking a punitive approach.  They charge more for broadband if one doesn't take TV channels with it. It's a monopoly move Continue reading "A Challenge"

Stating The Truth


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Uber's IPO sank as soon as it hit the market.  Uber's CEO stated the truth about stock price in a masterful memo to employees.  He didn't sugar-coat the need for company performance in order for the price to rise and recover.  He didn't inveigh against the fickle nature of markets.  He said clearly and cogently that the future is in the hands of the employees and the company. Their work will make the difference.  Uber is still a long way from profitability and it will take prolonged efforts to turn it around.  So, while employees are holding shares that are underwater, they have an incentive to help them bob to the surface.  It might not help morale right away but the memo provides a clear direction for everyone from the top down.   

What Will It Take?


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Carbon dioxide levels have reached levels unknown since the rise of humans, and there is only one epic, Pliocene, millions of years ago when it was equaled.  What will it take for humans to understand that global warming is real?  There are signs that Americans are coming around to accepting it in spite of its leader, who resolutely refuses to engage with the issue.  Wild weather and warming temperatures appear to be at the heart of persuasion.  PR campaigns have echoed what nature is doing but without teeth until recently.  But, global warming requires global solutions.  One country can't make a difference.  This puts an onus on Third World nations who are struggling to raise their citizenry's lifestyles from poverty.  Moving away from the gas engine would impose a burden on them. They probably won't do it unless fuel becomes too Continue reading "What Will It Take?"

Military PR


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Can the business of death have PR value?  This weapon contains concern for civilians at the same time it is wiping out enemy fighters.  It is a step forward in killing combatants but not innocent men, women and children who happen to be near them.  Concern for civilians has been a sore point for the military since terrorists have blended in with the population.  This weapon is a nod to the fact that explosives are indiscriminate and wipe out those near a target.  If it works as described, it will dramatically reduce injury.  This is a step forward for which the military should be congratulated even though killing is at the heart of the weapon. 

Smart Marketing


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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There is little better than taking an old product and doing something radically new with it.  Consider,. for instance, shoes.  They have been around in design and styles for thousands of years.  Now, Nike has taken steps to guarantee it will sell you a shoe that fits the first time you try them on. It has developed an app to scan feet.  Such a simple idea but a profound change in a market where an estimated two-thirds of users are wearing shoes that are either too small or too large. Getting it right the first time has implications up and down the supply chain.  It reduces returns.  It helps the company figure out what sizes to send to stores to meet demand.  It makes for happier customers who come back when they want to buy another pair.  It saves chunks of money. Continue reading "Smart Marketing"

Revolt


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Uber and Lyft drivers are revolting against their independent contractor status that is leaving them underpaid and poor.  Well they should.  The deck is stacked against them while company executives make millions by going public. There is no good answer to being a freelancer, which is what the drivers are.  If they are lucky, they can pay for gas and mileage and have a pittance left over. So they are communicating the only way they know how by striking and calling for passengers to boycott the companies.  Chances are riders will continue to use the services, and those drivers who do not honor the strike will get more fares.  Still the message is clear. Uber and Lyft need to do something to help their essential individuals -- drivers.  Even if they do not make them employees, they need to help them succeed.  The Continue reading "Revolt"

Smart PR


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Jeff Bezos of Amazon knows how to generate smart PR for the mammoth company.  He has revealed that "...data showed that sales from third-party sellers now make up for more than 58% of the physical gross merchandise sold on Amazon. These sales have grown from $0.1 billion in 1999 to $160 billion in 2018."  In other words, the behemoth is not as large as one might think, and it has done wonders for small to mid-sized businesses.  He revealed that SMB's are earning an average of $90,000 a year through Amazon.  The implication is clear.  Attack Amazon and you are assaulting successful small companies everywhere.  That more than its timely fulfillment and huge assortment of merchandise is armor against those who would break Amazon up.  Amazon will need this kind of transparency going forward.  It has competitors and government regulators Continue reading "Smart PR"

Needed PR


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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The best kind of PR is that which you didn't seek but got anyway for what you do.  Tesla has been criticized for its autopilot technology on its vehicles because it hasn't worked in well-publicized crashes.  It must be heartening then for the company to get kudos from drivers who say the technology has saved their lives or prevented worse accidents.  Admittedly, the reports are open to investigation, and the drivers themselves might have taken evasive maneuvers without realizing it.  Whatever the truth, the positive publicity helps to bolster Tesla's reputation for safety, which it needs.  The more stories that come to light, the better it is for the company and for public confidence in the vehicle.  Tesla still has a hard road to travel as a car company.  It continues to lose billions.  It needs all the help it can get. 

Revolt


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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How do you preserve power when your subjects are revolting against you?  We're not writing here about Maduro in Venezuela but Pope Francis at the Vatican.  A coterie of theologians has publicly accused him of the serious theological crime of heresy.  They are wrathful over his opinion on divorced Catholics and their permission to receive communion as well as his comments about religious diversity and homosexuality.  There is little he can do or say to mollify their feelings.  They want rules to revert to status quo ante without the least wiggle room in them.  This pope's reputation already has been compromised by revelations of sexual abuse among the clergy at all levels from cardinal to parish priest.  It is a problem handed to him by predecessors who either ignored it or thought they were handling the matter correctly.  The pressure on Francis Continue reading "Revolt"

Losing The Base


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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What do you need to do in communications and marketing to solidify an eroding base? Prime Minister Theresa May is finding out.  She is losing her coterie of big donors over the gut-level fight of Brexit.  There is a strong need for backroom deal-making and arm twisting, but thus far nothing has worked and no one in parliament is moving toward a deal.  May is putting off a call for another referendum, but time and internal strife may force her hand.  There are no good slogans, magic words or prestidigitation in the works.  It is mano a mano with each side bloodying the other and preventing progress.  As May's donors turn on her, it might be the key to a solution, even if it is one May doesn't want.  Whatever the outcome, the British are sick of Brexit and just want it to be over.

When Silence Isn’t Golden


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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NASA and SpaceX have clammed up.  They aren't speaking about the failure of a manned-crew capsule, called Dragon, on a test stand.  Apparently, it blew up when its rockets fired.  No one was injured but the anomaly, as they are calling it, may have set back NASA's plans for months for a crewed flight to the International Space Station.  No one at the agency or at the company is giving any kind of explanation for the explosion.  Officially, it did not happen even though a video of the incident made it to Twitter right away.  There is no good reason for silence, and all it has done is increased speculation about the flight worthiness of the capsule.  Both SpaceX and NASA have a lot riding on the success of Dragon in reaching and returning from the ISS safely with astronauts aboard.  Maybe Continue reading "When Silence Isn’t Golden"

What’s In A Word?


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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If you Juul, are you not vaping nicotine?  Many teenagers think so in spite of the company's prominent messages in its advertisements that its products contain the addictive chemical.  Apparently, teenagers do not equate Juuling with vaping.  That is why this year, pollsters will ask teens if they Jull to make sure they are getting the right information about their behaviors.  Who would have thought that Juul would enter the lexicon as a verb?  It is there, however, and public health authorities have to contend with it.  It is a good reminder that in communications, we have to be sensitive to slang and street talk.  We dare not assume everyone knows the meaning of a word.  

Taunting


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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This article upholds the First Amendment privilege of comedians to roast the President of the United States.  It has long been a tradition at the White house correspondents' dinner to launch jibes at the Chief in a spirit of fun and truth-telling.  Presidents have gamely put up with it until the current occupant of the White House who decided not to attend.  This was the second year of his boycott and the second time a comedian has hosted a dinner in which Trump was lambasted in the harshest of words.  While supporting the First Amendment is essential, one might still question whether the language was appropriate.  Comedians have lacked the basic tenets of civility with this President as have many others.  One can contend that he earned the verbal beating and that would be right, but the outcome is mutual hostility that serves no Continue reading "Taunting"

Robots And Humans


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Amazon in its warehouses seems to have blended robots and humans and is holding people to machine standards.  If so, it is poor PR and is likely to end in union organizing.  Timing employees at their tasks is not new.  It was an essential part of scientific management at the turn of the 20th Century and involved names like Taylor and Gilbreth.  What these innovators left out of their stop-watched procedures was the thinking and creative power of the brain.  It is easy to train a machine to produce the same motions time and again.  It is mind-numbing to expect a human to do the same.  Amazon is a throw-back and it is likely to end badly for the corporation.  Already there are horror stories circulating in the media of exhausted people falling asleep at their stations, of no time to go Continue reading "Robots And Humans"

Crisis Communications


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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The CEO of Boeing is engaged in crisis communications these days.  The money-maker for the company, the 737 Max, has turned into a dead loss.  He has little choice but to stand by the plane while investigations into its software continue and the company rolls out fixes.  It's a tough position to be in.  Negative stories about the company and its practices are piling up.  There are accusations of sloppiness in manufacturing, of a rush to get the plane into production to compete with Airbus, of poor engineering that relied on a single sensor rather than several.  This is a time when a CEO must stand up and defend his people and the company while seeing that errors are corrected.  It's a hard job filled with stress, especially the unknowns that might rise to make matters worse.  If the CEO were to hide, Boeing could be hurt irreparably.  

In Search Of A Mission


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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The Federal Aviation Administration has approved the first drone delivery service to work as an airline.  The company will now start testing in Virginia and elsewhere.  It strikes one as a technology in search of a mission. There is little to show so far that drones will add enough marketing power to a business that they are worth the expense.  In rural Africa they have been useful in delivering medicines that are hard to distribute in any other way, but the US has the infrastructure needed to get from place to place quickly.  In any event, drones are unlikely to be useful in urban environments among apartment buildings and skyscrapers where delivery to a specific location is hard to achieve.  Delivery drones are a gleam in the eyes of technologists who are convinced the aerial vehicles can be better, faster and cheaper than other methods. Continue reading "In Search Of A Mission"

Phony


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Companies sometimes try to get away with things in marketing that PR can't abide.  Consider AT&T.  It has branded its 4G mobile network 5G E in an effort to make the public believe it is already offering 5G speeds.  It isn't even though sophisticated users have been fooled.  The media are bashing the company for its fraud, and well they should.  It's blatant deception.  What causes companies to engage in such risky behavior?  AT&T is feeling the breath of competition and is trying to stay ahead of Verizon, which already has rolled out true 5G in a number of cities.  It's hard to steal a march by lying, especially with the media watching.  AT&T is doing it anyway, and one wonders why regulators haven't descended on them with fines and orders to stop. There is no excuse for such behavior.

Crowded


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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A 19th Democratic candidate for President has made his intentions known and the field has turned into a cattle call.  There is no way that most will be able to rise above anonymity with voters, and the field will shrink as candidates run out of money and time.  From a PR perspective, it is an exercise in democracy.  From a marketing perspective, it is a disaster for both front-runners and followers alike.  It would be better if there were but two or three candidates who were able to raise funds for serious campaigning and pay attention to voters' issues.  Now it is a babble drowning each other and confusing the electorate.  The crowded conditions cannot last and won't, but the longer they are an issue, the harder it will be for a strong candidate to emerge before the next election.