Whistling


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, is making bold pronouncements about his company. One wonders if he has gone too far in consigning competitors like Disney to the margins.  There is confidence and there is hubris.  It might be hard to tell the two apart.  Overall, it is smarter to maintain a sense of caution when communicating about the future.  No one knows what will happen and the best plans get derailed.  That is not to say Netflix is in a weak position.  It isn't, but even the strongest companies can run into walls they didn't anticipate.  Think of General Electric.  Think of Sears. Think of Enron.  It is best to remember that human planning and foresight are limited.  We can't anticipate everything, and even if we did, there isn't much we can do about most of it.  A CEO can Continue reading "Whistling"

Accuracy


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TV commentators, especially, should be accurate about what they say. Otherwise, this might happen.  An African-American analyst for CNN accused her radio host of having white privilege when her unseen interrogator is black himself.  It was an embarrassing moment, and there was nothing she could do to backtrack.  The host took the opportunity to scold her for making assumptions and then emphasized his point about the need for qualifications to rise in the business.  That doesn't mean the CNN analyst was completely wrong about the point she was making but she destroyed its impact and looked stupid as a result.  The situation would not have happened if someone had just looked up the host before going on the air with him.  No one did.  In PR, someone could get fired for a mistake like that.  

Trapped


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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PG&E Corp, a California utility, will shortly file for bankruptcy and might be trapped by global warming.  Long-running drought in the state has dried brush and trees along its power lines to the point of tinder.  Any sparking from its poles ignites vegetation immediately and causes a wildfire.  The company already is being sued for the Camp Fire that burned an entire town and caused a loss of life even though authorities have not yet assigned a cause for the blaze.  The CEO has stepped down, and the state has said it won't indemnify the company, which is facing $30 billion in penalties.  There is little PG&E can do to get out from under its burden.  Clearing trees and brush from around its lines would take years and is an expensive never-ending job.  Investors have already largely abandoned the company.  There are Continue reading "Trapped"

Creative


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Android cell phone users sometimes wonder why they can't have right away the most recent version of the software.  The reason is that it must be matched and tested in multiple steps before it can be released in new phones.  This graphic explains the process in a creative and fun way.  It makes a technical process transparent and understandable.  It also burnishes the reputation of Nokia by showing the care the company takes to get things right.  It is smart PR and one hopes we can see more of it in the future.  

Embarrassment


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island has reacted in the only way it can to an embarrassment.  It stripped Nobelist James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA, of all of his titles.  Watson continues to believe and speak out on a non-scientific relationship between DNA and IQ.  He says Africans are inferior as a result.  It is a racist opinion coming from a person who ought to know better.  The faulty logic is not comprehensible in a person of such stature, but he is definite about his thinking.  From a PR perspective, Cold Spring Harbor has done all that it can do by disavowing the ideas and taking punitive measures.  The distance between the organization and the individual should be enough in time to preserve its reputation.  One is left to wonder how an eminent scientist can take such a wrong turn and persist in it.  

Transparency


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Tiffany is practicing smart PR with its pledge to be transparent about the source and preparation of its diamonds.  The company understands that its customers don't want to be associated with mines where workers are exploited or from countries where there is strife.  So, it is telling everything it can about them and in the process, it is burnishing its image.  One wonders why more purveyors of the precious stone haven't done the same.  Perhaps they will now that Tiffany has shown leadership.  In retrospect, it seems an obvious move, but many good marketing/PR actions seem that way.  If it was so apparent, why didn't anyone else think of it a long time ago?

Competition


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Cattlemen are upset by a new wave of vegetable substitutes for meat, and well they should be.  The plant-based food is getting better all of the time and now is nearly indistinguishable from meat.  Ranchers are banding together to lobby state legislatures to require labeling laws.  They want meat from cattle clearly marked and vegetable-based products assigned a status that is something else. They don't like the competition.  It is inevitable, however, that foods like the Impossible Burger 2.0 will cut into red meat consumption.  It is better for you. Stock-growers aren't taking the challenge lying down.  They have mounted marketing campaigns to tout the quality and taste of red meat, and they are trying to persuade American consumers to put more of it on the table.  It used to be their foe was chicken and to some degree pork.  They Continue reading "Competition"

Switcheroo


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AT&T's rivals are blistering the company for its claim that it has a 5G network.  AT&T apparently decided to rebrand its 4G system as 5G without installing the equipment needed for true 5G.  To say that is disingenuous is understatement.  The phone carrier ought to be ashamed.  From a PR perspective, it could be a disaster.  It confuses customers and ultimately when real 5G is installed, they will have to upgrade their phones to take advantage of it.  In AT&T's defense, there is no industry-wide standard for 5G yet, so claiming it now might not seem so weasel-worded.  On the other hand, AT&T is a brand long associated with innovation and pulling such a marketing ploy is out of character.  One hopes the company will reconsider what it is doing and back away from the claim until it has the equipment to make it.

Will It Work?


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The US Army fell short of enlistment goals and is now moving into social media and community relations to fill its ranks.  There is no guarantee in a full-employment economy that it will work but the service is emphasizing it has many job categories that do not require time on a front line.  It is stressing that military service can pay for a good bit of college.  The Army is upbeat about its prospects but reality has a way of crashing through.  It will know by mid-year whether it can reach its enlistment goals or not.  That is the continuing challenge of an all-volunteer service.  In the days of the draft, the Army wasn't as professional as it is now, but it could fill its ranks.  No one wants the old days to return but if the military continues to fall short of Continue reading "Will It Work?"

Cornered


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President Trump has committed a faux pas by demanding a wall be built across the southern border of the US and leaving no out for himself to preserve his credibility.  If he attempts to declare a national emergency, his move will be tested in the courts immediately, and there is little chance of him succeeding.  He needs to concede he doesn't have the votes for wall funding and to move on, but he seems unable to do that.  Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Federal workers are suffering without paychecks and ways to meet rent and mortgages.  The affair is a PR nightmare.  While Trump is intent on solidifying his conservative base, he is losing moderates, and his chances for reelection in 2020 diminish by the hour.  His administration will someday be a case study in how not to manage relations with branches of government and the public.

Too Early To Celebrate?


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Ajit Pai, FCC chairman, has thanked Congress for helping him kill net neutrality rules.  He might be celebrating too soon.  The movement for net neutrality is far from finished and Congress has changed, at least in the House.  There are major players lobbying for net neutrality and they have vowed to continue.  Pai may have put himself in a box by publicly thanking Congress.  Under the Democrats, he could soon find himself hemmed in on all sides.  It wasn't a wise PR move.  Rather, he would have been better off acknowledging that battles are yet to come and the agency is geared to wage them.  

Fickle Love


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Apple cut its earnings guidance for the first time in 15 years and Wall Street is reacting harshly, dumping its stock and driving down its price. As of last night, Apple has lost more than $300 billion in market value.  There is little love in financial markets.  It is all in how one performs quarter to quarter, year after year.  Investor relations cannot soften the blow of a bad financial report.  The company has to take its medicine and hope some will not abandon it.  Apple had been riding high for a long time.  It was a can't-miss tech stock.  Now it has joined the ranks of mature companies that struggle each quarter to make their numbers and have less upside potential.  It is possible Tim Cook can turn the ship around but high growth might be out of his hands.  Wall Street isn't hanging in and waiting. 

Smart PR


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Cathay Pacific Airways blundered on the sale of business and first class tickets.  It charged $675 for tickets that should have sold for $16,000.  The airline fessed up to the mistake but kept its original price and let buyers go for the cheaper fare.  It could easily have cancelled the errors and charged the actual price.  Even though the airline is struggling, it decided not to do so.  It welcomed its travelers.  So, some lucky persons will fly royally for little and the airline will reap the benefit in positive word of mouth.  The short-term loss of revenue hurts, but the long-term gain in credibility outweighs it.  It is smart PR.  

2019


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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The New Year promises to be like any other in PR.  Some will demonstrate it brilliantly and others will fail spectacularly.  There seems to be a growing consciousness among corporations that what you do is more important than what you say -- the essence of PR.  There will still be a body that associates the field with spin and some practitioners, notably those in political sectors, will again express cynicism about about the public and how it can be manipulated.  It is too early to know at this juncture whether we will have a new president or not, but the current occupant of the White House is a practitioner of the Big Lie and a man without credibility, government shutdown notwithstanding.  Experts will make predictions but they don't know.  Events upstage expectations.  Here is a hope your New Year is a good one and not stressful.

Risking It


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Japan is risking the world's condemnation by announcing it is taking up commercial whaling again.  The country is self-imposing limits on where it will fish but that won't mollify international authorities and conservationists.  Whales have reached a consciousness among the public that equals elephants or lions.  We don't want to see them hunted any longer.  The days of Herman Melville are long gone and anyway, whalers were never upstanding citizens of the sea.  Ship captains were careful to stay upwind of the vessels and their great iron reduction pots.  The Japanese don't whale for oil but for food, but that makes little difference.  Look for many protests and disruption of the ships at sea.

PR Problem


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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This is a growing PR problem for Amazon.com.  Sellers on the giant's marketplace are being scammed by competitors with dirty tricks, some of which are outrageous.  Amazon, in an effort to control misbehavior, has applied rigid rules that do not take into account the circumstances of each wronged vendor.  It is a case of unbridled capitalism meeting bureaucracy, and it "ain't" pretty.  The challenge for Amazon is that deception is so pervasive it cannot deal with every case without automation, but robotics overlook the actual for what appears to be the case.  This is especially true when competitors put phony reviews on a vendor's web site then get the vendor kicked off for the practice, which Amazon automatically blames the vendor for doing. It seems no one at Amazon had anticipated such a dirty deed.  One could chalk bad behavior to small players but Continue reading "PR Problem"

Hit To Reputation


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Johnson & Johnson has taken a significant hit to its reputation with the upholding of a $4.7 billion verdict against it for asbestos in its baby powder.  The company has been advertising proclaiming the purity of its talc and recommending that people visit a web site where there are medical and scientific reports backing its assertions.  Even if the verdict is set aside on appeal, the company will take years to win customers back.  One wonders if it is worth it.  It didn't help that records from the company surfaced memos in which its own managers cautioned about trace elements of asbestos in the mineral.  The plaintiff's case could be built on shoddy science but that makes little difference now.  The damage is done and J&J will have to deal with it for years to come.

Well Done


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There is little better than a good, well done publicity stunt.  Here is one..  The "emotional support chicken" is a gag from Popeyes and it is available at the Philadelphia airport.  The box made into the form of a chicken with a head and tail holds three-piece chicken tender meals.  This comes at a time when more people are claiming the need to carry on board emotional support animals from potbelly pigs to hamsters.  The situation has gotten so out of control that some airlines are forbidding most pets from taking to the air.  Those who rely on the animals might think Popeyes is mocking them, and they wouldn't be far wrong.  However, for every irate passenger Popeyes might lose, there will be plenty more lined up to get the box.

Great PR


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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A family-owned firm in Michigan is giving its workers $4 million in bonuses, averaging $20,000 per employee.  It is the CEO's way of thanking them for their labor in building the company.  Not many public corporations would do this.  They have investors to think about and plenty of uses for funds other than giving them away to the rank and file.  It is great PR for the company and deserving of the media attention it is getting.  It would be wonderful if more firms treated their employees this way.  Perhaps workers would stay put rather than jumping to another job that offers a dollar an hour more.  

Brinksmanship


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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The White House and Congress are moving toward another government shutdown, this time over Trump's demand for border wall funding.  Voters are opposed to it overwhelmingly and they will blame Trump if the shutdown occurs.  This is as the President wanted it in his White House tantrum with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.  The situation already is a debacle and the mess will be complete if it isn't delayed or straightened out by Friday.  The question is whether the President will be a man of his word and will veto any budget bill that does not have $5 billion in it for a wall.  He is so inconsistent that it is difficult at this point to know what he will do.  That may be a good negotiating tactic but brinksmanship is poor PR.