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"

Fake Facts


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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As this article discusses, fake facts are a growing crisis in the digital age, there are more ways than ever to broadcast them.  With the low cost of publishing online, lies spread quickly.  As PR practitioners know, there needs to be fast-twitch response to combat falsehoods, but even that might not be enough.  Who is to say your version is correct and not spin?  How do you verify your own facts to skeptics?  There are few good ways to do it and clever liars vitiate the truth easily.  That is why PR should always put a premium on accuracy.  If one has a reputation for telling the truth without fear, there is credibility with key audiences.  On the other hand, those who don't know you are still open to believing lies, especially if they have the ring of truth.  Patrolling Continue reading "Fake Facts"

Evidence


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Some people refuse to change their minds in the face of mounting evidence.  Nothing will persuade them their position might be wrong.  When it comes to climate change, facts are piling up but there is still a large contingent of Americans who say it is bogus. Scientists warn on a monthly basis with new sets of indicators but deniers pooh-pooh it all and go about their way.  It is hard for PR to change this.  We must wait until one-by-one citizens swing over to a different view.  The situation is like that of anti-smoking efforts, which took decades to succeed in the face of strenuous opposition from tobacco companies.  In the climate case, we have a President who doesn't accept it and is a strong supporter of coal interests. There will be little headway until he is gone.  The issue will become all Continue reading "Evidence"

MLK Day


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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But for the racism of the 19th Century, we might be celebrating Frederick Douglass Day.  He was the foremost orator and abolitionist of his time who rose from slavery to celebrity before he died 25 years after the end of the Civil War.  He spoke with Lincoln.  He traveled across the North and the Midwest delivering hundreds of speeches calling for the destruction of America's original sin.  He was a fearsome writer and intellect who saw and foresaw the pre- and post-Emancipation challenges of Black Americans.  He had a brief moment of triumph when slavery was abolished but then saw the post-Reconstruction South descend into lynch mobs and Jim Crow.  He never gave up until the day he died in his 77th year.  He believed in the power of the spoken and written word and he was an inspiration to both blacks and Continue reading "MLK Day"

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


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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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


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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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?


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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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


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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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?


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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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


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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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.