Another Worry


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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A cry is being raised about Deepfakes -- audiovisual lying that concocts false information in video and sound.  The spur to the warnings is the slowed-down video of Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, that makes her look drunk.  It's not just a political tool of misinformation.  It can be applied to any individual, any organization at any time -- and will be.  With technical manipulation, it is easy to put people into scenes or take them out. It is easy to have them saying things they never dreamed.  PR practitioners and media monitors should be on the alert.  It will become more prevalent as activists learn the software.  Woody Allen's breakthrough of inserting himself as Zelig into historical scenes has become commonplace.  As in all things related to the internet, response time to combat such maliciousness is extremely short.  One Continue reading "Another Worry"

The Big Lie


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Habitual prevaricators tend to believe lies they tell, even when presented with evidence to the contrary.  Here is a case.  Trump is claiming his internal polling shows him ahead in every state his campaign has surveyed.  Other polls not from his campaign show him well behind.  Trump is not the only one to believe himself in the face of reality.  Over the years I have served clients who paid no attention to market research because they knew better.  They believed in their own big lies, and their companies failed miserably.  Because they rejected evidence, they never saw their demise coming.  They were surprised when the rest of the world had already written them off.  Trump is a special case in that he fails to tell the truth time after time.  He has created a self-regarded alternate dimension in which he Continue reading "The Big Lie"

What Now?


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The proposed merger of Sprint-T-Mobile has run afoul of 10 states attorneys.  They are suing to stop the combination because they say it will hurt consumers.  Even though the FCC has approved the two getting together, the Justice Department is recommending that it not go forward.  All the lobbyists in DC and the 10 states can't help this situation.  The two companies will need to go to court even if the Federal government eventually approves.  T-Mobile especially is frustrated.  It has tried to merge two other times and has been blocked.  The problem is that the customers of the two companies are middle to low income, and if they raise rates, which they have promised not to do for three years, they will take away service from the more vulnerable.  There is no good solution for this logjam.  The companies will Continue reading "What Now?"

Creative


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A Vancouver grocery store wants customers to bring their own reusable bags so it can stop using plastic bags that add to pollution.  So, it designed three bags with embarrassing messages designed to put off customers.  One is for adult video, a second for colon care and the third for warts.  Apparently, however, the idea backfired.  Customers are delighted and some are collecting all three bags as souvenirs.  Give the store credit for a creative idea even though it didn't work.  The hard-headed answer to getting rid of plastic is to charge for it.  Shoppers are sensitive to cost and if a bag is pricey enough, they will shift over.  The downside of charging is that it upsets customers who can go elsewhere, but then, if they tolerate plastic bags with off-putting brands, they might adjust to the cost of a bag too.

Losing The Workforce


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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A struggling company faces a challenge when it loses the confidence and dedication of its workforce.  In order to turn around it needs hard work from employees and not complaints and slow-downs.  This is the HR problem Tesla is facing.  Workers are losing faith in the company and its leadership.  Meanwhile, Tesla continues its struggle to stabilize Model 3 production and shipments.  Elon Musk is taking criticism from many sides.  Wall Street has turned on him and the company.  Analysts are skeptical that the market is big enough for the company to survive other than as a niche maker.  Its stock has swooned.  What the company doesn't need now is restive employees.  It should launch a communications effort to reassure them of its strategy and execution.  

Looking For A Market


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Boston Dynamics, the research company that builds pedal robots, is releasing its first product, called Spot.  Spot is a yellow and black quadruped canine whose head is a television camera and teeth a robot arm.  The only challenge for Spot is whether the marketplace needs a robot that can walk like a dog and is hard to push over.  The market is unproven and there is no guarantee it is large.  The company has been a master of PR in the years its machines were under development.  It released regularly videos of humanoids and four-legged creatures that walked difficult terrain and resisted the jabs of engineers trying to knock them down.  The videos went viral and the company was much discussed.  It didn't bring a product to market, however.  It kept developing and engineering for year after year.  Now it says Continue reading "Looking For A Market"

Unintended Consequences


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Sephora, the beauty products retailer, is facing a social media storm that comes from an Instagram mistake.  An online query whether it shipped to Israel followed by another query whether it shipped to Palestine produced a botched answer through no fault of Sephora.

"Sephora does not ship to Israel or the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank, but in screenshots circulating on social media, Instagram's collapsed comment layout makes it appear as if the company responded to the question "Do you ship to isreal??" with the statement "We do not ship to Palestine at this time.""

This produced an instant social media storm with charges, counter-charges, nasty comments and vile language.  Sephora didn't see it coming.  How could it?  But, it has to deal with the fall-out and quickly.  For one, it has to adjust for the vagaries of Continue reading "Unintended Consequences"

Crisis


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Big Tech is in a crisis, whether it appreciates it or not.  The government is after them.  The Justice Department, regulators and Congress have all begun investigations into whether large technology companies are monopolizing the internet. Some would predict their days are numbered but it is early in the game yet.  There is a chance of turning things around if the companies work with the government to find solutions to their enormous market share.  Still, Nancy Pelosi might be right.  The era of self-regulation might be over.  It might be a question of soft control rather than dismantling the web giants.  But it could go either way, and lobbyists have their work cut out for them.  If Democrats are in the ascendancy in 2020, chances are high for stringent regulation or charges of monopoly.

Smart Publicity


This post is by Jim Horton from Online Public Relations Thoughts


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Young Russians have no memory or understanding of the notorious Gulags that incarcerated 20 million people under Stalin.  The Gulag History Museum set out to change that.  Rather than writing history targeted to youth, it chose the graphic novel to tell survivors' stories.  This is smart publicity -- reaching an audience through familiar and universal visual media.  The production was done on a negligible budget and completed through fund raising.  It reached a vast audience and generated numerous stories. Most importantly, it educated a new generation about sorrowful and tragic period of the country's history.  Creative ideas can come from anywhere. Making them real can be difficult.  This is one that survived and deservedly so.

Too Soon To Declare Victory


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This article posits that Joe Biden is only running against himself and not the other 22+ candidates for President in the Democratic party.  But, it is too soon to declare him the front-runner.  There are an innumerable series of PR and publicity gaffes that can occur before the first primaries in 2020.  Biden has been involved in many of them through his career as a politician.  He was looked upon as a joke, and he still must apologize for his excessive touching and hugging of both genders.  At this stage of the race, it pays to run scared and work unceasingly. There is never enough time to be better known, even if a former vice president.  Biden might be husbanding his energy because he is no longer young, but that could well work against him if the electorate decides it needs a vibrant candidate.  Continue reading "Too Soon To Declare Victory"

Dumb


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It doesn't pay to upset Wikipedia editors.  They'll have it in for you.  That is why this stunt was dumb.  North Face, the clothing manufacturer, changed the visuals on its Wikipedia page to advertising images of its clothing.  Worse, it boasted about it.  Retribution was swift, and North Face has apologized.  Well it should.  It was a bad idea from the start and showed a profound lack of understanding of the encyclopedic site and its volunteers.  What did North Face gain from its actions?  A hit to its reputation.  Was it worth it?  Of course not.  It's not always possible to trace the course of a mistake like this to the source, but North Face said it was for its Brazilian office.  Someone in its marketing agency somewhere is keeping a low profile, and that's as it should be.

Web Site Advocacy


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Apple launched a web site to combat allegations that its App Store is a monopoly that hinders competition.  It reads like an advocacy ad one might read in The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal.  It's questionable whether the extended screed will change anyone's mind, particularly those who have had their software rejected from the App Store.  Apple has run afoul of the law already with a Supreme Court case that went against it, and developers have not stopped criticizing the company.  One wonders why the corporation bothered to put up a such a site -- one long page that requires extensive scrolling.  It is not an example of good design and as convincing as the language may be, who is going to read through all of it?  The site might be targeted to developers and not the public at large, but Continue reading "Web Site Advocacy"

NIMBY


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Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) is a public relations statement.  It reveals the intent of the speaker and one's true stance on an issue.  In the case of affordable housing, it demonstrates practical racism, such as this case.  Wealthy Connecticut towns have stalled higher-density building projects for as long as 30 years through use of zoning and citizen protest. The rich don't want to deal with the poor who are largely minorities.  These are people who apparently believe they are even handed unless building takes place in their communities.  Then, suddenly, it is different.  So, the lower middle class and poor are pushed into communities that exacerbate the gap between have and have-nots.  There is no good way to break down this kind of racism   Persuasion is futile and legal action is the only recourse.  

Undercut


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It is a difficult PR and reputation situation when a successor is undercut by a former boss.  That is what is happening in Germany.  Angela Merkel, the chancellor, has apparently decided that her chosen subordinate is not up to the job of running the Christian Democratic Union.  The CDU has stumbled since Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer took over from Merkel last December.  There was a failed power grab and a botched national election.  Now, Merkel is faced with political difficulty all around and she can't depend on her chosen one.  So,what are she and AKK to do?  It is too late to try a turnaround although Merkel has apparently decided to remain in office for her full term.  The upshot is a mess for everyone concerned.  The two are fated to live uncomfortably side by side and only when Merkel steps down will the situation be resolved.

Reputation And Taxation


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TurboTax is making a name for itself, and it is not good.  According to this article, the company is tricking members of the military service into paying for filing their taxes although it is supposed to be free.  If true, the company deserves a poor reputation.  Why do corporations persist in the internet age in trying to cheat customers?  They can't away with it for long and when discovered, they have explaining to do.  The explanations usually ring hollow.  In TurboTax's case, the company has to reveal why it buried the free page beneath others, and why it intentionally diverted customers to pages with for-pay services.  The company says it stands by its dedication to the military soldiers, sailors and marines.  If it does, it seems to have an odd way of showing it.

Was It Always This Way?


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General Electric's CEO is trying to stop infighting between divisions and to focus the corporation on quality and management.  The question arises whether it was always this way, even under the legendary Jack Welch?  A company that is turning out profits can cover a lot of sins.  When the money machine stops, all sorts of problems surface and a vaunted management style is found wanting.  One can point at Jeff Immelt and say he wrecked the company during his tenure as CEO and chairman, but that would be too easy.  Welch left a company that was overly dependent on its finance division, which ran aground during the meltdown of 2008/2009.  Today, GE is a shadow of its once greatness.  Larry Culp has set goals for its slow turnaround, but there is little chance that it will regain its reputation for greatness, and the Continue reading "Was It Always This Way?"

Not Dead Yet


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What happens to an electronic product that died of bad PR?  Usually, one never sees it again.  But, the Google Glass has discovered a new life as an enterprise item to use while working in factories, doing maintenance and repair and other work.  It doesn't take much recall to remember how it was hyped as a consumer gadget, how it went into distribution and how it failed spectacularly, largely because of privacy concerns.  Give Google credit.  It didn't give up. Rather, it improved the Glass, found a niche for it and started marketing it again.  They have been successful enough to spin it off internally as a new company.  It might never be introduced to the public again, but it can claim a life as a B to B offering and do well.  That's quite a turnaround from a few years ago.

Great PR


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Waymo, Google's automated driving company, is generating great PR in its Arizona test bed.  Hundreds are using its driverless taxis in the town of Chandler.  The company still puts a driver in the vehicles, but the drivers keep their hands in their laps and the vans steer themselves from place to place.  The police have said the driverless vehicles have been involved in accidents but not once has it been their fault.  They drive perfectly, so much so that they can be irritants to drivers who take shortcuts at intersections and on the open road.  Waymo's experience is quite different from Tesla whose automated system has been involved in a number of fatal collisions so far.  Waymo is being cautious because it understands the strengths and weaknesses of driverless technologies.  That only adds to its reputation and to the opinion that driverless vehicles have reached maturity.  

Smart PR


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Facebook needs friends.  It is being investigated for misuse of user data and for privacy breaches. That makes this all the more important.  The company is employing customer location data to build disease prevention maps.  It is part of its effort called Data for Good through which the company can use billions of records to show the movement of people from place to place.  Health authorities can then better track the spread of disease.  It is smart PR.  It shows that data collection is for good as much as for commercial purposes.  Facebook users might be less concerned about their data when they know it is being used for societal benefit.  Kudos to the company for seeing this through.