Tuesday September 29, 2020
 

$750

 That is the amount President Trump paid in 2016, the year he became President.  It will smack many Americans as an insult although Trump arrived at the bill through claiming hundreds of millions of losses on his businesses.  Look for the figure to become a rallying cry for Democrats who have long complained of the hypocrisy of the man.  Although the amount is probably accurate, it stands as a publicity symbol of ineptness in business and a faux lifestyle supporting houses, a large airplane and millions of personal expenses.  It is a hallmark of self-interested dealing that Americans dislike and sought to punish by elevating Trump to the highest office in the first place.  Will it change minds?  Not among true believers who have locked themselves to his fortunes.  It might well tilt the vote of those teetering between a Democrat for whom they have no particular feeling and a Republican whose behavior has been rank of the lowest order.  It’s still too early to call an election that is bound to be messy and unlike any other in American history, but Trump’s PR stinks.

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Exploitation

 It is a hallmark of the US economy that without pressure from interest groups, citizens don’t think about where their food and other necessities come from.  We are blind to abuses suffered by workers in other countries who produce the raw materials we need to live comfortable lives.  This story is but one more expose of the problem.  Palm oil is ubiquitous in consumer products, but no one thinks about the workers who tend the trees and harvest the fruit.  They are out there somewhere and not our concern.  Now that the AP has highlighted ill-treatment of workers,  interest groups can begin to pressure banks and consumer product companies to pay attention.  Maybe they will move, maybe they won’t.  It is an issue of public relations.  Are corporations responsive to human needs as they profess to be?  If they don’t act, they are hypocrites and their PR is publicity without foundation.  If we, the public, continue in our deliberate purblind ways, we are no less guilty.

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Expectations Game

After months of jibing Joe Biden for his acumen and sanity, President Trump and his reelection team are saying Biden will do well in the debates.  Why the flipflop?  Trump’s managers are worried that Trump will lose perceptually with voters if Biden comes off well.  In other words, they have painted themselves into a corner and they are trying to get out.  It is a rookie mistake, which might turn into a triumph if Biden does perform poorly.  In other words, high risk like many of Trump’s actions and statements.  Now, however, they are playing the expectations game.  Downplay their efforts to hammer Biden’s intellect and play up his ability to think and speak on his feet.  The cynicism is breathtaking but that’s politics.  The winner-takes-all nature of the election fosters extreme pragmatism and lying.  That Biden and Harris have presented a largely neutral picture is of no benefit to them in the heated environment Trump fosters.  One wishes they would pull off their gloves and get into a bare-knuckle fistfight, but they are worried they might lose a game that Trump has evidently mastered.  It’s a difficult position to be in and Democrats don’t have much time to figure it out.

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Problem

 A Wall Street Journal investigation revealed that Amazon.com prevents certain rivals from buying advertisements on its site.  Normally this would not be a marketing problem since as Amazon’s spokesperson pointed out, major retailers, such as Walmart, follow the same practice.  But there is a challenge for the company.  It is already in regulators’ sights and contending with charges that it abuses its near-monopoly on online shopping.  This practice could tip the balance even though it is barely a problem for brick-and-mortar stores.  Amazon is in a tricky PR position.  It has trampled competitors with its obsessive focus on satisfying customers.  It was among the first online stores and it maintains a lead over all others.  It is the frequent recipient of complaints from businesses that use its site to sell their wares.  Even innocuous actions carry a taint of impropriety.  The company needs to explain itself more if it is to continue in its present strategies.  That means more lobbyists, a clear message and careful execution.  And, even that might not be enough.

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A Mess

 When retailers make a mess, what is a manufacturer to do?  That is the situation facing Sony and its PlayStation 5.  Major stores like Target, BestBuy, GameStop, and Walmart jumped the start time for preorders of the product and opened their sites to customers a day earlier than Sony expected.  The result was chaos and a torrent of “out of stock” notices.  Sony has apologized but it wasn’t its fault.  Still PR damage has been done, and the company will need to labor overtime to correct the situation.  Sony needs better communications with retailers, assuring them they won’t lose out with a staggered order time as happened here.  It might not make a difference until the company exerts pressure, but this will be hard to do because they are big players in the marketplace.  So what is a manufacturer to do who doesn’t have a large stock of a hot product and is faced with parceling it out?  There may be no good answer to that question>

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Standing Up

 Dr.  Anthony Fauci has publicly taken responsibility for an effective COVID-19 vaccine before the end of 2020.  He is the only public health official with the credibility to take on that burden.  It comes from his reputation for telling the truth and sticking to facts.  Sadly, other authoritative sources have been corrupted by politics seeking to bend evidence for an effective vaccine to come before the Nov. 3 election.  That Fauci has remained above the taint is harrowing PR for him.  President Trump has attacked him publicly for his statements to the media and would get rid of him if he could.  That Trump hasn’t done it is a testimony to the mess he has made of the pandemic response.  Trump continues to make claims but no one seems to be listening.  They are looking toward Dr. Fauci’s word.  It’s yet another case study in what good PR should be about.

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History’s Verdict

 The reputation of an organization or individual can be increased or destroyed with the conclusions of historians who research records of the past.  Consider the Vatican in World War II.  Pope Pius XII has been lambasted for collaborating with the fascists in charge of Italy and for deporting Jews to concentration camps.  On the other hand, new evidence from its archives show the tiny nation-state was active in helping British POWs flee Italy back to England.  It puts a gloss on the country’s behavior that is at odds with dealing with the enemy.  Chances are that the Vatican’s ultimate reputation for its behavior in World War II will be mixed rather than damaged and condemned.  The world won’t know until even more documents are unearthed and evaluated.  Seventy-five years since the war is long enough for biases to cool.  Historians might not reach firm conclusions but they can fill in a blurry picture of actions taken during the war.  That might be enough.

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Counting Laws Before They Are Passed

 Democratic Senators are making plans for legislation they will pass if they win a majority in the November elections.  It is too early to plan.  There is no guarantee they will conquer Republicans who have been running the chamber.  It would be a deep embarrassment should they remain the minority party.  It is far better that they concentrate on winning now and strategizing later.  A marketer who counts successes before he has launched his campaign is bound to be surprised.  Certainly one should rehearse scenarios if everything goes right and if all goes wrong, but that shouldn’t be the focus.  Rather, one should concentrate on the myriad details of rolling out and implementing communications and programs.  Head down and step-by-step accomplishment.  Right now, the political environment is looking good for Democrats, but they shouldn’t be lulled into counting laws.

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Publicity Or PR?

 Several major pharma companies are planning to publish a pledge that they will not release COVID vaccines unless they are proved scientifically potent and safe.  Only time will tell whether this is publicity or PR.  If publicity, they will bend to political pressure and say their vaccines are safe and effective.  If PR, they will prove it transparently for others in the pharma community to vet and for the scientific community to study.  There is deep distrust in the country and millions have said they won’t take the first vaccines to come to market.  Their fear is that President Trump in his reelection bid will force ineffective preventatives into the market.  They are trying to depoliticize the situation, and it will be difficult since there is so much in the current White House riding on it.  Some are hoping we won’t get an effective vaccine until after the election in a wishful attempt to defeat President Trump.  That is going too far but it is understandable.

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Without Shame

 President Trump is at it again with his suggestion that voters in North Carolina vote twice, once by mail and once at the polls.  He failed to account for the illegality of it and that it is a felony.  State officials quickly disabused citizens with statements that explained the criminality of the act.  One wonders how anyone can practice such base PR.  It is outrage after outrage and polls show he is getting away with it among a sizable group of Americans.  Fortunately, they are not a majority yet, but no political analyst assumes at this point that a Biden victory will be a romp.  What Trump is proving is that emotional appeals work.  He has mastered the craft of anger and bullying so that he can fool some of the people all of the time.  Trump is a lesson in the dangers to democracy from those who don’t respect institutions or citizens.  If he should fail in November, he will still go down as one of the worst, if not the worst, presidents in the country’s history.  He already is a case example of horrible PR.  He will be looked upon by historians as a sociopath who clawed to the top.  

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