Friday May 7, 2021
 

What Money Can Do

This article from Bloomberg BusinessWeek details how Jeff Bezos of Amazon turned the table on the National Enquirer over his love affair and divorce. It demonstrates what money can do to protect reputation.  Bezos spent freely to corner AMI, the parent of the the Enquirer and was able to flip its story from marital infidelity to a politically motivated assault on Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post.  The media bought Bezos’ explanation and the Enquirer never had a chance.  Chalk that up to the Enquirer’s reputation as a scandal monger loose with the facts in pursuit of a sensational story.  It’s an interesting read, but few people have the resources of Bezos to repair their reputations after being attacked.  

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Still Banned

Facebook’s oversight board has upheld the social medium’s ban of former president Trump from its service.  It was gratifying for the company that had been in a no-win situation of whether to cut Trump off or leave him be.  The company determined after the Jan. 6 insurrection that it was too dangerous to allow Trump to continue to claim he was defrauded in the 2020 election.  The company ducked a bullet by letting the board decide, but the board has called for Facebook to come up with clear standards for determining who should be banned and who allowed to stay.  This will be difficult unless Facebook uses the clear and present danger standard for overriding free speech.  That has worked well for media in the past.  In any event, Facebook will need to proceed in a more orderly fashion, and that is good.  

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Lone Wolf

Sometimes one risks reputation by speaking truth to power. That is the perilous position Congresswoman Liz Cheney is in right now.  She is an unrepentant critic of former president Donald Trump and has called him out time and again for lying about the election.  The latest blast against him has isolated her within the Republican party and she could easily lose her position in the minority house leadership as well as her seat in Congress.  It makes no difference that she is stating the obvious.  Her colleagues don’t want to hear it.  They have lined up behind Trump and put blinders on and they are angry with anyone who dares to look at reality and accept it.  Cheney’s reputation will be burnished when the party is finally over Trumpism, but it might be too late for her as a Republican politician.  

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Running Out

A company with a platinum reputation is starting to lose its glow in the eyes of shareholders.  There isn’t much to be done since its leaders are in their 90s and mortality is evident daily.  The company is Berkshire Hathaway and the leaders are Warren Buffett, 90, and Charlie Munger, 97.  Investors are starting to grumble that the two are losing their edge and missing opportunities, and they are worried about succession, although two executives are waiting to take over.  Buffett has always been his own best PR man.  He is articulate, witty and a world class company collector, but his stratospheric reputation cannot survive his age.  At some point he will go or he will die with his boots on.  Either way, his absence will shake the company as will the death of Munger.  Nothing is permanent although it is hard sometimes to remember that.  Buffett and Munger have been a two-person act that has run so long it is hard to believe it cannot go on forever.

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Admission

Elon Musk in a tweet has admitted that autopilot driving isn’t ready for the world even though it is built into Teslas.  His statement, needlessly complex, places blame on highway and road constructors, but as the article points out, autopilot needs to adapt to the world that is and not the world Musk wants.  The admission is a PR blow to his technology and one wonders why he continues to include it in his vehicles, since it is so dangerous. He should have been as cautious as Waymo, which has spent more than a decade hammering down driving glitches one by one.  He wasn’t and people have died while using his system.  The reputation for AutoPilot has suffered greatly and Musk is to blame with his not-ready-for-prime-time technology.

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Serving The Customer?

Netflix is rolling out a new app that is supposed to help one find entertainment when the person doesn’t know what to watch.  It is called “Play Something.”  One hopes it will be successful but personal experience warns it is likely not to be useful.  Such affinity software is based on prior viewing, but it doesn’t take into account that people cherry-pick what to watch based on reviews and recommendations.  They might pick up a highly rated show but never return to the genre again.  “Play Something” would then bombard them with suggestions about series in which they have no interest.  It becomes an irritant rather than customer service.  One wants the Netflix algorithm to take that into account, but don’t bet on it.

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Ratings Disaster

 Hollywood’s reputation for putting on a show took a drubbing at this year’s Oscars when less than 10 million tuned in compared to last year’s 23.6 million.  Critics pointed to a lack of popular movies which heighten interest.  Those who watched the show were stultified by  nattering presenters and interminable thank-yous from recipients.  There wasn’t much to get excited about.  The disaster was expected because theaters were closed for the year and films were streamed on TV.  Many viewers had not seen any of the works up for awards.  Still, boredom set in from self-congratulatory drivel that emanated from the screen.  I watched for an hour then went to bed.  The 60 minutes was a waste.  Maybe it is time for the show to recede into has-been status.  It was for its time the biggest publicity event coming from Hollywood and a giant PR exercise. It no longer works.

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Ratings Disaster

 Hollywood’s reputation for putting on a show took a drubbing at this year’s Oscars when less than 10 million tuned in compared to last year’s 23.6 million.  Critics pointed to a lack of popular movies which heighten interest.  Those who watched the show were stultified by  nattering presenters and interminable thank-yous from recipients.  There wasn’t much to get excited about.  The disaster was expected because theaters were closed for the year and films were streamed on TV.  Many viewers had not seen any of the works up for awards.  Still, boredom set in from self-congratulatory drivel that emanated from the screen.  I watched for an hour then went to bed.  The 60 minutes was a waste.  Maybe it is time for the show to recede into has-been status.  It was for its time the biggest publicity event coming from Hollywood and a giant PR exercise. It no longer works.

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Beating A Dead Horse

The Arizona election “audit” is beating a dead horse and a stain on the reputation of the state’s GOP.  Republicans have turned over the recount to a propagator of conspiracy theories with no experience in toting ballots.  He is going to find that Biden lost the election in the state but it won’t make a difference.  He has no credibility, and it is too late to overturn the results.  Biden is president and will remain.  One wonders why a political party can be so dumb about PR and reputation.  It has lost touch with reality and is continuing to fight after losing the battle and the war.  There isn’t much one can do about the GOP pols other than to vote them out of office.  Meanwhile, citizens of Arizona have to watch the daily mocking of democracy until the “audit” is finished.  They have become a laughingstock among states and an embarrassment.  Arizona’s statehouse needs cleaning.  

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Killing Reputation

 JP Morgan says it misjudged the appeal of the proposed European Super League — an idea that collapsed in two days after its announcement.  Football fans, politicians and even royalty were outraged and bombarded the media.  Eight of the 12 teams bolted for the exit and the marketing plan went into the toilet.  JP Morgan has learned how to kill one’s reputation. It was the only bank that had agreed to fund the new venture and it found itself the target of anger and calls for boycott.  The bank has said it will learn from this but will it?  The article plunges the knife deeper into the company by quoting its CEO, Jamie Dimon, who has called for banks to consider a wide swathe of society in their endeavors.  Apparently, no one took the temperature of soccer fans before giving a $4.2 billion grant to the 12 clubs.  It was a dumb move in retrospect and the bank will have to live with it.  

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