Friday July 10, 2020
 

Marketing Coup

Lysol is the first hard-surface cleaner to be EPA approved to kill the coronavirus.  That is a marketing coup for the brand, as if it needed it, and a PR success.  The challenge for Lysol since the beginning of the pandemic has been to stock shelves.  That is a hurdle that all household cleaner brands have faced.  However, when supply finally catches up with demand, Lysol has a PR and marketing message that will put it at the head of the pack.  This is as significant as the American Dental Association approval of Crest toothpaste, which Procter & Gamble used to gain a large market share.  Look for the company to put “EPA-approved” on all of its bottles and spray containers and to launch a media campaign in which it emphasizes the germ- and virus-killing strength of the product.  The third-party endorsement is gold in the bank.

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Where Is The Third Party?

President Trump’s poll numbers have cratered, and his only hope is that he can recover rapidly before the election or that the Democratic vote will be split by a third party.  Previous presidents at his low rating won when the opposition was split.  This year, progressives are staying put with the understanding that splitting the ticket might be fatal to getting rid of Trump.  It is a disciplined approach and smart marketing. Democrats are projecting unity, which barely holds beneath the surface.  If it were a more normal year without a Trump to oppose, the left-wing of the Democratic party might well have backed Bernie Sanders as a third-party candidate.  Trump hasn’t helped himself with his mismanagement of the pandemic, his race-baiting and fear campaign.  And, he is digging himself in deeper every day.  Democrats must be thrilled but cautious.  After all, Trump won in 2016 with the same basic message.

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Environmental Victory

Developers have abandoned their long-sought $8 billion Atlantic Coast pipeline in a victory for environmentalists and landowners along the route.  It is not often grass-roots organizing can claim such success and the result is sure to be controversial.  The lack of a new pipeline carrying methane gas to the Eastern Seabord might jeopardize business and homeowners in years to come.  There is no clean answer to such a situation, no defined right and wrong.  It is a clash of opinion and perception with facts on both sides.  Ultimately, the one who can tie up the other in court will win through delay and mounting expense.  The developers could have slogged on and drained the accounts of environmental groups in a scorched earth tactic, but they chose not to.  Instead, they looked at their own outlays and decided enough was enough.  So, it is one more victory for those guarding land, waters, flora and fauna.  Only time will tell if they are right.  

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Taking Cover

 A year ago, every financier in Hong Kong was discussing freedom from Beijing’s stern control.  Now they are biting their tongues and saying nothing after Beijing passed new measures preventing free speech. They are trying to get on and adapt to the new law.  Activists can no longer count on them for support.  As one senior executive in the city said, Hong Kong business is non-ideological.  It will work under constraints that keep the public down.  That is true in the rest of the world as well.  Economic transactions occur under the best and worst of circumstances.  There is no loyalty among business persons to countries or ideologies, so they take cover when they must.  It is craven in the eyes of activists and patriots but it is the way business survives.  Governments regulate them to inject a moral base where there is none and enforce loyalty as a condition of exchange, but it is not natural.  Hong Kong proves again that repression doesn’t prevent business from thriving.

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PR Issue?

Democrats are relying on Big Money again rather than grassroots fundraising.  Can it be turned into a PR issue to damage the party and Biden’s candidacy?  Chances are it won’t be since President Trump isn’t turning down heavy checks either.  However, the internet has proven a candidate can make headway without hundred thousand dollar contributions from the wealthy and powerful.  This has already become a campaign and PR issue.  The argument is that Big Spenders want something for their money and will get it because they have bought an ear to air their concerns.  It is past time in American politics to let Big Spenders recede in importance.  They have had undue influence almost since the beginning of the country.  The problem was the inefficiency of collecting funds from thousands of small donors.  It cost more than the donations were worth.  That’s no longer true.  Small donors were the backbone of some primary candidates this year.  It’s past time for them to be the mainstay of general elections.

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Stubborn

President Trump is proving to be a stubborn candidate for re-election.  Rather than listening to the public at large as any good practitioner of PR would do, he is cementing himself with a minority in the Republican party.  This is a small group that trumpets “white power.”  Trump has admitted already that he might lose the election, but he doesn’t seem to care.  He will have his way or no way.  This was demonstrated also by his filing with the Supreme Court to gut the Affordable Care Act at a time when millions are out of work and unable to get insurance.  Polls have shown that he has lost suburban women with college degrees, Blacks and Latinos, independents and an overwhelming majority of the electorate.  It is still early, however, and he could turn things around if he would just listen.  His campaign strategists are trying to get through to him.  So far, they have failed.

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Not His Fault

There are many things that are detestable about the Trump administration, but this isn’t one of them.   The Treasury Department has no way of knowing who has died within the year and who hasn’t.  I write this as an executor of an estate belonging to a friend who died in 2019.  We received a check meant for him and sent it back.  Maybe now, the department has on record his death.  Should we receive another check in his name, I will conclude that the agency is doing a bad job of list cleaning.  I, along with many others, want to see the Trump reign ended once and for all, but I’m not willing to blame him for things he hasn’t done.

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Utility

Internet giants have worked strenuously to avoid being regulated as utilities.  Their argument is that utilities provide essential human services such as electricity, water, sewer.  There is no equivalency on the internet.  I beg to differ.  We lost our internet for a day and a half and it shut down remote work, email, research, shopping, streaming and every other thing we needed or wanted to do.  The internet has become a utility on which hundreds of millions of Americans rely.  It needs some regulation going forward to ensure citizens can accomplish daily tasks.  That doesn’t mean internet providers should be denominated as publishers, a responsibility and potential liability they shun.  It does mean that states and the Federal government should provide for internet for all, particularly for those in rural areas.  The essential value of the service can no longer be denied.  The internet is essential.

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Words Vs. Actions

PR is what you do first and foremost.  Words come later when there is little chance of accusing one of hypocrisy.  That is why this is a cautionary tale.  The Roman Catholic Church for centuries stood on the side of freedom in its words.  It was less so in its actions.  Church institutions kept slaves and were openly discriminatory.  The bishops of America have spoken out strongly for diversity, yet their ranks of Blacks are thin.  This is not only a Church problem.  Large corporations of America have sided strongly with diversity yet there are only three Black CEOs out of 500.  The hard part is always the action, making an ideal practical.  Decades pass with little progress and an impartial observer can conclude that words were never meant in spite of the passion in which they were spoken.  It’s sad that PR is too often spin, buffing the bones of a corpse.  

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PR And The Pandemic

What kind of PR is needed for the public that is starting to deny the pandemic?  The World Health Organization is documenting a rise in cases yet in the US and elsewhere people are refusing to wear masks and have stopped social distancing.  They are tired of the disease and fatalistic.  “If I get it, I’ll deal with it.”  Numerous stories of how dangerous the virus is has not stopped them from going out in public unprotected.  Somehow, the nations affected by this silent rebellion need to change minds, which are made up.  The few who are taking precautions are disgusted with those who are not.  In the US, it has even become politicized.  Liberals wear masks:  Conservatives don’t.  It is a time for the brightest minds in PR to offer solutions.  They are needed.  

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