Monday January 18, 2021
 

Pressure

Investors in social media companies have asked for greater content control in light of the Capitol riot and to reduce the threat of violence during Biden’s inauguration.  This is pressure that can move corporations to take action.  Twitter and Facebook have already banned the President from commenting but investors want to see more prohibitions such as blocking hashtags like #stopthesteal.  Ordinarily such control would be suspect in light of First Amendment rights, but this is no ordinary time. There was violence that directly resulted from speech, and there is “clear and present danger.”  The Capitol has become an isolated island surrounded by fencing and guarded by thousands of soldiers to prevent another insurrection.  This supports the call from investors for a deeper screening of content.  The danger will pass eventually and social media might relax their standards, but for the foreseeable future, close vetting is warranted.   

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Futurism

 Auto manufacturers try to predict the future with concept cars, no matter how rarely they come to production.  It is a silly exercise but for the fact it reaps publicity.  Here is one that is outlandish — a VTOL Cadillac.  It ignores the practicality of transportation, dismisses the need for air regulation to prevent collision and proves no need for such a system.  Yet, here I am writing about it, so General Motors must know something in the publicity realm.  Futurists are rarely correct.  They extrapolate from the present and from developing technologies but they don’t know the path of society and commerce.  That is why futurism is so often wrong.  We don’t know what will happen tomorrow, much less five years from now.  Like some automakers, GM would reap more credible attention if it concentrated on technologies to be introduced in a year or two.  “This feature will be standard in model year X.”  At least it would be believable.  

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“I Can’t Stay Here.”

 That is the message Mick Mulvaney delivered after a mob stormed the capitol yesterday.  Mulvaney, Trump’s former chief of staff, resigned his post as special U.S. envoy to Northern Ireland.  He was not alone.  Other Trump staffers quit at the same time.  Sometimes situations call for extreme action — removing oneself from a position of power because leaders and events have crossed the pale from injurious to evil.  Mulvaney said Trump was a different person from eight months ago.  But was he?  Historians will examine that for decades to come.  His incitement to riot yesterday morning and his lame attempt to call it off later in the day revealed a man out of touch with reality and consumed with self-regard.  He never should have been voted into office.  But millions heard his message and believed him and millions still support his spurious claim that he won the election.  President-elect Biden will have to deal with this during his term and it won’t be easy.  Trump supporters reject facts and reason.  They are beyond calm persuasion and the only barrier is the law executed firmly and rigorously.  Trump deserves jail or an insane asylum for what he sparked.  He is not likely to get either.  That sends a message in itself.  

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Proven

PR uses facts persuasively and avoids spin that bends facts to the point of lies. That is why this is a great PR for SpaceX in an otherwise devastating year of 2020.  The company is firing on all cylinders with a proven business strategy that undercuts the industry’s cost profile by millions of dollars with each launch.  Few thought there could be a reusable booster to lift men and material into space before Elon Musk proved it could be done.  The president and chief operating officer of the company called 2020 a “year of highlights” with one successful launch and return after another.  She is also enthusiastic about the newest rocket, the Starship, which has only reached the upper atmosphere in testing to date.  Her optimism is based on the company’s continuing record of success and solid performance.  It is easy to believe her with the record the company has.  That’s what PR should always be. 

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So Much For 2020

 2020 is at an end.  Good riddance.  It has been a lost year for many, if not most, of the world and 2021 is shaping up to begin the same.  The COVID vaccine rollout has been stalled, as might be expected.  A Republican Senator is set to object to the vote confirming electoral results favoring Biden and Harris. The economy will continue sputtering for months to come.  Still, there is hope since there are now three vaccines and millions of doses on the way.  2021 will turn a corner we could not see in March of 2020.  From a communications and marketing perspective, there is a giant role to play in convincing hundreds of millions worldwide to take a vaccine protecting them against the virus.  This will require leadership and intense persuasion and might also require penalties for those against it — a carrot and stick.  As noted previously, there is another huge role for the media, PR and marketing, which is correcting lies and misinformation prevalent among millions of Americans.  The country needs a semblance of unity.  There will always be a dissident minority but the majority of citizens need to accept facts and base decisions on them.  Here is a hope that 2021 will be a transition year to a brighter future.

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Advice From Friends

 The New York Post, a stalwart supporter of President Trump, has publicly called for him to acknowledge his loss and to move forward.  It’s practical advice and worth listening to.  The unknown is whether Trump will take it.  The President has isolated himself from the public and Congress and spent his time scheming for ways to overturn the vote and electoral college.  Fanciful and treasonous solutions have been aired in the oval office and reported in the media.  They portray a man desperate to avoid the moniker of loser.  He has forsaken his public role as leader and created unnecessary turmoil in DC and the rest of the country.  His vaunted role as a communicator has fallen and he risks losing supporters who stayed with him after his loss in November.  Why would someone go that far in risking his legacy?  One might assign insanity to the situation.  But, dictators have done the same things to maintain their grip on power time and again.  Trump wants to be a dictator, but our democratic system won’t let him do it — not yet, anyway.  

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A Reason For PR

A recent poll revealed that a large percentage of Americans believe conspiracy theories and misinformation.  They cling to stories that support their world views and not the facts.  If there was ever a time for proper public relations, this is it.  The first rule of PR is accuracy, respect for the hard-edged realities of life.  Contrary to popular belief, PR is not spin.  It is persuasion based on facts and not fiction.  Now is a time for practitioners to combat ignorance and willed disbelief.  There is no gain for a country riven by falsehoods.  Spinmeisters who claim to be PR professionals should be ostracized.  Let them say what they want but not in the ranks of PR practitioners.  The task is great enough without truth-twisters within.  A New Year’s resolution should be to start the long, slow process of guiding ill-informed citizens back to reality.  It will take years of effort but there needs to be a start now that Trump, a font of falsehoods, is leaving office.  

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Crisis For Girl Scouts

 Child labor in the palm oil industry has become a crisis for the Girl Scouts.  Palm oil is used in Girl Scout cookies and not all of it comes from plantations with sustainable practices and use of only adult labor.  On the one hand, there are tens of thousands of young women selling cookies in the US.  On the other hand, there are 10-year-olds cutting their hands as they gather the sharp-edged fruit in Indonesia.  The Girl Scouts so far appear to have ducked the issue and pointed inquiries to the cookie producers.  That is a PR faux pas.  The right thing to do is to take public responsibility and work to ameliorate the problem.  Sooner or later, if palm oil remains a hot button, the Girl Scouts will be compelled to act.  By then, it will be too late for their reputation.  The organization is beset with problems these days and might consider palm oil just one more headache to endure.  Probably the largest pain for the nonprofit is the Boy Scouts decision to admit girls to their ranks.  The Girl Scouts have sued the Boy Scouts, and cookies seem to be an after-thought.

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Nearly Impossible Task

 The Russian cyberattack from earlier this year is now being disclosed publicly.  By all accounts, it was devastating to governments and corporations alike.  This highlights a nearly impossible task of protecting networks against sophisticated attackers.  They have numerous doors to systems and more are opening all of the time as software companies update their code.  Attention to security is not enough.  One might not know that a line of instructions accidentally provides an opportunity for hacking.  The bad guys have a head start.  They are constantly probing, testing, devising new assaults on the integrity of systems.  Their attacks are more than PR nightmares.  The assaults threaten the existence of entities themselves.  The US is taking cybersecurity seriously but is still not organized to combat intrusions before they can damage security.  Here is a hope the new administration will take on the task of fighting hackers and limiting their destruction.

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When One Should Speak

 The massive and critical cyberattack on the Federal and state governments is a time when the President should speak out and reassure the public.  President Trump has remained silent.  Instead, he has let cybersecurity agencies and experts sound the alarm and point the finger at a likely culprit — Russia.  There is no good reason for him to remain out of touch.  He speaks out  on the election being a fraud and whatever else interests him.  It is one more failure of leadership, a hallmark of an unhappy four years for the country.  In contrast, Biden has already commented on the invasion of systems and what he plans to do about it.  It is as if Trump has transferred the office to his successor.  Trump’s presidency forms a long-term case study in communications disaster spawned by continuous lies to the public.  It is also a valuable study in perception for the support he maintains in spite of his prevarication.  

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