Wednesday July 28, 2021
 

Been There, Done That

Richard Branson, founder and owner of space tourism company Virgin Galactic, has taken the ultimate PR step of going to space himself.  He has proven his launch system works by riding it and he has beaten Jeff Bezos of Amazon to the punch.  Bezos is slated to mount his rocket later this month.  Both men are opening a bucket list opportunity for those who can afford it — a chance to see the earth from the blackness above it and to float weightless for a few minutes.  Whether their firms are financially viable is still to be determined.  A third billionaire who has no intention of going to space at this time, Elon Musk, is running a highly successful enterprise, SpaceX, that has proven rockets are reusable and launch costs can be more than halved.  Of the three. Musk is in the better position, but that doesn’t take much away from the achievements of the others.  Outer space has come to the masses.  

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Double Down

Elon Musk of Tesla is about to release a beta version of its Full Self Driving software/hardware package and he is hyping it to the public.  Given the accidents and lawsuits facing the company over the deficiencies of the current system, that is doubling down.  Tesla insists a driver is still in charge of the car but the vehicle can do just about everything without driver intervention.  The problem arises when the system is confused and fails to respond to a traffic incident.  Collisions and deaths have resulted.  Why is he leaving the system on the market?  It is arrogance and a belief that Tesla has what it takes to solve the complex problem of self-driving, something Google has yet to do with a far more sophisticated system.  Any way one wants to consider what Musk is doing, it is poor PR. 

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Will He? Won’t He?

President Biden is under situation over the latest ransomware attacks.  He has promised to punish Putin for the deeds of Russian hackers, but what can he do?  There is no easy answer without raising tension between the two nuclear powers.  Putin has been resistant to sanctions imposed by the US.  Biden wants a stable relationship with Putin while recognizing his hostility.  It is a new cold war with much of Putin’s aggression showing online.  Biden has promised an answer to the latest transgression, but the public has yet to hear what it is.  The longer Biden waits, the harder it will be to mount an effective response.  That has started a guessing game.  Will he?  Won’t he?  

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Resistance

The limits of persuasion are amply demonstrated in the COVID vaccination rate.  Despite the President, the national and state heads of disease control, physicians, neighbors, friends, relatives and more, there are still more than 30 percent of the population in the US who are refusing to get the jab.  It’s unexplainable.  Resisters have a variety of reasons but nothing that overcomes the dangers of the virus, especially the new variant which is whipping around the country.  All one can do at this point is to ask why and to hope those coming down with the illness might survive.  At least as a testimony to what hardheadedness can produce.  The President is suggesting that health workers go door to door to root out the unvaccinated and give them the shot.  That might work for some but not for all.  It might be time to give up trying and to let the virus have its way.  That wouldn’t be charitable but it would be justice.  “You chose this path.  Now, live with it.”

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Face Of Disaster

The Miami-Dade mayor is performing an essential but gut-wrenching role — the face of disaster.  She is the one stepping before cameras daily to explain what rescuers are doing on the pile of concrete from the collapsed tower.  She didn’t have to take the job.  She could have left it to a leader of the first responders.  But, she understands that in times of crisis citizens want visible leadership.  It is a fundamental communications role of good leaders — presence in bad times as well as good.  No executive likes the job and some duck to avoid it, but those who do take it on are usually rewarded with elevated reputations and credibility.  The hardest part of her task will be to announce when the mission shifts from search to recovery with the understanding that no one else could remain alive.  She will come in for withering criticism from surviving family members, but that is part of the job too.  

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Change Of Heart?

According to this article, NASA is fighting to save the Hubble space telescope.  If so, it is a change of heart.  NASA publicly wanted to mothball Hubble in favor of a new scope set to be launched soon. If it is fighting hard to save Hubble, it understands the positive PR the scope has produced over the last 30 years.  That PR was an unending series of magnificent images of stars, plants and nebula.  Hubble was an automatic media generator.  When NASA released photos, they ran around the world online and off.  Hubble was a proxy for the space that the space agency is dedicated to explore.  Should the scope be unfixable, it will be a pity.  But, Hubble has done its service in magnificent style and positioned NASA on the leading edge of explorers of the universe.  

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What Can They Do?

The condo board of the collapsed building in Surfside, FL has hired a crisis PR firm.  The reason is to handle hundreds, if not thousands, of media queries and to stick to the facts of the case as they are known for the moment.  The situation in which the board finds itself is not good.  Already, engineers’ reports on the degraded health of the building have come out, and there is little the board or crisis PR firm can do to change the course of the story.  Reports that the board was riven with argument over the projected cost of upgrading the building are understandable.  Few want to pay for maintenance if they don’t have to.  But, the destroyed building is an object lesson for keeping  up repairs.  See what can happen if you don’t.   What can the crisis PR firm do to guide the story?  Little.  The narrative is well out of its control.  

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One Chance

Some organizations and individuals have one chance to get actions and statements right.  If they declare a “mulligan”, they lose credibility, which is hard to win back.  That’s the situation in which the New York Board of Elections finds itself this morning.  It botched the count for the Democratic primary for mayor.  The board included 135,000 test results which were never supposed to be in the final count.  There is no explanation for how it made the mistake but today, politicians and media on all sides are blasting its incompetence.  The board won’t live this down for a long time.  Now it has to remove the faux votes and recalculate rank choice voting.  And, if a candidate should lose but be close to winning, the board will have to go through a second vetting of its results with lawyers hovering on all sides.  No one will believe its final count unless the spread is huge.  That’s a pity in a year when local election authorities nationwide have come under scrutiny by Republicans who claim fraud in the 2020 election.  Their argument will be if it can happen in New York, then why not anywhere else?  

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So Hot

The Pacific Northwest is burning in triple-digit temperatures.  So too, western Canada.  The East Coast of the US is sweltering.  It is evidence that climate change is here to stay.  One would hope climate skeptics understand now that getting rid of CO2 in the atmosphere is not just a good thing to do but necessary.  Yet, some will persist in spinning conspiracy theories for the uncomfortable and dangerous weather.  They are beyond reach.  The communications target for environmental changes is the massive middle of the public.  They know something is wrong with searing heat and drought in places that never used to get it before.  They are ready to listen and to adjust.  This means more windmills, more solar panels, more ways to reduce gas emissions.  It means bending on NIMBY attitudes and more latitude in marketing ways to get the atmosphere under control.  Climate communicators shouldn’t allow this crisis to go to waste. It is an ideal opportunity to move forward. 

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Too Big?

UK regulators are going after Amazon and Google for failing to remove fake product reviews on their sites.  The two companies are working to control the manipulation but it continues to be a headache.  This is a PR crisis for both.  One wonders if Amazon and Google have grown too large to capture fraud.  There are too many thieves, and they are resilient, popping up again and again.  They choose to work on Amazon and Google because they are so big, and it is hard to police such sprawling organizations. It is difficult to monitor each product review uploaded to their sites and to determine its source and provenance.  The two companies are trying but they are fighting an impossible, never-ending battle.  Fraud is part of the human condition, and it will never go away.  If they were smaller, they might do a better job of controlling it.  

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