Wednesday March 20, 2019
 

Evil Wins

YouTube is learning that, despite its efforts, evil is winning and destroying the video channel’s reputation.  Major advertisers have left because child pornographers have found a way to penetrate YouTube’s algorithms.  The company has reacted by “terminating more than 400 channels, deleting accounts, and disabling comments on tens of millions of videos.”   But, it is not enough.  YouTube needs to do more, much more and it has to establish that it is a safe place to do business.  The challenge is that those with bad intent will find other ways to get in, and YouTube will need to root them out as soon as they do.  That is a huge challenge.  Humans are ingenious in inventing new means to get around barriers, and they won’t stop trying.  YouTube’s problem is the web’s headache.  It is a reminder that evil exists, and one can never stop fighting it online and elsewhere.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Sorry ‘Bout That

Google committed a technology faux pas by failing to tell customers that its Net Secure Smart Home hub has a microphone built in. People concerned about privacy were unhappy. How could the company forget to mention it in technical specifications?  The company says it was a mistake and was never intended to be a secret.  When it compiled specs, somehow the microphone was not included.  Skeptics are not accepting that explanation.  They are chalking it up to one more intrusion into consumers’ lives.  Congress is on the edge of stepping in with new regulations to protect privacy, and this error doesn’t help.  Google says the microphone is for home security when enabled, which it isn’t.  It could capture the sound of broken glass and movement through rooms.  However, it could also record conversations and intimate details of people’s lives.  Google lost its chance of explaining the presence of a microphone by failing to mention it at the outset.  Now it has a PR problem to resolve.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Fiddling

Sometimes transparency is a curse.  One is naked to the public and criticized constantly for everything.  It would be better to make decisions behind closed doors and to reveal them later.  Consider the Oscars and their ongoing mess.  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been fiddling with the ceremony in a futile effort to keep it three hours in length since it is losing its TV audience.  Every change it has made has provoked roars of outrage.  Even naming an emcee has been a will-he-or-won’t-he exercise.  The Academy has damaged its reputation in the process and there is no guarantee the show will be shorter.  It might have been better off if the ceremony and its categories were left alone.  It has turned into a PR disaster.  But, the show will go on and award recipients will talk too long as usual.  Some will watch: Others will find better things to do.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Know How They Feel

I know how the media feel about PR practitioners who flood them with irrelevant pitches and releases.  Every day I get a dozen or so emails from PR newswire.  I use none of them.  There is one agency that importunes me to interview authors.  I don’t do book reviews or author sit-downs.  Just once, recently, a blogger contacted me about something I had written and suggested a page that makes sense for my blog.  It is here.   Practitioners have been warned ad nauseum to tailor their approaches, to read what the target has written, to make sure the reporter, even if he or she doesn’t do the story, still welcomes the information.  They know better yet they still spam.  I’ve concluded that it will never change.  It is easier to send 500 emails through a distribution service than 10 requiring work.  Practitioners take the easy way out and they give PR a bad name.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Fake Facts

As this article discusses, fake facts are a growing crisis in the digital age, there are more ways than ever to broadcast them.  With the low cost of publishing online, lies spread quickly.  As PR practitioners know, there needs to be fast-twitch response to combat falsehoods, but even that might not be enough.  Who is to say your version is correct and not spin?  How do you verify your own facts to skeptics?  There are few good ways to do it and clever liars vitiate the truth easily.  That is why PR should always put a premium on accuracy.  If one has a reputation for telling the truth without fear, there is credibility with key audiences.  On the other hand, those who don’t know you are still open to believing lies, especially if they have the ring of truth.  Patrolling online media is harder than ever, especially for companies and individuals with a broad consumer recognition.  

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

15-Year PR Success

Opportunity, the Mars rover, was a PR feather in NASA’s cap for 15 years.  Now, it is dead.  It was designed to last three months but it kept going and going and going for 28 miles and dozens of discoveries.  Opportunity proved that a mobile instrument package could survive the harsh environment of another planet.  It is a tribute to scientific engineering and NASA’s leadership in outer space exploration.  It answered the question of how one should build a robot that has to operate far from human control. It takes 10 minutes for messages to reach Mars from earth and the Martian day is not the same length.  The scientists and engineers who monitored its progress for the 15 years were privileged to work with Opportunity.  Now they will move onto other projects, but the history-making robot won’t be forgotten. 

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Recalls

Here is just another recall.  There doesn’t seem to be many PR implications to hauling vehicles back to the repair shop.  Every car company does them: It is a cost of doing business.  But, it makes one wonder what a company could say if it has few to no recalls for an extended period, say 10 years.  One could boast of quality but not too loudly, and it would be dangerous.  There is always a chance of a defect creeping into a truck or car in spite of rigorous testing and vetting.  And, one cannot depend completely on suppliers.  The Takata air bag recall was one of the largest in US history and was responsible for several deaths.  Still, reducing recalls is good business for companies and consumers.  However, It is not something one dare say much about.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Mistakes

This HBR article gives advice on what to do when one makes a mistake.  It reads like a PR text.  One should take responsibility without ducking or blaming, address what needs to be done right now and share what you will do differently next time.  It is transparency and an admission that no one is perfect.  The fear an errant manager has is loss of respect from bosses and subordinates.  There is a chance that one loses the capacity to lead if the mistake was bone-headed enough.  On the other hand, acting with arrogance and denial only makes things worse and will compromise one’s authority.  The best practice is transparency, owning up and moving forward the best one can.  

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

The Power To Block

Over the decades auto manufacturers have tried a number of times to form direct connections with customers.  But auto dealers have blocked them. They are a powerful lobby in statehouses and have used their influence to strengthen their position.  What happens, then, when an auto maker who never has had dealers comes to market?  This is the situation in which Tesla has found itself.  It has always sold direct and is not going to change its position.  The electric auto builder must use the power of persuasion in the face of firm opposition, and it is not easy.  Bills to allow direct sales have failed a number of times. Tesla needs public pressure to back its position and that means a public relations campaign. Most people don’t know or care that they cannot buy direct.  They need to understand the benefits of doing so and be ready to support Tesla when the time comes.  Lobbyist against lobbyist is not enough.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

PR And Gouging

Senator Bernie Sanders is demanding to know why a drug that was once free is now costing patients $375,000 a year.  He has put the pharmaceutical company, Catalyst, on the spot.  The implication is that it is gouging patients for unmerited profit.  There might be good reasons for the stunning increase in price, but Catalyst is in a bad PR position.  Whatever it says will be measured against other drug makers who have relentlessly jacked prices of their medicines.  None are looking good.  Catalyst, to avoid a charge of gouging, needs strong proofs that the cost of making the Firdapse has escalated and the company can no longer afford to make it for free. That is a tall order.  If the senator pursues the case, there will be more bad news.  One wonders if the cost of the drug is worth it.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post