Friday August 12, 2022
 

Pure Publicity

NASA has done it again with a video of a flyby of Jupiter and its largest moon, Ganymede.  The animation of stills is scored to music and includes lightning flashes in the clouds of Jupiter.  It is a beautiful rendition, which humans might never see for themselves given the distance to Jupiter and hazardous conditions of being there.  The scientific value of the video is less than its publicity worth.  It is a reminder to the public once again that NASA is doing extraordinary work in deep space and has the images to prove it.  NASA in its existence has become a master of publicity and public relations.  It has capitalized on its many missions, the space station, the Hubble telescope, rovers on Mars, astronauts and more.  It has built a massive body of scientific research and discovery.  And, because it must fight annually for its budget, it has been a relentless communicator to the public to gain support.  The agency is a credit to America and will go down in history as one of the most successful government organizations ever established.   

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Public Interest Publicity

The US Surgeon General is asking Americans to combat misinformation about COVID shots.  He says errors and lies about the vaccination and virus are a critical danger to citizens. His call is a recognition that health authorities have gone as far as they can to persuade reluctant individuals to get the jab.  Now it is time for personal influentials to step up and deliver the message.  It is disturbing that credibility in health authorities is so low among many Americans.  They won’t listen to their doctors nor to government nor to any expert opinion.  Talk about forcing or penalizing them to get vaccinated have spurred outrage.  “The authoritarian state is infringing on my personal freedom.”  The Surgeon General’s efforts at publicity in the public interest might reach some skeptics but it is unlikely to be many.  Those who resist will only accept the message if they become ill and are hospitalized. 

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Early Obit

This news organization wrote an early obituary for Pope Francis, confidently predicting he won’t last another five years and reciting his achievements and failures in his job.  One must admire the chutzpah if not the accuracy of the article.  The best revenge for the Pope is to outlast the predictions and continue to do his job.  There is little a media relations practitioner can do to stop such articles.  The reporter has the freedom to speculate, and so he has.  It takes patience and serenity to endure and continue on.  A leader should put Monday morning quarterbacking in perspective.  Anyone can be a critic without the pressures of accomplishing anything.  

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No Avoiding The Issue

Sometimes there is no way to duck an issue and communications of intent are forced upon a leader and an organization.  That is what is happening to the Biden administration now with the Cuban demonstrations.  Biden wasn’t ready to deal with the growing hunger and destitution on the island nation.  He left American sanctions in place from the Trump era.  Now he has to decide how to deal with Americans of Cuban descent who want freedom for the island but he has to thread the needle without looking like he is caving to the communist leadership who are blaming Yankee imperialism.  There might be no good answer but a series of postures that look like he is concerned without doing much.  Cubans are a large voting block in South Florida and they are Republican. If Biden says the right things, he might win some Cuban American support in 2022, but that will be hard to do. The Presidency is a stressful job.  

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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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