Sunday February 5, 2023
 

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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PR And Skin Tones

 Google is pursuing good PR by searching for a better distinction of skin tones.  

At issue is a six-color scale known as Fitzpatrick Skin Type (FST), which dermatologists have used since the 1970s. Tech companies now rely on it to categorize people and measure whether products such as facial recognition systems or smartwatch heart-rate sensors perform equally well across skin tones.”

The measure has been known to be inadequate for people of color for a long time.  Yet, it persists because no one has developed a better alternative.  Should Google succeed, it will add a more equitable gauge to medical and social practices.  What could be better than that?  

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Forcing The Issue

The National Football League is forcing the vaccination issue with its players through an onerous set of restrictions for those who don’t get the jab.  It is an example of negative persuasion and it is intended to ostracize those who haven’t complied with COVID rules.  Some players are complaining already.  It is hard to feel sorry for them.  They are jeopardizing the health of others by failing to get vaccinated and are selfish.  The NFL is on good PR ground with what it is doing and should be commended for its rules.  

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Bully

It is hard to maintain good public relations when acting a bully.   That is the situation facing China as it sent 28 planes into Taiwanese air space then issued a warning to other nations to stay out of its internal affairs.  China considers Taiwan its possession and is intent on taking over the island.  It doesn’t care what the Taiwanese think, and they are not in favor of joining the mainland.  China’s aggressive moves have put the world on alert about its power and devil-may-care attitude.  Some day, China might move to invade Taiwan and that will force a choice on governments whether to let it happen or to provide assistance.  For now, playing a bully is all China seems prepared to do.  But that is enough.   

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Deputized

President Biden is sending his cabinet members throughout the US to sell his ambitious and costly agenda.  That is smart communications but is it enough?  The public wants to hear from the top with reassurance that proposed laws will help and not plunge the country into inflation and overwhelming debt.  Cabinet members are vital to the political process but the President is essential.  With Biden away in Europe, the media’s focus has shifted across the pond for the time being.  While re-engaging with allies is essential after the Trump era, it is a task that doesn’t move his domestic plans forward.  The President is being yanked in different directions at the same time at the cost of focus.  It’s a reminder that the leader of the free world doesn’t have the luxury of completing one task at a time.   

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