Tuesday March 9, 2021
 

Fools Rush In

 Retail investors worldwide have pushed the stock price of Gamestop to frothy heights, which can’t be sustained in the long run.  Hedge funds that shorted the stock are taking huge losses. Little guys are bleeding Wall Street insiders.  This is going to end badly, however, and plenty of investors are going to be hurt.  The real questions are how such fads get started and how they are sustained in the face of reality.  This is a case study for communicators who want to reach media targets but do not want to spark a craze of stupid action.  The frenzy apparently started on a Reddit community, r/WallStreetBets, and branched out from there.  Gamestop, if it has any ethical sense, should try to stop the wild speculation before too many get hurt.  It is a time for the company to speak out.  Will it? 

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Will Voters Remember?

 Senate Republicans backed a failed effort to stop the Trump impeachment trial.  Will voters remember that in 2022, or will it be one more action in Congress they forget?  Much of politics has the mantra, “What have you done for me lately?”  Voters care less about political maneuvers and more about their pocketbooks.  Barring Trump from ever again holding office is an issue that can recede from awareness quickly — or so Republicans hope.  The vote did reveal an answer to a potential conviction.  It won’t happen.  Too many Republican Senators aren’t willing to cross the aisle and vote against the ex-President.  They are worried about their constituencies rebelling against them.  Their votes, in other words, are pragmatic and not ethical.  Power trumps morals any day. (Pun intended.)

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Too Conservative

Predictions for ice melting around the globe have been too conservative according to recent studies.  This is directly affecting sea-level rise and putting coastal areas of the globe in danger.  The question one should ask is how to convince the billions of inhabitants on this earth that ice melting is a problem that requires immediate action.  In the US, there are still tens of millions of citizens who deny global warming or think it is of little merit in their everyday lives.  The Biden administration is making it a priority but that is still a feeble attempt to move forward compared to the massive size of the problem.  There needs to be a major and continuous publicity campaign to alert Americans and lobby for change in energy consumption from a carbon-based economy to wind, solar and other forms.  It is unlikely we will get anything like it, and that is unfortunate.   

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The Other Foot

 Trump supporters among the media are now faced with regaining access to the White House briefing room.  The shoe is on the other foot.  They had all the access they wanted a week ago.  The White House Correspondent’s Association and Biden’s press secretary are now the filters for media passes.  While they say they will honor the requests of MAGA media, they are insistent they will not host reporters who spout conspiracy theories and misinformation.  It is a tricky situation because so many of the Trump-oriented media regularly spouted falsehoods and lies, including questioning whether Biden had won the election.  From a public relations perspective, Biden’s communications efforts will not gain credence with correspondents badgering and baiting the spokeswoman at daily press briefings.  There needs to be respect on both sides, and Trump media rarely showed it.  Still, freezing them out won’t work either because it will open the Biden White House to charges of favoritism.  So, the White House will need to let some reporters in and hope they behave — a risky situation — but there is little else they can do.

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Quite A Record

 This video sums Trump’s accomplishments during four years in the White House.  It’s a dismal record but the reporting is biased.  Trump did do some positive things, although it is difficult to remember what they are.  It is safe to say at this time that Trump will go down as our worst President.  That is something since America has had a number of lousy leaders.  Trump failed to wreck completely the US’ standing in the world, but he went a good distance in harming it and Biden will have to work hard to restore trust.  To succeed, Biden will need to be himself — a down-to-earth politician with his fingers on the pulse of citizens.  He can’t afford to get swept up in intrigue and backstabbing that runs below the surface of DC.  He must be above all that and be a figure of unity to all — his stated intention.  Commentators are at odds over whether he can do it.  Only time will tell if his message convinces disaffected citizens.

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Deeds Not Words

 Few expect a grandiloquent speech from President-elect Biden tomorrow.  He is not that kind of person.  But, this opinion piece argues that words mean little anyway.  It’s what Biden does that will make the difference.  And, what he focuses on in his first days needs to be COVID vaccinations and the economy.  This is as it should be.  PR is what you do and less what you say.  If Biden takes action quickly and moves laws through Congress, he will burnish his image with even disaffected voters.  Others can then praise him.  Others with more credibility than Biden alone has.  It was grating to listen to President Trump boasting that he was one of the finest leaders to occupy the White House.  His self-praise highlighted his shortcomings.  If Biden is a doer, then even modest claims for himself will have force.  We need a humble President after four years of turmoil.

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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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