Archive for February, 2016

Apple: The Devil’s in the Updates

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

apple-devilAs Apple and the FBI tussle over access to information vs. right to privacy on behalf of the tech giant’s customers, I am struck due to recent circumstance by Apple’s often disregard for customer service and preferences. I’m all about: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Apple on the other hand, seems to adhere to the axiom: if it ain’t broke, change it.  Allow me to provide an example.

I love music. I also love to workout. And, the former is, for me, the perfect complement to the latter.  I download songs to my MacBook Air computer and, from there, to my iPhone.  In the past, I have always been able to manage my music much like a radio station.  When I was a music director back in the day, I chose what songs the radio station played and didn’t play, including when to add a song and when to take one or more out of rotation (resting them). Similarly, I have always been able to go to “My Music” on the laptop and check the boxes of the songs I want to synch and then shuffle through on my iPhone (and automatically past those I want to “rest”).

As of this writing, I cannot do this.  I don’t know what the technical problem is exactly – and I am not alone.  My crack IT man can’t figure it out.  Hours spent on the phone with Apple tech advisors and their supervisors and their supervisors’ supervisors have similarly been unable to bear fruit.  And so I scroll and scroll through my entire playlist, half of which are comprised of songs I currently don’t want to hear right now.

What I do know is that Apple has become, proverbially, “too hip for the room.” New  operating programs and upgrades are often necessary to ensure entire systems run most smoothly, I get that.  But continually changing browsers and tools that many of us would prefer to preserve can be nothing but greed (and perhaps Apple programmer boredom).  A nudge to purchase that new phone or software package.  In my case, I’m convinced this about luring me to Apple Music. I’m not biting.

All in all, it is very disappointing and, I feel unnecessary. Apple prides itself on being tech intuitive but has strayed (why do you think there is such a proliferation of ‘do it yourself’ YouTube help videos posted by other tech savvy laypeople)?  Cool gadgetry may keep your programmers and technophiles frothing at the mouth, Apple, but don’t forget the majority of your customers – and true customer service.

In Crisis, The Governor Should Lose His Crutch

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

imagesTo some, this may seem like nitpicking. But when it comes to crisis communications, every word counts, sometimes especially those that are extraneous.

Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder, in the midst of a firestorm, has a lingering problem that’s common and likely correctable. Like many public speakers, he uses a word as a crutch when he’s asked a tough question and his brain needs to buy him a second to come up with an answer. But unlike some speakers who use “uhm,” “uh,” “you know” and the like, Snyder uses the word “again” to answer questions, even in situations when he isn’t repeating himself.

If he’s like most, somewhere along the way, he developed this habit to the point where, now, it happens almost involuntarily. But he’s in a crisis situation where every word he says is being listened to and processed by his audiences differently. By answering questions with “Again…” he can seem irritated, dismissive or fatigued.

Take a look at this interview with WDIV-TV’s investigative reporter Kevin Dietz, which aired in Prime Time in the Detroit market as part of a special report on the Flint Water Crisis. He answers multiple questions this way, as if he’s already answered these questions.

Those advising him probably feel like they have a full plate. But maybe in the car on the way to and from Flint (where he should be spending most of his time), they could work with him on losing his crutch.

Lost and Found

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 8.42.51 PMThis week was one of the toughest of my life from both a personal and business perspective. The timing was almost uncannily ironic as I was recently asked to speak to a young professionals group in the Spring on handling life and professional challenges.

First of all, if problems related to work (or time outside of work) don’t bother you, you might be a sociopath.  If they do, you’re human.  A wise mentor once told me, upon my sharing with him a disappointed client situation, if a particular state of business affairs concerns you, it’s not because you can’t handle it; its because you care.  Move beyond the emotion and you can work toward a resolution.

Away from the office, affairs of the heart can be even tougher, indeed, they are more important in life’s scheme of things.  There, emotion can often not be set aside, a resolving solution harder to come by.  As in work, all you can do is try and give it your all.

Work and home – the two are intrinsically and forever linked.  And what has comforted me most has been the (almost) surprising support of others willing to lend an ear and a pat on the back.  Those who appreciated I had been there for them in the past and now were here for me.

They say you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone. I’d counter its more about appreciating what you have, when it’s found.


Flint Demonstrates ‘He Who Hesitates Is Lost’

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 9.00.42 AMAmidst the ongoing trials and tribulations in Flint comes the latest news that the FBI is now involved, with the EPA and others, in investigating potential criminal aspects of the water crisis. It is yet another reminder how failure to act quickly in an adverse situation can have long-term ramifications.

I am reminded in fact of a recent client who came to us amid pending child pornography charges by state and local law enforcement officials against a youth soccer coach. The case was solid but the state entity wanted the soccer club to wait – perhaps as long as two or three weeks – to notify parents. The reason? The politician in charge needed to clear space on his calendar for a press conference. ’What should we do’ the club/client asked me. ‘Do not hesitate in taking action now,” I answered back.

Parents were immediately notified, as were, in turn the youth soccer players with club leadership available, one-on-one, to answer the questions they could while deferring those they could not to the police.  The coach was immediately fired. As such, the healing could begin and there would never be any question as to who knew what when and whether swift, decisive and correction action was taken.

He who hesitates is lost.  It appears to be at the very core of what went wrong in Flint.  Failure to take seriously the threat.  Failure to consider the health and safety of those you are responsible for. Failure to accept immediate responsibility and take corrective action.  I’m not piling on just underscoring the basic tenets of crisis communications and, in the end – no, at all times – doing the right thing.


In A Crisis, A PR Firm Isn’t A Luxury

Monday, February 1st, 2016

Luxury-chinaAll of a sudden, hiring a PR firm is like buying a Rolex watch or wearing a Louis Vuitton purse or even traveling on a Lear jet. The Flint Water Crisis and uproar after Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s PR mistakes makes it seem like we’re viewed by many as a luxury item.

When there’s a legal crisis, nobody thinks twice when a law firm is hired. When there’s a serious tax issue, of course you bring in the accountants. In a complex real estate deal, there are always brokers and consultants involved. But hire a PR firm in a PR mess and it’s viewed like drinking hand-ground Kona coffee while working behind the counter in a 7-11.

Case in point is a quote from a column in the Detroit Free Press. The columnist argued that the Governor should pay more attention to the financial crisis in the Detroit Public Schools. That’s fine. But here’s some of the language that helped make that case:

“Rather than hire PR professionals, as he did to handle the Flint crisis, the governor might consider hiring someone to temporarily run the Detroit school district and really balance the budget…”

So that’s an either-or proposition? Can’t you hire a competent financial executive and PR counsel? This makes it seem like hiring PR help was somehow out of line.

This reminds me of a crisis I worked on not too long ago. Some on the client side didn’t want me talking to journalists covering their story, even though I had known some of them for many years, because “then they would know a firm was brought in.” So what? Would you complain if you were having service issues somewhere and the company brought in someone who you know personally to help serve you better?

In the case of the Governor, he and his office need the PR help. Their primary staff people have little to no experience on the client side of a crisis. Whether they brought in the right firms or sought help soon enough can certainly be questioned. But bringing in support in times of a crisis shouldn’t be considered an extravagance.

Simply put, no individual, or more importantly, no organization, can successfully withstand a crisis or turn any kind of organization around unless there is a successful communications component. Crisis management and PR are inextricably linked. Few in-house professionals have the experience or perspective to do it alone. So that’s where we should come in.

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune and it should be considered a necessity rather than a luxury.