Wikipedia is tightening its rules for editing entries into the encyclopedia — as if they weren’t rigorous already. Now anyone who is paid to edit an entry must disclose that fact. This is to discourage phantom hacks from adding material that buffs the image of a person or organization. Full disclosure. I’m one of those hacks. I’ve added an entry on behalf of a client, but I told the editors I was doing so. I’m almost sorry I did. It was a two-month fight with them to allow the entry to stay. I learned the hard way that one must footnote everything against secondary sources, preferably newspapers and magazines. Only after I put 10 footnotes next to the name of the individual who was profiled did they let me keep the entry without further acrimony. I appreciate the rigor, but it seemed excessive then — and now. When Wikipedia started, it trumpeted the fact that anyone could edit entries. I wrote then in this blog that it wouldn’t be successful without editors who controlled the flow of material into the system. That is exactly what happened, although the editors are volunteer. I’m proud that I was finally able to scale the Wikipedia mountain but it took 35 footnotes for just nine short paragraphs.
Yet another US company is seeking to change its tax status by moving its headquarters out of the country. This time it is Medtronic, the medical device maker. It wants to shift its corporate headquarters to Ireland where its potential acquisition is domiciled and taxes are much less. There isn’t much the US government can do. Corporations are not patriotic entities. They are businesses with interests around the globe, and they can move where they wish when they wish. One can attempt to besmirch a company’s reputation for leaving a locale, but it rarely stops the company from doing so. Politicians need to remember this when they diddle with tax structure and seek to raise more money for the government. With global communications systems and fast travel, corporations are more mobile than at any time in history. Their public relations are not community-bound but worldwide. That is as it should be. The era of state-identified companies is largely done, China notwithstanding.
Everyone wants Congress to forge a consensus and move forward, but it remains divided. As this poll shows, the country is as split as Washington DC. Division in Congress is a reflection of diverging views of citizens. This presages a long-term split. It also raises the question of the kind of communicator needed to find a common ground. Where is a Democrat or Republican who can successfully find a middle that doesn’t lose both ends of the spectrum? This leadership is rare and often, is a product of the times. We might not be in an era when there is pressure on Congress to do something. There are too many voices, too many interests, too many conflicting issues. How does one navigate through the cacophony without alienating large segments of voters? It seems Obama hasn’t succeeded, but then could anyone? Perhaps there is a leader in the ranks who can assume the mantle of the presidency and move the country in a direction it needs. We’re about to find out, but the greater likelihood is bitter campaigning, name calling and trash talking — in other words, anti-PR and a hell of spin.
What do you do when your business sets off massive protests? This is the PR black hole in which the transportation provider, Uber, finds itself. It does little good to make peace with London cabbies. They have one goal and one only — get rid of the company on city streets. There can be no peaceful coexistence. This is frequently the fate of business disrupters who bring a whole new way of operating to hidebound segments of the marketplace. Uber has to work to see that it isn’t shut out because of regulation then it needs to advance bravely in the face of opposition. It won’t be easy. London cab drivers must pass a stringent exam before they are allowed on City streets. They have to memorize the “knowledge” — every street in the city, which is cut up in myriads of ways. Uber threatens that, especially if anyone suddenly can become a driver for hire with GPS on the dashboard. There are some things PR can’t do, and this is one. Mortal enemies are only conquered through force.
It seemed like a good idea — team with the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and provide free memory tests to anyone worried about contracting the disease. It is, but someone at Rite Aid Corp forgot to include the medical establishment, which doesn’t like the idea at all. Doctors are saying the exam doesn’t work well when conducted by non-professionals, and it is needlessly scaring people. So, who is right? It makes no difference because any PR boost to reputation has been covered by a cloud of controversy. The medical establishment might be self-interested and wants to hold on to the testing, but it carries the weight in the argument. This is a reminder that in any issue, there are numerous constituents who should be included in decision-making and implementation. PR practitioners know that, but someone made the decision to go ahead either without informing doctors or in the face of their opposition. It is understandable that a physician doesn’t want a waiting room clogged with nervous individuals who fear they are losing their memories. Doctors have enough work already. One wonders what Rite Aid should have done before launching the program — perhaps getting the support of a coalition of doctors first.
The Veteran’s Administration can say nothing right now to alleviate its problems. The only proper PR is for the VA to shrink waiting lists and to provide promised service. However, to do that, it needs more doctors, nurses and technicians to handle veterans’ needs. That is assuming these professionals are available. All this, of course, costs. It can never be said too often: PR is what you do and not what you say. Once you have done, you can take credit for having accomplished something of value to the relationship between the organization and its constituents. The VA appears hunkered at the moment, and probably that is best. It is behind by 57,000 appointments. It needs to make up ground. What the VA can do is to announce steps it is taking and progress it is making, but before it gets there, it needs to understand the dimensions of the shortfall. That might not be easy to do given the abuse of the scheduling system.
If you are a Republican, how do you recruit racial and ethnic minorities? It’s a tough assignment measured in ones and twos and not groups of voters switching party allegiance. It requires the recruiter to ask fellow minorities to forget the Party’s traditional aversion to blacks and immigrants. What is the argument that Republicans can make and what PR steps should they be taking to show that they are ready to accommodate everyone under a big tent? For one, the House can pass an immigration bill to signal that it is serious this time about minority votes. The chances of that, however, grow slimmer by the week in which there is no action. So, what can a recruiter say other than we need your vote to change the Party’s attitudes? Join now and be part of the transformation. That isn’t much of an inducement. Democrats, on the other hand, could get themselves into trouble if they assume they have the minority vote, and they don’t work hard to keep it. While a member of a minority group might not become a Republican, he could become an independent lost to both parties.