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I don’t often weigh in on Trump online, because, where does one start? However today, I’m motivated, because in addition to smiling through the assassination of a Washington Post journalist, Trump has lashed out at his former treasured personal lawyer Michael Cohen as nothing but a “PR person who did small legal work.”

Then, of course, he decided to crunch down on the porn star that he had Michael Cohen buy off after he had an affair with her while he was married by decrying her as a “horseface.”

My only comment is that the President of the United States is a very small person; too small to waste any time on, if he hadn’t been raised to such an exalted position by people who are amused by such revelations.

As an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America, and someone who is proud of my lifetime of work building communications bridges between organizations and the public, I am offended by this very small person who is temporarily cluttering up office space in the People’s House.

We live in an era where big business may begin to take a backseat to local enterprise, and that is certainly the case wherever farmer’s markets have arisen, bringing fresh, locally-grown produce to the tables of appreciative cooks. A “locavore” is someone who appreciates and purchases such food. It was the “word of the year” in 2007, yet is still being discovered today. The team of senior college public relations majors who won the 17th Ebeling PR-ize for cause-related communications yesterday at Bradley University beat six other excellent teams to win the award, presented at the Mark Twain hotel near Peoria’s famous waterfront, soon to become the home of the #100 million new Peoria Riverfront Museum and the $37 million Catepillar visitor’s center. The PR-ize program, created by Bradley alumni Chuck Ebeling, challenges student teams to bring together all of the PR skills they have learned in a real, pro-bono joint project for the benefit of a local for-profit and a not-for-profit organization, demonstrating that it is possible to do well and do good in our modern society. The student work is on a par with that of a professional public relations agency or department.

Fortune Magazine has just announced their 2012 Most-Admired Companies list, and McDonald’s ranked in the top 20 (#11), between Southwest Airlines and J&J, and above Disney, GE, American Express and Microsoft. McDonald’s ranked #1 in use of corporate assets, and #2 in management quality, financial soundness and global competitiveness. Of course, they ranked #1 in the food service industry.

Back in the mid-90s, I worked with the editors of Fortune to get McDonald’s considered for these annual rankings of corporate reputation and success..

In his interview with Bob Schaefer of Face the Nation this am, Trump commented on Romney, saying ” Mitt has a great Presidential look, and whether we like it or not, that’s important.”

That’s not only a good demonstration  of Schaefer’s closing observation that the Republican primary debates have been increasingly about the candidates themselves, and not about the issues, but it also says why Donald would make such an appealing candidate himself, if he should run as part of a third-party ticket after the season close of Celebrity Apprentice in May — it’s the hair!

It’s not just the captain of that Italian cruise liner who should be held responsible, but the cruise line itself, and every other passenger cruise line, and the governments who regulate them. The reputations of all have been besmirched.  After all, it’s not just a cruise; it’s a mission for the captain and crew to ply potentially dangerous waters in ships the size of skyscrapers, and protect the safety of all aboard. Crisis prevention and crisis response are more important than the mere entertainment of those aboard.

I call for the review and re-certification of every captain of every cruise ship afloat, along with new, higher standards in training, supervision and discipline for professional navigation staff. This captain abandoned his ship, while there were still hundreds of panicked passengers aboard, and then refused the coast guard’s demands that he go back aboard to direct the evacuation. And I understand he joined the line as a safety officer! What a bad joke. And I hear that it’s not unusual for liner captains to take their craft illegally and inappropriately close to shore to give passengers good views. And I understand the passenger safety drills were not conducted at the beginning of the cruise, as required.

All this points not just to a bad captain, but to bad selection, training, enforcement of regulations and supervision by the cruise lines. These are not just floating hotels, these are vessels on a mission, and their mission is safety first.  There needs to be tighter regulations, better training and supervision and enforcement, or these cruise lines are going out of business. The reputation of the cruise industry has been severely damaged by this and related incidents, and the fight to restore it will be a long and difficult one. And it should be.

I met George Romney not long after the 1987 President’s Volunteer Action Award went to McDonald’s Ronald McDonald House program, a network of homes away from home near children’s hospitals,  to assist families of seriously ill children, and staffed and supported by teams of volunteers. McDonald’s president went to the White House to receive the award from President Reagan and George Romney, founder and chairman of Volunteer, the nation’s leading volunteerism organization, later merged in the Bush’s Points of Light Foundation.

Romney senior scheduled a trip out to McDonald’s headquarters in the fall of 1987, to meet with our president, Ed Rensi, with my boss Dick Starmann and myself to “discuss possible volunteer programs you could build onto your Ronald McDonald presidential award-winning program.” Before Romney’s arrival, and he drove his own car from Detroit to Oak Brook, IL, for the meeting, I briefed Ed on his visitor. Romney was a long-standing McDonald’s fan, and company founder Ray Kroc had personally presented him with “a gold McDonald’s pass for free product” many years before. In the interim, Romney had become chairman of American Motors, Governor of Michigan, and then Secretary of Housing and urban Development under Nixon.

Over lunch at the McDonald’s Lodge, Romney assured Rensi, ” when you build a corporate public image, you help build sales.” McDonald’s discussed creating special restaurant tray liners for National Volunteer Week, the following April, as well as other supporting activities.

Romney, once a Presidential contender himself, had lost momentum to Nixon when after a briefing trip to Vietnam, he alluded to the “brainwashing” he’d received from the generals, and disavowed the war. Romney had been one of the first to resign the Nixon cabinet and distance himself from the emerging Watergate scandal.

When we met him, he was 80 years old, “but walks 8 to 12 miles a day and looks 25 years younger,” I reflected in my briefing memo. Few alive remember that in World War II, Romney was the chief spokesperson for the U.S. auto industry. Just yesterday, Mitt Romney‘s older brother recalled that Mitt was known as a boy for his amazing ability to make realistic auto sounds. With his  automotive history, no wonder George was a fan of McDonald’s drive-in restaurants.

I saw on a Morning Joe crawl this AM that Toyota reported a nearly 7% sales decline in the U.S. for last year, attributing it to a parts shortages out of Japan and Thailand due to the earthquake and tsunami and flooding. Could it be that the real catastrophe for Toyota was the combination of erosion of their own quality reputation due to the U.S. recalls earlier in the year, together with a resurgence of competitiveness by the U.S. auto industry, which reported double-digit gains for the year? Toyota is still a great auto company, but they are now playing on a much more level field in the U.S. than for many years. It’s not so much that their reputation has been eroded, at least not permanently, just as they will recover from the weather troubles in Asia. But the reputation of the U.S. auto industry for style, engineering and quality has been restored. My personal cars for almost 50 years were foreign built — now we drive two GM vehicles, and we love these cars.

Here’s the sales story:

With just over 3% women represented in the Fortune 500 CEO ranks, even in 2011, the issue of the “glass ceiling” and the need for female empowerment remains as strong as ever. This fall, a Bradley University public relations student team calling itself Inner Voice Public Relations took on the challenge of bringing new resources and focus to the issue, bringing together a local counseling company and girls of Peoria Heights High School in a dynamic training program they created, they named “Dare to Be.”

The pro-bono “Dare to Be” team became the 16th group of award recipients of the Ebeling PR-ize for cause-related communications at Bradley. The winning team consisted of Jamie Herring of Metamora, IL , Emily Bowe of Cicero, New York, and intriguingly, a male member, Shane Snyder of Edwards, IL. All were graduating seniors in the capstone PR program directed by Dr. Ron Koperski of  Bradley’s Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts. The winning team was feted at an awards luncheon hosted by the program creator/sponsor, Charles Ebeling, a 1966 Bradley journalism grad, and the winners each received a letter of commendation and a cash prize. Each semester at Bradley, student “agencies” select a local business and a local not-for-profit and team them in a professional cause-related communications program they create and implement, seeking real, measurable  public relations results.

Ebeling supports a similar Ebeling PR-ize program recognizing achievement in cause-related communications he created at Loyola University Chicago.

My major essay titled “Acceleration” tells the inside story of Toyota’s early acceleration and growth in the U.S. market, from the 50s through the 70s. Learn why and how Toyota was accepted by Americans as an alternative to U.S.-built cars. The U.S. auto industry has now learned how to be competitive at home, and is doing better and better all the time, while established offshore brands like Toyota are often now built here, or offer features, design and value that appeals to American tastes.

Read my essay at:–%20Acceleration.htm

CEO’s and others in positions of power can take a cautionary lesson on the potential ultimate transparency of their management practices, especially if those practices are perceived as extreme, from this new article in Fortune Magazine — — that tells an insider story of the rapid rise and fall of Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler, who was also an ex-McDonald’s executive to whom I once reported.

March 2023

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