Sunday, November 25, 2007

Enron: A house of cards over a swimming pool of fire

There was a reason I wasn't a business major- economics bore the hypothetical socks (I don't like wearing socks) off me. Seriously, I don't understand it and I really don't want to, and I'm okay with that.
But Enron... they make me curious. It takes smart people to fool the world. And the sad thing is- Enron really was an innovator in the market. No one had ever thought to sell energy, but they did- marking the beginning of the end.
What I perceive their first major flaw was, was the type of accounting they managed. Again, my economics knowledge is slim, but the accounting was completely unethical. Forming a business on an unethical accounting practice is a recipe for disaster.
Transparency really is important- thank you Enron for pointing that out.

My Mock Letter

This may be a tad late, but I've still been thinking about what a letter from Steve Jobs should have been like. And since we can't oust Jobs again (or at least I can't- yet), this would have to be a hefty imaginative piece.
And I don't want to get into Mr. Job's head.
Therefore, there are some criteria that should be included in every apology letter.
1. An apology, seems simple- but might be easily overlooked.
2. A plan of action.
3. A reason for the apology.
4. A dedication to the customers.
5. Another apology- this really is the crux of the matter.

Therefore, I would like to extend an invitation to Mr. Jobs to ask me to write his next apology letter. I will be graduating in December with a major in Journalism with a focus in Public Relations and a minor in English. Just let me know Steve. I need a job.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Glengarry Glen Ross

In a corrupt world of sales in the mid80's it’s not surprising to find a room full of masochistic men. It’s also not surprising that these men are immoral and shady characters. They represent the underbelly of the financially insecure.

Consider Roma who uses his persuasive gift of talk to find the weakness in unsuspecting "victims" like Lingk. He scratches at the sores he creates with his words and traps them in a fantasy world that's worthless.

There is Levene who begins the play with his whining and bribery of Williamson, the office manager. Levene begins the play in this manner and ends the play in the same manner after Williamson realized Levene stole the leads. Through Levene the pathetic nature of these salesmen are fully realized.

Ultimately, I feel these men are not immoral. They are however stuck in a world that won't let them be moral. They have allowed themselves to be dragged in through whatever circumstance. For Levene it was to provide for his family- most notably his daughter who he mentions a couple times in the play. He gets caught in the trap that is sales and leads. They all get caught in that trap and can’t get out.

On the flip side, marketing and sales lends itself to the unethical nature seen in the play. In stark contrast to the transparency practiced in public relations, this particular style of sales (I so hate to group all of sales here) is so remarkably opposite. They have no rules. Only a sad contest that pits one salesman against another.

The invisible characters, Mitch and Murray, perpetuate the unethical practices that cause such great strife. Even Graff who is thought to be more ethical by the other workers accepts the stolen leads.

Unethical practices trickle down the corporate ladder. If the bosses aren’t ethical, no one else could be expected to be. Ethical businesses are created on sound business practices. None of which could be found in this compelling play.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Quick! Run From the Crises!

In thinking about our topic of kairos, or timing of response to crises, I thought of Tylenol- a company who had the best timing in a PR crises ever. And Perrier- who did a terrible job. Let's think...

When a crisis erupts, a company must spring into action to save their tarnishing image. Rash planning becomes imperative to save not only a company but also often human lives. Often a general model can be established for hypothetical problems and concurring media relations. Many companies find themselves stumbling, such as the recent Merck and Vioxx legalities and the established Source Perrier catastrophe. Occasionally a company can barrel through the time of difficulty and come out stronger, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Tylenol.
In what is often considered one of the best handlings of a public relations crisis, Tylenol encountered problems in 1982 when seven people died in the Chicago area. These deaths, while at first appearing obscure and unrelated, resulted from Tylenol laced with 10,000 times the lethal dose of cyanide. As soon as suspicion turned towards the painkillers, announcements were made to avoid all Tylenol products, and the company had to act quickly to save themselves.

The company’s first objective was to handle the crisis, and their second was to handle the subsequent image problems. This ranking was of ultimate importance when their reliability was questioned. An immediate halt was put to all advertising and a nationwide recall of 31 million bottles of Tylenol, with a retail value of more than 100 million dollars, was implemented. Johnson & Johnson in a humanitarian attempt to find the killer issued a reward of $100,000. Finally, as outreach and psychological comfort, the company offered to exchange all Tylenol capsules that had already been purchased for Tylenol tablets.

In a five-pronged attack, Tylenol approached their social comeback. Like a determined debutante, Tylenol was introduced back into the market in tamper-proofed bottles. Coupons and discounts were coupled with a totally revamped advertising campaign. Direct, personal promotional presentations were also made to reassure the medical community of the safety of Tylenol.

In direct contrast with the brilliantly handled Tylenol case, Source Perrier, the lead importer of bottled water, also dealt with a crisis when traces of benzene were found in the water. Benzene is a poisonous liquid shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals, although the traces were not in lethal amounts. The company hesitated in issuing a recall and limited the first recall to North America. After Dutch and Danish officials discovered results of benzene in Perrier, the recall became worldwide.

Source Perrier was discredited worldwide in large part because the company’s explanation for the recall kept changing. After traces of benzene were found in Perrier bottles in other parts of the world, company officials altered their original explanation. Meanwhile, Perrier still insisted that its famous spring in Vergeze, France was unpolluted. These inconsistent statements further raised consumers’ suspicions, and created an image of disregard for public safety.

Source Perrier and Merck have handled their problems by putting the company first in the crises, not the individuals directly affected. Source Perrier never managed to rise again to its climax of 1989, and Merck has a shaky future ahead. Tylenol approached the tragedy with visible empathy and managed to persevere by regaining strength and ensuring longevity.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

My Morals

Per the following link, on questions of morality and where they stem from, I followed another link to find out my own morality profile.

I have realized that I am neither a liberal or a conservative. Yet, I did identify more with liberals in that I placed more importance on harm and fairness, rather than authority, purity or loyalty. Apparently I am not loyal. And I feel as if the test I took does not take other political viewpoints in mind. I am loyal to things that deserve loyalty. Yet, everything has the option of breaking that loyalty. What if organization A has my loyalty- I'll be there biggest fan. Yet, I find out that organization A has been doing immoral things, BAM, loyalty gone.

I think most people would be act in a similar manner. At least I suppose most would. And if they wouldn't, I would only suppose the person who remained loyal had been brainwashed and was not as strong as I was.

I have always been chastised for my lack of loyalty. And the simplicity of the matter is that I am loyal, but I don't see the need for it. I trust that most will act out in a disappointing manner. I'd rather be surprised by a positive action, than continually expect one and thus be constantly disappointed. I'm a realist and I don't think I have room for realism and loyalty.

Is this wrong? Am I being disloyal to myself?

Monday, September 17, 2007

The juxtaposition of life

A good friend of mine recently packed her bags and headed to Senegal with the Peace Corps. She will be assisting with small business development while seeing a new part of the world. While my intentions here are not to delve into her personal reasons, I find the Peace Corps an interesting organization. Rather I find the motivations for joining interesting.
I find myself talking about the atrocities in the world, then going back home and taking a nap (my personal greatest luxury in life) while watching TV. We sit in class and talk about cosmopolitanism, but who can really practice it? Anyone can think about things, but few people will do anything. But, do we have to help everyone we can? And when we help, should we run off to Africa and hug the little children? Is that what proves that we act upon our beliefs? Or is giving that extra change to the Salvation Army outside the mall enough?
Sadly, I don’t have the answers. I do however think it’s not enough just to talk and think. Something has to happen. Yet, not everyone has the capacity to drop 2 years and go to Africa. Does that make them bad people? Or are the people who run off to Africa the ones yelling “look at me doing good things for humanity” the bad ones? How do we do a good deed?
I find honesty a good place to start. Honesty is not going to sign your check book and pack your bags, but it will keep the ego in check. It seems that we know what we ought to do for humanity. And when we do help out, we want everyone to know. I think our honesty can help us not blow thing out of proportions.
Although, I’m still at a loss of how to assess the worlds problems while enjoying my particular luxuries. Does this conflict with cosmopolitanism? I think it does, but I can not seem to find a comfortable resting place between these two ideals.
Maybe that’s the crux- we aren’t supposed to find a comfortable place. We are supposed to constantly be uncomfortable by the terrors of the world and our place in it.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Does everybody matter? What about people within corporate America’s supply chains?

In our society, realistically, everyone does not matter. More specifically, in Western society only those who vote count, or rather those who vote on the right side matter. So, in a rough approximation (based on my cursory knowledge that roughly 50% of Americans vote and then 50% of that elect) 25% of Americans have a voice. So, no everyone does not matter.

Random Question Time
Was slavery right?

Random Question Answer
No. At least I hope that is your answer. But yet, slavery happened anyways.

So, how do we take this all in? We move on determined not repeat our mistakes. And to do this we must remember that just because something happened, or is happening, that doesn’t make it right. Everybody matters; everyone everywhere.

Immanuel Kant said “Do what is right, though the world may perish.” Kant was a very smart man. One who realized that every man has an intrinsic value that ought to be recognized. In this sense, to me, Kant was the ultimate in cosmopolitanism. The right thing to do might wreck society or wreck a business- but honestly what sort of business or world is it that a dose of morality would crumble it? Is that really something you would want to be a part of? I don’t.

But how do we get out of this world and into the ideal one I have imagined where all are equal? I don’t think we can, realistically. But we can slowly stand up for what we believe, in fair pay and fair commerce and the sort. And maybe, just maybe, we can slowly change the minds of those who the 25% elected.