What We’re Reading – May 2021


What We’re Reading is a monthly roundup of current news, commentary, challenges and trends that impact our industry as well as those of our clients. From how businesses are responding to the CDC’s updated mask guidance to navigating new hybrid work models to the global state of media relations, here’s a look at the news that stood out to our team in May: 


These Companies Are Dropping Their Mask Mandate: Target, Home Depot, CVS And More – Jack Brewster, Forbes

“Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Costco, Home Depot and more major retail companies capitalized on the CDC’s abrupt announcement that masks are not mandated for vaccinated individuals indoors or outdoors. 

Such announcements test companies to be agile and nimble to react to current events and news cycles that impact their businesses. If companies in sectors that depend on in-person foot traffic fail to quickly clarify and respond to such news cycles, it puts them behind their competitors, keeps their own employees guessing as to what the internal policies are and creates confusion with customers. 

Companies such as Trader Joe’s and Walmart that quickly reacted to the CDC announcement and issued their revamped mask policies received significant media coverage and captured the opportunity to clearly communicate and welcome back their customers without masks for the first time in over a year. 

This is another lesson on how failing to communicate quickly leads to bigger problems and missed opportunities for companies. Our own colleague Brendan Griffith was recently featured in Forbes outlining steps companies should take in reacting to the CDC mandate–take a look here.” – Michael Grimm


Scoop: TikTok launching jobs service for Gen Z – Sara Fischer, Axios

“The announcement of TikTok’s new recruitment service couldn’t have come at a better time as the U.S. job market comes roaring back and companies across industries seek to fill open positions. Digital channels are absolutely essential to an organization’s recruitment strategy, so it’ll be interesting to follow the rollout of this new offering and its ultimate effectiveness in engaging and recruiting Gen Z talent. If proven to be an effective and popular recruitment tool, I’ll be equally interested to see how TikTok’s user demographics might expand beyond Gen Z to include older generations.” – Paige Borgman

3 Tips for Managing Your Business’ Reputation Via Social Media – Lucas Miller, Entrepreneur 

“Since its inception, social media has been disrupting and innovating the way businesses operate and maintain their reputations. It’s extremely important for businesses to have a pulse on the conversations taking place on social media. Many times, information or news that may be detrimental to a business has come to light or been perpetuated through social media platforms. Understanding how to use and monitor social media to enhance business and reputation is key, especially as it is only growing in prominence.” – Natalie Wanner


In the wake of COVID-19, employers must embrace a work-to-live culture – Stephanie Gray, Ragan

“There are no shortage of articles out there touching on return to work, the impact of COVID on the workplace, what employers/employers want, etc. More than ever for employers, culture will define their companies and the talent they are able to retain and attract. The aspect that will be interesting to watch is if employers can positively change in the ways outlined in this piece. It is easy to revert back to old habits once things normalize, but that doesn’t seem to be what employees are after.” – Brendan Griffith

Amazon Work Rules Govern Tweets, Body Odor of Contract Drivers – Josh Eidelson and Matt Day, Bloomberg

“Amazon continues to fascinate, as they are one of the largest and most successful companies in the world – and a bellwether for countless others. I just gave a speech about employment practices drawing a company into the public spotlight, and here is yet another great example.  This time, though, it also brings up an issue important to every company with a franchise model. How do you enforce company standards with franchisees without making yourself the employer from a legal standpoint?  It’s a very fine line to be sure.” – Nick Kalm


The chief diversity officer hiring frenzy – Erica Pandey, Axios

“The push from businesses in recent years to improve diversity, equity and inclusion efforts (and to appoint executives who will shepherd those efforts) is a great step in the right direction. However, there’s still a long way to go before DE&I is fully engrained into the collective corporate culture of the U.S. I thought this article did a great job detailing how businesses are moving forward appropriately while also outlining where they’re missing the mark. Executives and leaders focused on DE&I must be granted the same level of access as the rest of the C-suite and they should be empowered to examine every aspect of the business in order to effectively to their jobs. Not doing so is an easy way for companies to open themselves up to significant reputational challenges and can make them a less attractive option for prospective employees.” – RJ Bruce

Disney Launches Onyx Collective for Creators of Color, Underrepresented Creatives – Katie Kilkenny, The Hollywood Reporter

“Disney is launching a new content brand, Onyx Collective, that will allow them to partner with creators of color and those underrepresented in the entertainment industry. When it comes to streaming platforms, Disney is the first to announce a long-term initiative dedicated to diversity, and they’re calling on others to focus on DE&I efforts, too. I’m curious to see how this sets a precedent in the industry, and if, or what, streaming platforms will adopt similar initiatives.” – Haley Hartmann


2021 Global State of the Media Report – Cision

“I found this year’s Cision Global State of the Media report an especially helpful reminder of the impact a year of “unprecedented” and “new normal” has had on journalism. In our roles as PR professionals, it is continuously important to remember that we, at our best, truly are partners to journalists. To be successful with our clients, we also must understand what our partners in the media are dealing with and looking for. Here are a few key metrics I found notable this year:

Media are stretched thin: Half of journalists (47%) cover five or more beats at a time, and nearly the same amount (44.6%) file seven or more stories per week

Time your pitches right: The majority (60.4%) of journalists prefer to receive pitches on Mondays

Think about multi-media: Nearly 82% of journalists included images with their stories in the past year (almost 45% included video, as well)” – Frances Fyten


Apple’s AirTags Are a Gift to Stalkers – Albert Fox Cahn and Eva Galperin, Wired 

“Apple is no stranger to weird or bad press, but this seems to be on another level. This article makes the case that AirTags, One of Apple’s newest products, can be used by stalkers to spy on their victims. They are about the size of a quarter and act as a tracking device. The implications are obvious- attach them to your keys or backpack to keep them from getting lost. Or, put on in the jacket of a girl you like and keep up with her every move. Since studies show that over one million people face the threat of stalking every year, this isn’t the type of bad press Apple can just brush off. It will be interesting to see how they handle this over the coming year.” –

Colonial Pipeline CEO Tells Why He Paid Hackers a $4.4 Million Ransom Collin Eaton and Dustin Volz, The Wall Street Journal

“It is unusual that you hear if/when a company pays the ransom after it has been the victim of a cyber-attack, and even more rare for the CEO to provide as much information and rationale as Colonial Pipeline’s CEO has following the attack that shut down their pipeline system. I give a lot of credit to their team for the level of transparency and detail Colonial has shared in their communications. It has set the company up to quickly repair any reputational damage it was facing, build a stronger position with its stakeholders and position the company and CEO as thought leaders on issues related to cyber security and critical infrastructure.” – Andrew Moyer