What We’re Reading – April 2024


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 Foxtrot and Dom’s abrupt store closures to TikTok being the new Google, here’s a look at what stood out to our team in April. 

Crisis Communications 

Foxtrot and Dom’s specialty food stores abruptly close in Chicago – Carrie Shepherd and Monica Eng, Axios Chicago 

“No one wants to think about their business shutting down. However, for communicators, preparing for the worst is an important responsibility. Without a plan in place, you could end up in the same boat as these two Chicago businesses, with employees, customers, and the public learning about the closures through rumors, hastily thrown together meetings, or by being kicked out of a store in the middle of their shopping. If a shutdown is imminent, it’s important for leaders to work closely with their communications partners so the news is disseminated in an organized fashion and as many questions are answered as possible, so employees, customers and other key audiences feel at least somewhat reassured in an otherwise chaotic situation.” – RJ Bruce    

Reputation Management 

Inside Amazon’s Secret Operation to Gather Intel on Rivals – Dana Mattioli and Sarah Nassauer, The Wall Street Journal 

 “It’s good to know your competition’s strengths and weaknesses, but Amazon is taking it to a whole other level.  What makes this elaborate scheme so odd is the fact that Amazon is unquestionably more successful than almost all of its rivals. This move screams of weakness.  In addition to the legal risks, which the article mentions, an even bigger risk for the company is the fact that these actions will make it harder for Amazon to claim it isn’t unfairly dominating certain markets or should be trusted on just about any issue.” –  Nick Kalm 

Why Corporate America is keeping quiet on abortion – Allison Morrow, CNN 

“There is a very real statement fatigue right now both for brands and their customers. After several years of sky-high expectations for every company having a public position on nearly every topic the inevitable correction has come swiftly. However, communicators should take caution not to allow their organization to overcorrect. The key is to find the more targeted – and importantly relevant to the brand, its stakeholders and its work – set of circumstances where an organization has a reason to comment and has a compelling point of view. This shouldn’t lower the amount of preparedness undertaken to be ready for the next potential topic of the day, but it should lower the frequency of relevant moments to weigh in.” – Andrew Moyer 

Detroit’s Renaissance: Rebranding a Reputation Nicole Schuman, PR News 

“As a Michigan native, I’ve often found myself defending Detroit against those who still believe in outdated stereotypes. Yet, over the past few years, the city has experienced a remarkable transformation, thanks to a focused public relations effort. Detroit is thriving now, and this week’s NFL Draft is just one example of its resurgence. Through collaborative efforts between public relations agencies and city officials, Detroit’s story has been retold to national media outlets, highlighting the city’s achievements and showcasing its award-winning venues. This coordinated public relations campaign has helped reshape the city’s reputation, demonstrating how effective storytelling and strategic partnerships can make a once-neglected city an attractive destination again.” – Kellie Clock 

Public Relations 

Taylor Swift Has Given Fans a Lot. Is It Finally Too Much? – Matt Stevens and Shivani Gonzalez, The New York Times  

 “Taylor Swift has shared many of the inspirations for her recent album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” though Shakespeare – who penned that “brevity is the soul of wit” – is clearly not one. Recent critiques of the prolific artist’s latest and rather lengthy album should strike a chord with communications professionals who often grapple with quality versus quantity of content. The proof may be in the streams for Swift as pointed out in this New York Times article, but for communicators it’s an important reminder to be diligent and purposeful with the content we put out for our audiences. That said, I can commend Swift and her team on the robust, market-specific album promotions that drew crowds, social media content and media coverage to drum up attention for the album’s debut.” – Kristin Monroe   

These US Cities Benefited Most From Solar Eclipse Tourism – Andre Tartar, Bloomberg 

“While the total solar eclipse crossed over the United States for only a couple of minutes, it created buzz for weeks leading up to the eclipse, and for the days following. Furthermore, cities that fell within the path of totality capitalized on tourism opportunities; cities like Syracuse, New York saw a 28% year-over-year increase in spending at hotels and restaurants. This goes to show how these moments can generate not only significant cultural buzz but create real economic impact for cities and communities to leverage their unique value proposition.” – Catherine McCoy 

Employee Communications 

‘I wasn’t built to work 9 to 5 every single day’: These Gen Z bosses introduced slump hour, siestas, chilled one-to-ones, and flattened structures because they’re tired of formal corporate customs – Eleanor Pringle, Fortune 

“As a former tenured professor (re)turned PR Agency executive, the subject of evolving workforce skills and practices fascinates me. This article that included insights from Gloria Mark’s new book, ‘Attention Span: A Groundbreaking Way to Restore Balance, Happiness and Productivity’ highlighted a very telling point that all communications professionals should note: in 2004, humans could focus on a screen for an average of 2.5 minutes. Years later, it dropped to 75 seconds. And now, it’s 47 seconds. So…. Is anyone still there? Buehler?”  – Anne Marie Mitchell 

9 Gen Z work trends that aren’t new but hit different now – Leila Frankina, Fast Company  

“As a Gen Z employee, I find the fascination around Gen Z and the future of work intriguing. Not only because of the sheer volume of coverage but often because of the variety of content being shared. Some of the terms in this article, such as “productivity theater” and “bare minimum Mondays,” are completely foreign to me. It leads me to ask why there are so many terms: are young employees looking to label these feelings to help validate their experience? Is it to connect with their (slightly) older counterparts? Or is it to simply just go viral?” – Grace DuFour 

Marketing & Creative Services 

Hellmann’s encourages everyone to Save Our Sandwiches by adopting one – Cristine Struble, FoodSided 

“If you haven’t seen Hellmann’s “Save our Sandwiches” (S.O.S) campaign for Earth Day, I strongly encourage you to take a look. The campaign is a fun and unique way to spread awareness around regenerative farming practices for growing crops like soybeans – a key ingredient in its mayo. Consumers are encouraged to ‘adopt’ a sandwich in the form of a plushie. What a relatable way to educate the general public about the risks of soil erosion!” – Haley Hartmann 

Digital & Social Media 

Google who? Gen Z is searching on TikTok, YouTube instead – April Rubin, Axios 

“As the mediascape evolves, Gen Z is increasingly using social media as a search engine. While Google is still top-of-the-list with news and quick answers, platforms that host personal stories are being viewed as more authentic. At the same time these users are looking for quick insights, they are taking the on-ramp to an “information superhighway” and bypassing conventional news cycles. This shift challenges media outlets to refine their targeting strategies and tailor information delivery to meet evolving audience preferences.” – Emma Smits 

TikTok PR push touts economic impact in Michigan –  Eleanor Hawkins & Annalise Frank, Axios Detroit  

 “In the lead-up to President Biden signing legislation outlining conditions for a TikTok ban, the social media app turned to proactive PR to help contain the reputational fallout. By showing data on how TikTok reportedly has a positive economic impact on small and midsized businesses, the company is providing a strong counterpoint that could appeal to stakeholders and also launched an ad campaign to mobilize young constituents to flood congressional phone lines ahead of the voting periods. Responding with favorable data that shifts prevailing negative narratives is a common and smart tactic for aggressively responding to reputational attacks and rallying support from existing and prospective stakeholders. Even with the passing of the legislation, PR and legal battles will continue to unfold.” – Michael Grimm