What We’re Reading – August 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 Ted Lasso’s leadership lessons to T-Mobile’s data breach to motivating employees during uncertain times, here’s a look at the news that stood out to our team in August: 


At Blizzard, groping, free-flowing booze and fear of retaliation tainted ‘magical’ workplace – Shannon Liao, The Washington Post

“Blizzard Entertainment is the latest example of how failing to create and enforce a corporate culture that is respectful and protects employees from harassment can decimate an organization. With executives departing in shame, a lawsuit filed against the company by California and employees staging public walkouts, Blizzard Entertainment faces a significant uphill battle to repair its reputation.” – RJ Bruce

Apple Executive Defends Tools to Fight Child Porn, Acknowledges Privacy Backlash – Joanna Stern and Tim Higgins, WSJ 

“Apple recently announced an update that will enable the company to report images of child exploitation uploaded to iCloud storage and report it to authorities. The update, which has been largely criticized by privacy advocates, is a controversial move for the tech giant which has made privacy a keystone of its marketing strategy. The article calls out that, ‘part of Apple’s public-relations challenge may have come from the fact it also rolled out the other, separate tool at the same time.’ It’s apparent that jumbled product announcements, regardless of their intention, can seriously damage corporate reputations years in the making.” – Gene White


5 times Ted Lasso reminded us what great leadership looks like – Gwen Moran, Fast Company

“I’ll start by saying if you haven’t watched Ted Lasso yet doing so should jump to the top of your to-do list. It’s witty, wholesome, hilarious and, as the article states, ‘it’s a bright spot in a painful world.’ While Jason Sudeikis’ character is meant to be silly and optimistic to an almost unrealistic extent, there are very realistic lessons to be learned about the importance of leading with kindness, compassion and trust.” – Paige Borgman


The T-Mobile Breach Is Much Worse Than It Had to Be – Brian Barrett, Wired 

“There’s zero good news to come out of the recent cyber breach for T-Mobile customers. There rarely is for any company facing a cyber-attack or breach, especially ones that hold valuable data. However, there is an interesting opportunity for companies to now assess the level of information they hold pertaining to their customers and minimize that level. This is a foreign concept for many companies, but if an organization is able to communicate this commitment to their customers, it could be viewed as working to protect the customer – a win-win situation for everyone involved.   – Brendan Griffith


Pepsi urges consumers to ‘break up’ with Coke Zero Sugar in latest challenger move – Peter Adams, Marketing Dive

“Social listening has become increasingly important throughout the pandemic. This new campaign by Pepsi is a prime example of the power of social listening insight and how to leverage it when creating social media campaign strategies. It will be very interesting to see if this campaign is well received and the possible future implications it may have for brands, as well as PR professionals, moving forward.” – Natalie Wanner

With mega-influencers not yielding results, the ‘everyday influencer’ now reigns supreme – Richard Carufel, Agility PR

“While the rise of the everyday user (our friends, families and neighbors) as an influencer is no great surprise, I was particularly intrigued by the research shared in this piece. Over half of consumers (56%) see the everyday social media users as their preferred influencer to follow. Three quarters of consumers (75%) do not care about the number of social media followers a user has – they care more about the content quality. Plus, 80% of consumers globally—and 76% in the US—want to see stricter rules for influencers to disclose editing or filters they used on published content. In sum, a majority of social media audiences want to see greater quality, authenticity and transparency. A valuable reminder as we continue to navigate how to communicate on these ubiquitous and imperative channels.” – Fran Fyten


Delta Air Lines to add monthly health insurance charge for unvaccinated workers – Ivana Saric, Axios

“Companies are struggling to balance their responsibilities to employees, customers and communities with the ongoing competition for talent during the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. From large to small, companies are finding it difficult to recruit and retain their employees for reasons that can often be in direct competition – those not wanting to be at work without a vaccine or mask mandate as well as those not wanting to be at work where those mandates are in place. While a number have tried financial incentives these have focused on “carrots”, but Delta Air Lines is taking a unique position that relies more on the “stick” approach but in a way that connects the insurance charge to the impacts on the health system of those who remain unvaccinated. It is a novel approach and one I could see being replicated as it isn’t presented as purely punitive but instead in a way that links the actions (company’s and employees’) directly.” – Andrew Moyer

Internal Communication is Key to Keeping Employees Motivated During Uncertainty Dustin York, PRNEWS

“Came across this article on Twitter. With the new Delta Variant, we are now seeing an increase in the number of companies re-issuing work-from-home mandates. This article shares some insight to help companies and their employees stay motivated and keep a healthy line of communication open when working remotely.” – Alex Engel

These People Who Work From Home Have a Secret: They Have Two Jobs – Rachel Feintzeig, The Wall Street Journal

“The abrupt and ongoing shift to remote/work-from-home created opportunities for some unscrupulous folks.  Nevertheless, this article speaks to the importance of keeping employees appropriately compensated and fully engaged, with tasks, appropriate supervision and strong two-way communications.  People talk about the billions in lost productivity on Cyber Monday and other days when employees are distracted.  As an employer, how much productivity do you lose if your full-time employee has a second job?” – Nick Kalm


Sustainable Investing And ESG Advocates Hope Dire Climate Report Serves As Wake Up Call For Financial Services – Jason Bisnoff, Forbes

“A report released by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has served as another wakeup call for C-Suites, Boards, hedge funds and financial managers across the world to accept the reality that they have significant responsibilities to lead or counsel their organizations to be sustainable for the short and long-term. As the article indicates, those who “stay on the sidelines” will be more likely to experience negative financial and reputational consequences, and those who lead sustainably will reap benefits. Investors are likely to increasingly favor companies who publicize their organizational commitments to ESG and sustainability, and then achieve them, vs. those that don’t.” – Michael Grimm


Can Tech Ethics Be Learned—or Is Society Doomed?  Lauren Goode, Wired Magazine

“Technology and artificial intelligence (AI), for two reasons, are two of my favorite things to read up on. The first is that I find them incredibly interesting. The second is that I find them absolutely terrifying. In this article, Lauren Goode interviews the authors of the book System Error to get their thoughts on the state of big tech and AI today, and their plea for open conversation and ethical development.” – Fred Walls