What We’re Reading – August 2022


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 the rise of the worker Productivity Score to the FTC’s crackdown on greenwashing to pitching with AI, here’s a look at the news that stood out to our team in August.


What Brands Should Know as FTC Prepares to Update Green Marketing Guidelines – Megan Graham, The Wall Street Journal

“Many companies are intensely marketing their environmental and sustainability initiatives and trying to use those efforts as differentiators. Not so fast. The FTC is cracking down on this practice to reduce the amount of greenwashing taking place – that is, companies touting their green initiatives without actually being green. These changes may be a “rude awakening for some companies.” Marketers beware.” – Amy Littleton

NBA won’t play on Election Day – Matt Berg, Politico

“So much of the dialogue around corporate activism over the last several years has centered on which ‘side’ companies are taking positions on, or where those positions are, or aren’t, at odds with their employees. What I appreciate about the NBA’s action here is they are making a clear statement on the importance of civic engagement as a concept without taking an overt policy position. For organizations struggling with when and if to enter the fray, this is a good model for being involved without increasing the risk of stakeholder blowback.” – Andrew Moyer


Pitching with Artificial intelligence – Eleanor Hawkins, Axios

“I’ve been wondering when AI might begin to impact the PR industry and it looks like this is where it starts. Knowing exactly which reporter will resonate with what pitch has always been more of an art than a science, so tools like PRophet will help streamline the sometimes-chaotic media list. However, with the number of topics each journalist must cover and how quickly newsroom staff can change, tools like this will only go so far. It’s still an absolute must for PR Pros to do our research and customize our pitches to the reporters we’re targeting to secure coverage for our clients.” – RJ Bruce


Fast Food Employers and Employees Square Off Over California’s Controversial Wage-Setting Plan – Peter Romeo, Restaurant Business

“The struggle for control and influence between employers and groups of employees (the latter helped by labor unions) may be reaching a tipping point.  As always, it makes sense to keep an eye on California as the bellwether state and tip of the spear.  Seems like the International Franchise Association has some good data to show why this proposed bill would be very bad for consumers, but it illustrates once again that employers in a variety of industries need to do a much better job of communicating about their business model and costs all the time, while making any adjustments before legislatures or regulators force them to do so.” – Nick Kalm


What the controversy over Finnish Prime Minister’s dancing videos reveals about women leaders – Alia E Dastagir, USA Today

“Finland’s current prime minister, Sanna Marin, has been the subject of criticism since she was elected in 2019 given that she is the country’s youngest person to hold that office. Most recently, a video of Marin singing and dancing at a private party was made public without her consent. This video was met with calls from the opposition party to take a drug test and questioning her competency.  A spontaneous response from women around the world, including other female leaders, included the hashtag #solidaritywithsanna and photos of themselves dancing at parties also contributed to managing Marin’s reputation. As a young woman with aspirations of achieving a leadership position one day, I was disappointed in how negative the response was to Marin’s age-appropriate video on social media. As this article details, female leaders, especially younger ones, are still held to a different standard than male leaders. We can all do more to support women who are in leadership roles, as well as women who aspire to be leaders, by challenging sexism and ageism when we see it in action.” – Kellie Clock

Whole Foods CEO says ‘socialists are taking over’ in the US and young people in liberal cities ‘don’t seem like they want to work’ – Grace Kay, Business Insider

“Not only did the CEO of Whole Foods paint a negative image of the company, but he also may have hindered their recruitment and retention efforts for a long time. As this article explains, CEO John Mackey voiced his personal values during a recent podcast and shared his opinion on why they’re finding it difficult to hire workers. In this climate, we know Gen Zers want to work for a company that aligns with their personal values or be free to voice their values without fear of criticism or condemnation.” – Haley Hartmann

HBO Max Crashes for Thousands in the minutes After ‘House of the Dragon’ Premieres – Alyssa Lukpat, The Wall Street Journal

“The long-awaited Game of Thrones prequel made its debut on Sunday where nearly 10 million people tuned in, making it the most watched premiere in HBO history. Given recent headlines surrounding the controversy of a future merger and in-production shows being pulled, I can only imagine top executives hoped this would mitigate the backlash. Unfortunately, the House of the Dragon premiere came coupled with a site crash, leaving a portion of HBO Max subscribers unable to stream the new series. Like some of its competitors, HBO Max appears to be struggling to maintain its favorable status in the public eye. Users were quick to point out their frustrations with the company’s practices across various social media outlets, potentially hindering future opportunities for growth in viewership.” – Alex Engel

HBO Max is removing 36 titles and creators are not happy – Ivan Mehta, TechCrunch

“HBO Max is currently in the process of merging with Discovery+. As a part of this merger, both streaming services have been silently removing titles, presumably to cut costs and make room for new titles. HBO Max is currently offering steep discounts to those who sign up for a yearly membership. This is a great way to apologize to customers and fans who may be upset about their favorite series being removed, a discount encourages them to stay and see the potential new content. Where HBO Max has failed is in their communications with the creators of the titles they have been removing. Creators have taken to Twitter to voice their concerns over streaming services’ power to remove their content with little notice and fans are upset at how the creators have been treated. It will be interesting to see how HBO Max and streaming services will react to the backlash if they react at all. Had HBO Max communicated with the creators of these titles well in advance of removing them there may have been a different outcome.” Annie Allred


A Group of Apple Employees Protests Company’s Three-Day-a-Week Office Policy – Alyssa Lukpat, The Wall Street Journal

“While only a fraction of the tech giant’s global workforce, the group of Apple employees opposed to the Company’s new return to work policy is proof that no company – big or small – is immune to this continued debate. Although it wouldn’t be surprising if Apple moves forward and dismisses the views/request of this small group, some of the basics/fundamentals of any core employee communications – two-way communications consisting of listening and clearly conveying your position (and rationale) as a result of listening – should be leveraged by companies as each continues to navigate its own return to the office plans.” – Brendan Griffith

What to do if someone throws you under the bus at work – Stephanie Vozza, Fast Company

“When reading this article, I really identified with Kevin Kehoe’s recommended response – finding out why someone threw you under the bus. Often, people rush into fixing mode and work on playing ‘damage control.’ Taking the time to chat with your coworker and uncover why you are in the situation will be incredibly productive – not only for your piece-of-mind, but to learn how to better work with that individual moving forward.” – Kate Grodsky

The Rise of the Worker Productivity Score – Jodi Kantor and Arya Sundaram, The New York Times  

“Eight of the 10 largest private U.S. employers track individual productivity. The tide has turned towards workforce productivity monitoring as a result of remote work during the pandemic. Workers complain that the monitoring tools are inaccurate and do not capture the total labor time spent on various projects, from thinking to reading other sources or any other activity that may not be on a computer. Further, morale dropped as a result of this and such monitoring poses recruiting, internal and external risks and challenges that companies need to wrestle with as they navigate the future of work.” – Michael Grimm