What We’re Reading – February ‘24

What we're reading

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 CDC’s continued reputational battle to the rise of viral layoff videos, here’s a look at what stood out to our team in February.


Patrick Mahomes, wife Brittany visit Super Bowl parade shooting victims: ‘We want to be there’ – Cydney Henderson, USA Today

“Since the senseless and tragic mass shooting in Kansas City at the end of the Kansas City Chiefs parade that left a mother dead and 22 people injured, many of them children, I’ve been watching and reading the coverage with an eye toward authenticity in response to the tragedy. So far, the best responses, like this one covered by USA Today – have come from the players using their platforms to gain coverage for the victims and help families of victims surpass their GoFundMe goals. The players themselves have been donating real dollars, too. I’m keeping an eye out for players or the team itself to join the conversation being led by activist groups to take action that could prevent future mass shootings.” – Anne Marie Mitchell


Want to Be a Better Leader? Stop Thinking About Work After Hours. – Remy E. Jennings, Allison S. Gabriel, and Klodiana Lanaj, Harvard Business Review

“This article is an important reminder that the best productivity hacks have nothing to do with work itself. Especially relevant in the communications/public relations industry with the always-on nature of our work, it’s important to prioritize off-time to be able to bring your best self to work for your teams and clients every day.” – Natalie Wanner

Gen Z faces more pressure at work than previous generations because technology has eliminated work-life boundaries, a psychology professor says – Sawdah Bhaimiya, Business Insider

“Work life balance is so important in the ever-increasing digital age we find ourselves in, and this article really highlights how desperately young professionals want a taste of it. Maturing in the workplace comes with asking for help, building key skills and figuring out one’s boundaries while continuing to strive for success.” – Grace DuFour


CDC Considers Ending 5-Day Isolation Period for COVID – Apoorva Mandavilli, The New York Times

“This article made me realize that there’s no institution that’s suffered a greater reputational drop in the past few years than the CDC. Due to general skepticism in institutions to the CDC’s admission that some of their COVID guidance was made up, millions of Americans now lack confidence in their recommendations. That’s a real problem when you think about the wide variety of communicable diseases we face and how much our country needs an effective, credible CDC.  I truly hope the CDC will prioritize rebuilding their reputation through their words and actions.” – Nick Kalm

Employers are “afraid” to conduct layoffs in viral video era – Emily Peck, Axios

“After an influx of TikTok videos of employers laying off their employees recently went viral, there are several key points captured within this article on how to better handle these unfortunate situations. From relaying your message with empathy to being well prepared to answer those inevitable tough questions, employers can mitigate both internal and external blowback, as well as potential reputational damage.” – Haley Hartmann

Lyft CEO takes blame for ‘extra zero that slipped into’ earnings release – Ashley Capoot, CNBC

“I thought the CEO did a good job quickly coming out and accepting blame: ‘Look, it was a bad error, and that’s on me.’ There was no attempt to pass the buck or immediately blame someone else. CEOs as organizations’ leaders are responsible for what happens on their watch – fair or not. Those that lean into this establish a stronger reputation and engagement with their teams.” – Andrew Moyer

Lyft shares rocket 62% over a typo in the company’s earnings release – Matt Ott, AP

“This situation is a stark example for communicators about the importance of double, triple and even quadruple-checking our work before sending it out. Tools like spellcheck, ChatGPT or Grammarly are invaluable resources for creating and editing communications materials, but they are also imperfect and still require a human touch. While this typo from Lyft had a more significant impact than most, it should remind us all that no detail is too small to overlook.” – RJ Bruce


More Wall Street Firms are Flip-Flopping on Climate. Here’s Why – David Gelles, New York Times

“This article is instructive of the growing public relations battle surrounding the term “ESG” and Wall Street, highlighting the tension existing as a result of climate pledges being reputationally challenged by political actors describing the activity as “woke capitalism.” This trend illustrates how all companies, especially those that are publicly traded, are attempting to thread the needle in limiting reputational threats to their ESG efforts without breaking their sustainability initiatives that remain important to stakeholders. This issue requires deft communication strategists to help companies preserve and protect their reputations when it comes to sustainability communications.” – Michael Grimm


Generative AI’s next act: Autonomous agents – Ina Fried & Scott Rosenberg, Axios

“Moving to a world in which AI systems take action rather than just provide insights will likely bring upon as many benefits as it does challenges. While AI certainly can increase efficiency and even improve the customer experience, the technology still lacks the ability to filter out bias, understand context or apply empathy to the decision-making process. While I’m just as excited as the next person for the positive impacts AI will offer across sectors, I still struggle to envision a world in which human oversight won’t be absolutely critical to the success of any autonomous AI implementation.” – Paige Borgman


Top Tips: How to Leverage the Super Bowl for an Unlikely Audience – Nicole Schuman, PRNEWS

“When it comes to major pop-culture events, such as the Super Bowl (Taylor’s Version), PR pros can be tempted by the potential reach and dream about how a client could blow up just by squeezing themselves into the conversation. However, it’s crucial to evaluate whether your clients should do so and how PR efforts can effectively represent their unique voice and values, ensuring they resonate authentically with the target audience rather than merely following trends for the sake of it. As the nature of Super Bowl commercials are very “hit or miss,” it’s important to think critically about your client’s voice and how your PR efforts speak for them.” – Emma Smits

Did a Minnesota company make Usher’s Super Bowl halftime show roller skates? Yeah! – Estelle Timar-Wilcox, MPR News

“When national events capture broad attention and appeal, local reporters are looking for the local angle. Red Wing, Minn.-based roller-blade company Riedell knew that when Usher took the stage at the Big Game this year sporting their rollerblades. The company shouted about the blades across numerous platforms (social, media pitches, etc.) and local media ate it up, with several outlets in the Twin Cities highlighting the company. That also resulted in me learning about a really cool company based in my home state!” – Fran Fyten


McDonald’s brings anime fandom to life for immersive global campaign – Chris Kelly, MarketingDive

“Pop culture and nostalgia are some of the most powerful tools a brand can harness. As anime has moved from a fringe interest to a worldwide phenomenon, companies are taking notice. McDonald’s, often featured in popular anime shows and movies as “WcDonald’s,” is taking advantage of the movement in a global campaign that invites anime lovers to enter the world of WcDonald’s through limited-time items, packaging, and virtual experiences. The experience is sure to be remembered by anime lovers for years to come.” – Fred Walls