What We’re Reading – June 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 the adoption of cryptocurrency to the corporate fight against climate change to navigating post-COVID consumer habits, here’s a look at the news that stood out to our team in June: 


Amazon and Other Tech Giants Race to Buy Up Renewable Energy – Sam Schechner, The Wall Street Journal

“When the biggest names in tech take action, the world notices. This was such an interesting piece to read about the likes of Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft, among others, disclosing renewable energy purchase agreements, especially following the news earlier in June surrounding activist investors at ExxonMobil pushing for efforts to combat climate change. It is safe to say CSR and sustainability efforts are increasingly front and center, and it will be interesting to see how leaders at organizations both big and small will communicate their sustainability commitments and programs to the world.” – Brendan Griffith


Inward, onward: What your audience needs from you post-pandemic – Andréa Mallard, Pinterest

“Pinterest’s latest research report identifies new trends and consumer behaviors that are emerging as we approach the transition period to a post-COVID future. Interestingly, the report emphasizes the need for marketers to focus less on the changes ahead and more on supporting the internal changes people made over the past year and hope to maintain as the hustle and bustle of everyday life post-COVID begins to set in. Definitely worth a read whether your organization is active on Pinterest or not as the insights will be beneficial to any consumer facing digital strategy.” – Paige Borgman

Facebook rolls out Live Audio Rooms, podcasts in new push to take on Clubhouse – Jessica Menton, USA Today

“With the roll out of Facebook’s Live Audio Rooms, the social audio platform space is becoming increasingly competitive and more difficult to navigate. I found this article very interesting as it explains the key features of the new offering in detail and offers comparisons to apps already on the market, such as Clubhouse. As more and more brands look to join the social audio platform trend, how important will it become for PR professionals to understand the key differences of the apps? Are social audio platforms going to continue to rise in popularity?” – Natalie Wanner


Walmart is giving smartphones to more than 740K workers – Jeff Wells, HRDIVE

“One of the biggest challenges employers face is staying connected and communicating with their employees who don’t sit in front of computers all day.  It appears Walmart has taken a big and smart step forward with this initiative. Employers from sectors such as manufacturing, transportation, healthcare and many others should consider doing the same.” – Nick Kalm

Teamsters to vote Thursday on sweeping push to unionize Amazon workers – Annie Palmer, CNBC

“The International Brotherhood of Teamsters will vote on a resolution to scale up efforts to organize Amazon workers. This is the latest Amazon unionization breaking news after prior unionization voting failed with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. This latest effort is a reminder that once a company faces one unionization effort, it is likely to receive more. Companies like Amazon, who are likely union targets, need to have proactive protocols in place to educate their employees about the impact of unionization and clearly explain what they are doing to address employee concerns.  It will be interesting to see what lies ahead for Amazon with unions, and correlated impacts on the company’s workforce and reputation.” – Michael Grimm

An HBO Max intern mistakenly sent a test email to subscribers. They responded with stories of their own mishaps – Li Cohen, CBS News

“This is such a great response from HBO Max after an intern accidentally sent a test email to their entire mailing list. Instead of sweeping it under the rug or simply just apologizing for the mistake, HBO Max took the time to address the error and set a great example of what positive support looks like in the workplace. The brand’s transparency around the misstep inspired subscribers to share examples of mistakes they’ve made throughout their careers and reassure the intern that mistakes are only human. This is a great example of how humanizing your brand, in this case by celebrating mistakes and supporting employees, can foster stronger relationships and authentic engagement with your audience.” – Haley Hartmann


This Agency Wants to Figure Out Exactly How Much You Trust AI – Khari Johnson, WIRED

“The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) wants to put a number on a person’s trust on Artificial Intelligence. NIST is a part of the US Department of Commerce and in 2019 it released a plan to engage with private industry to create standards across the use of AI. I found this article interesting because AI is making a scene in 2021 and it looks like the government is getting involved to ensure the people have the confidence in this emerging technology. I’m very curious to see how NIST will get involved in the future when it comes to marketing/advertising, including AI Influencers.” – Ruben Castro

Florida beach town writes Amazon TV series to lure tourists Kelli Kennedy, AP

“Marketing tactics have continually evolved in order to reach the spaces where consumers are most engaged. While product placements have long been woven into movies and TV shows, it will be interesting to see what kind of impact a completely scripted show about a destination can have. I like the idea and am definitely someone who wants to visit a lot of the places I’ve seen on screen (New Zealand being on the top of my list thanks to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies), but I hope this and any similar efforts find the right balance between engaging storytelling and selling a destination.” –  RJ Bruce 


Bitcoin: El Salvador makes cryptocurrency legal tender – BBC News

“Earlier this month, El Salvador became the first country to announce that it will make Bitcoin legal tender, alongside the US dollar. This is a bold move that has received mixed reactions from all over the globe. If you’re a crypto enthusiast, you see this as an invaluable step toward the much-awaited, mass adoption of crypto. If you’re a crypto skeptic, you’re shaking your head. It’s important to see both sides.

One of the biggest arguments in favor of cryptocurrency is the idea that it can bring financial services to the nearly 2 billion unbanked people in this world. A bank eliminates the need for you to carry all of your money (or gold) with you everywhere you go while giving you the freedom to access it wherever debit cards are accepted. If you aren’t fortunate enough to have a bank account, you carry all of your wealth with you- posing a massive security risk and making it harder to travel. Cryptocurrency is stored in a virtual wallet that lives online. This is what (theoretically) makes cryptocurrency a good option for those who don’t have bank accounts. For El Salvador, that’s 70% of the population.

Of course, there are a lot of reasons to think that this move doesn’t make sense. The most obvious being that cryptocurrency is incredibly volatile. The price of Bitcoin has bounced between $30,000 – $40,000 for the entire month of June 2021. The price of a carton of milk could literally change minute to minute. On top of that, there is a certain amount of tech savvy that one needs to use cryptocurrency. If you use it incorrectly, your funds can get lost or stolen.

The pros and cons can be debated for quite some time. Whether we agree or disagree with the move, it’s happening. It will be very interesting to see how this affects both El Salvador and the rest of the world in the years to come.” – Fred Walls


Construction deficiencies behind deadly Mexico City subway collapse, report finds – Rafael Romo, Natalie Gallón and Karol Suarez, CNN

“Most commentary on an organization’s crisis response will focus on where it was lacking, or how the communications they issued didn’t bring the necessary balance of empathy or connection between words and actions. The public sector in particular can struggle to make their response feel compassionate as opposed to impersonal and generic. That is why I was struck by this article’s quote from Mexico City’s Mayor Sheinbaum – ‘Sheinbaum said that victims are being taken care of and will receive, ‘full reparation for the harm [suffered],’ with a city official assigned to each family so that ‘no one is left without support.’ Time will tell if the government’s actions will match those words but that level of specificity and one-to-one attention was a notable response I’ve not seen in other public sector crisis communications.” – Andrew Moyer