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What We’re Reading – March 2022 

Posted on March 31, 2022 by Paige Borgman
, Reputation Partners

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 SEC’s climate disclosure rule to Arby’s diss track to Amazon’s new live radio app, here’s a look at the news that stood out to our team in March. 

CSR / ESG COMMUNICATIONS

Sweden’s SEB changes course on defense stocks as war tests ESG rules Ed Ballard, Wall Street Journal

“ESG rules are rapidly evolving—it used to be focused on investing in companies who share similar visions regarding the environment, safety, and governance. Now, amidst the Ukraine-Russia conflict, investors are reevaluating their perspectives on permitting funds to buy shares of weapons makers and defense companies. This evolution is a smart reminder for companies developing their ESG strategy to be nimble and agile in responding to major global events by evolving strategy to be relevant and forward-looking taking in account major market forces.” – Michael Grimm

The S.E.C. moves closer to enacting a sweeping climate disclosure rule. Matthew Goldstein and Peter Eavis, The New York Times

“If any public company thought their operations had no impact on climate change or thought they could perhaps get by with just a couple of lines in their SEC filings about it, this proposed new rule should disabuse them of that notion. If it stands, this rule would make every public company responsible for not only reporting their own potential climate change impact, but that of their suppliers and even of the properties they lease. Merely communicating these impacts in regulatory filings would be a mistake. There’s no doubt activist shareholders and advocacy groups will pore over them and look to exploit any kind of negative information. Smart companies should anticipate this rule surviving the inevitable court challenges and make sure they are communicating their actions and commitments in a robust way.” – Nick Kalm

New SEC Proposal Would Require Companies to Disclose Their Climate Impact Marcy Gordon/AP, TIME

 “The number of investors seeking companies who are providing transparent climate information has radically increased over the recent years. Under the new SEC proposal, companies will be required to disclose climate-risk information; allowing potential shareholders and the public to assess a company’s priorities and their environmental impact. Companies should proactively begin working on a more progressive approach to fight climate change, otherwise, visibility will force these companies to be held accountable in the eyes of investors and the public.” – Alex Engel

EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATIONS

Disney Employees Walk Out Amid Furor Over Florida Legislation – Brooks Barnes, The New York Times

“It was surprising that a company as forward-thinking and innovative as Disney thought staying silent on a significant social issue in a state it has such close ties to was an appropriate course of action. As we’ve seen from past walkouts at Facebook, Google and more, employees are no longer afraid to publicly voice disagreements with their employers. When evaluating the potential impact of taking a stance on an issue, businesses must give equal weight to the reactions from both external audiences and internal audiences. Failing to do so could prolong any negative attention from the public and the media, create further dissent among employees and risk additional reputational damage to the organization.” – RJ Bruce

The Entirely Predictable Impact of Salary TransparencyMegan Carnegie, WIRED

 “The pandemic has only continued to emphasize the disadvantages put on marginalized groups of people, with pay inequality being a major issue. This proposal presented to the EU Commission, as well as New York City’s wage transparency law, could be a major step for countries around the world to implement salary transparency enforcement. Not only will this give employees the right to request information on pay levels, but it could also help to improve justice for victims of pay discrimination. Additionally, companies are coming to realize that pay transparency not only helps with employee recruitment but retention as well. When companies are honest and open in their communications with employees and prospective employees, they often have an easier time with recruitment and retention.” – Steph Carlson

SOCIAL MEDIA & DIGITAL STRATEGY

Google adds “highly cited” label to search results Sara Fischer, Axios

“As Google, and others, continue to refine their search algorithms, organizations should be planning to increase their output of original content. Not only is this content viewed favorably and highly relevant in search results, but it also further positions an organization as a thought leader and the go-to source for information on topics it cares about.” – Andrew Moyer 

Amazon launches a ‘live radio’ app, Amp, which lets you play DJ with music and call-ins – Sarah Perez, Tech Crunch

“Amazon recently kicked things up a bit by launching an app called ‘Amp’ – allowing people to create their own, live “radio shows” – taking calls, playing their choice of music. Unlike its competitors Twitter Spaces, Facebook Live Audio Rooms, Clubhouse, and more, Amp is the first to incorporate music. It’s an interesting concept and could be a great option for the right brand.” – Haley Hartmann

Arby’s CMO dishes on Pusha T diss track Chris Kelly, Marketing Dive

“Influencer marketing is not new, but a partnership on this scale is bold and refreshing. Arby’s hired rapper Pusha T to perform a diss track aimed at McDonald’s beloved Filet-O-Fish sandwich, calling it basic and tasteless. What makes this partnership so brilliant is not just the creativity and audacity, but the fact that Pusha T and his brother wrote the McDonald’s Jingle 19 years ago. The only thing left for the company to do is change their tagline: ‘Arby’s, we have the beats.’” – Fred Walls

CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS

The Month Companies United Against Russia’s War – Chip Cutter, Emily Glazer and Jennifer Maloney, Wall Street Journal

“Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, more than 400 companies have announced plans to suspend or scale back their business. For some, the decision to stop doing business in Russia was harder than others. This article offers a rare glimpse into the moral, reputational, and operational considerations behind such corporate activism. The companies that were most effective reacted swiftly, decisively and were – most importantly – prepared to manage a crisis. Communicators and business leaders should look to these examples as a measuring stick for their own crisis management plans.” – Gene White

Biden warns Russian cyberattacks are coming. What your business should do right now. – Jessica Guynn, USA Today

“Report after report now outlines cybercrime as one of the leading threats against business today. Cyberattacks are no longer an “if” but a “when,” and I thought this article did an excellent job of outlining the seriousness of the threats for any issue. One additional step to add to this report would be a communications plan – for both internal and external audiences. As companies, of all sizes, review and take necessary technical steps to bolster their cybersecurity, they should also take the time to consider a communications strategy – who are the audiences and key decision-makers – and map out situational language in the event an inevitable cyberattack does occur.” – Fran Fyten

Google to acquire cybersecurity firm Mandiant for $5.4 billion Sam Shead, CNBC

“The multi-billion-dollar price tag is the initial eye-catcher, yet the key takeaway is the signal being sent by a global leader (aka Google) about the importance of taking the necessary steps to prepare for and combat cyber threats. It is a Captain Obvious comment to say that most companies do not have billions of dollars laying around to enhance their cybersecurity measures, but that doesn’t mean every company shouldn’t be taking actions to bolster their defenses. With the increasing number of cyberattacks on companies, this threat has truly become more of a ‘when’ versus ‘if’ it happens. Smart companies will recognize this, and they will put into place the proper operational measures and communications plans to help soften the reputational risk and impact a cyberattack will have on their employees, vendors and/or customers.” – Brendan Griffith

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