What We’re Reading – March ‘24

What we're reading

We’re back with What We’re Reading this month – a monthly roundup of current news, commentary, challenges and trends that impact our industry as well as those of our clients. From Boeing’s leadership changes amid its safety crisis to the upcoming launch of OpenAI’s new text-to-video tool, Sora, here’s a look at what stood out to our team in March. 

Reputation Management

NBC cut ties with Ronna McDaniel after extraordinary pressure, but its problems aren’t over – Oliver Darcy, CNN

“There are almost too many lessons to pick from in this whole situation for what not to do – but the biggest one has to be around doing your due diligence and being prepared for potential communication scenarios in advance of making an announcement. Not having anticipated the potential for pushback, the reason(s) for that pushback, or how to try and get in front of it with the initial framing of the announcement, all point to NBC not having done enough to prepare. This subsequently put them in the position of being reactive from the moment they made the announcement and not having communications plans in place they could activate quickly based on those predictable scenarios. Being in that position does not set an organization up for a successful communications rollout to announce an important decision.” – Andrew Moyer

Biden Administration Announces Rules Aimed at Expanding Electric Vehicles – Coral Davenport, The New York Times

“This announcement poses a real dilemma for the Big 3 automakers. Despite incentives and manufacturers’ enthusiasm (with GM leading the pack), EVs have failed to catch on with many consumers, driven by “range anxiety,” lack of infrastructure and other factors. Will the automakers continue to embrace the Biden Administration’s push and support these new regulations? Or will market realities cause them to rethink those positions and instead support a more gradual conversion? A lot hangs in the balance for them, their Tier One suppliers and their hundreds of thousands of employees.” – Nick Kalm

Are things at Boeing really as bad as they seem? –  Clint Rainey, Fast Company

“Boeing has had a string of troubling safety events creating an opportune moment to reflect on the importance of timely response in the wake of crisis events. As the article notes, because of the plane incidents’ rushed reporting, they were perceived as much more severe than in reality. Having crisis response operations that are prepared to quickly communicate with media and external stakeholders and set the record clear with known facts as soon as possible is hugely important in reputation defense when a crisis surfaces.” – Michael Grimm

Uber-style pricing is coming for everything – Whizy Kim, Vox

“Recently, Wendy’s CEO Kirk Tanner announced rolling out new digital menu boards that could allow for pricing variations. From those remarks, a frenzy of articles reported that the fast-food chain would be rolling out dynamic pricing to the dismay of many; but that was, in fact, not true. The company’s communications team then spent the next several days rolling back and combatting the incorrect narrative, but the damage was done. This article from Vox explores the fascinating impact of dynamic pricing and the challenges Wendy’s recently faced from a poor choice of words.” – Fran Fyten

Kate’s photo of late Queen was doctored, agency says, as princess spotted in public for first time in months – Rob Picheta, Sarah Tilotta and Bernadette Tauzon, CNN

“The smallest slip-ups made by the royal family are easily scandalized, but this recent scandal with Kate Middleton and her edited photos brings up a lot of questions for me when considering the increasing use of artificial intelligence. The Princess and the royal family are under fire after two recent photos were found to be doctored because news outlets “have strict rules on allowing only minimal editing.” CNN says that “by secretly manipulating their pictures in various places, the royals have painted themselves as potential distributors of misinformation.” In this new age of increasing use of artificial intelligence, how will we police images that weren’t even “real” to begin with? This most recent royal blunder might be the opening we need to reconsider standards and rules for images shared in the media.” – Kellie Clock

Public Relations

Smart Brevity: The Power of Saying More with Less – Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen and Roy Schwartz, Co-Creators of Axios and Politico

“Not only is this book easily digestible, it is helping shape my writing and editing skills one page at a time. Each chapter inspires me to implement the authors’ insights in my everyday communication, both in and out of the office. It is witty, a quick read, and a great inclusion to my professional development.” – Grace DuFour

What does brand purpose really mean in 2024? 20 of the world’s top CMOs on how they answer that question – Jeff Beer, Fast Company

“Every company knows the importance of effectively conveying their brand’s purpose to achieve their bottom line, though identifying exactly what purpose should encapsulate has become cloudy over recent years. Is purpose simply about driving sales? Should it be tied to ESG and corporate governance? This article leverages the insights of CMOs across several notable organizations to hear how they define their brand’s purpose, and how they keep it authentic and relevant for their audience.” – Catherine McCoy

We Tried Whoop For Six Months – Here’s What We Learnt – Editorial Team, Golf Monthly

“Ever since my friend posted on LinkedIn about her daughter’s new internship with Whoop, I’ve been curious about the content marketing strategy of this wearable tech company valued at $3.6 billion.  I really enjoyed reading how the editors of Golf Monthly reported on their one-month experiment wearing Whoop as it was a mixed bag, but at least for now, all news seems to be good news for the company. I’ll be fascinated to see how Whoop’s PR team continues to leverage the hype among the world’s elite athletes.” – Anne Marie Mitchell

Why March Madness is all about Caitlin Clark – Alex Abad-Santos, Vox

“The ‘Caitlin Clark Effect’ is a term media have coined for this college basketball superstar absolutely dominating headlines the past couple of months. Yes, she’s a fantastic athlete – but there’s something to say about how fast she’s become a household name both on and off the court. We rarely see this level of recognition among college athletes – especially in women’s sports – truly depicting the power of personal branding. Caitlin’s also received several brand partnerships, further illustrating the impact young women can have for companies’ marketing efforts.” – Haley Hartmann

Digital & Social Media

TikTok’s fate in the U.S. hangs in the balance. What would the sale of the popular app mean? – Megan Cerullo, CBS News

“While a national ban on Tiktok would surely be impactful for national brands and businesses who are successfully leveraging the platform, it would ultimately be just another change in the always evolving digital landscape. A national ban also doesn’t mean the app would go away, though its reach would be impacted in the US, it’ll still be something global businesses can continue to leverage. That said, in times of uncertainty, the best thing to do is ensure your digital marketing strategy is built to be agile and your team remains flexible and committed to finding the next best solution for your business.” – Paige Borgman

TikTok’s growth rate has collapsed. ‘Life’ may be getting in the way for its younger users. – Alistair Barr, Business Insider

 “While everyone is talking about an impending government ban on TikTok, its Q4 2023 report indicates an even more concerning issue for the app – slowing growth rates. This article is interesting as it reveals the slowed growth of TikTok with its target demographic – Gen Z – as they’re using the app less and less due to “life” getting in the way (i.e., college, entering the workforce, moving out). As communicators, this is interesting and important to consider when trying to reach this demographic for our clients. How will communications plans and social media strategies need to be reworked to make sure we’re reaching this group?” – Natalie Wanner

Meta to shut off data access to journalists – Sara Fischer, Axios

“Social media platforms have taken on influential roles in news cycles and content/user research, but now Meta is taking a step back and restricting their analytics tool from anyone with commercial interest. As Tik Tok grows as a news source for Gen Z, Meta is recommitting their algorithm to user-generated content, forcing PR Pros to rely on third-party sources like Sprout Social to analyze content. This serves as a reminder to diversify data sources and prioritize continuous learning against the promise of platform shifts to effectively deliver impactful content strategies.” – Emma Smits

OpenAI’s Sora text-to-video generator will be publicly available later this year – Emma Roth, The Verge

“Generative AI continues to move full speed ahead; despite any concerns we may have. Sora, OpenAI’s new text-to-video tool is the most realistic video-generating platform we’ve seen so far, and it will be available for public use this year. As a creator, I love adding programs like this to my toolbox as it extends our creativity and unlocks new possibilities for us and our clients. As a PR professional, I urge business leaders to have a crisis plan ready for if and when generative AI is used to create fake content about their organizations.” – Fred Walls 

Financial Communications

Why communicating is key to winning proxy fights – Eleanor Hawkins, Axios

“Campaigns from activist investors are becoming more and more frequent, and companies must be prepared to communicate with all investor audiences if they become a target. One of the most important takeaways from this piece is that companies should be tailoring their communications to reach younger investors. While traditional IR materials are still important (and in some cases, required), those should be paired with materials that resonate with younger audiences if companies want to succeed in a proxy fight.” – RJ Bruce