A rowdy State of the Union, search AI poses threat to content and more

Plus: Zoom’s CEO took a 98% pay cut after layoffs.

The State of the Union was raucous.

Republican lawmakers vied for attention during President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address.

And Biden fired right back.

Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene yelled “liar!” when Biden claimed Republicans wanted to cut Social Security benefits and other entitlement programs, the New York Times reported. Representative Andy Ogles of Tennessee cried “it’s your fault!” when the president discussed the flow of deadly fentanyl across the Mexico border. Another yelled an expletive.

But despite the raucous mood, Biden wasn’t rattled. As the New York Times said:

His second State of the Union address was punctuated by outbursts, jeers and peals of mocking laughter, but Mr. Biden turned the tables on his Republican opponents and argued in real time with the insurgents. It appeared to be the start of his re-election campaign.

When the Republicans shouted back that no, they were not threatening Social Security, Mr. Biden smiled, appearing to relish the scrimmage, and ad-libbed that he was pleased they all agreed.

“I’m glad to see — no, I tell you, I enjoy conversion,” Mr. Biden said. He is unlikely to win over a large number of Republicans to support legislation, but his reply to the contingent led by Ms. Greene was meant as an unsubtle reminder that he spent 36 years as a senator working to win Republican votes for his legislative efforts.

Why it matters: Whether you think the Republicans were right to interrupt the speech and whether Biden’s responses were effective is going to be as much a matter of political opinion as it is public relations craft. But certainly the interjectors got plenty of press and attention, with fact checks galore now highlighting Republicans and entitlements and fentanyl at the border. But they may have fired up Biden and given the longtime senator a boost of energy through the rest of his address — and he showed smooth media training in how to deal with detractors without losing your poise.




Search engine AI poses threat to publishers

Both Google and Bing have announced that they will integrate AI directly into search engines. That appears to mean users can get answers to complex questions without ever leaving the search engine results page.

This poses big questions about the future of journalists, content marketers and others who rely on search engine traffic for either ad revenue or new business leads.

Nieman Lab reports:

Will these new interfaces simply mean a modest improvement in 5% or 10% of our search requests? Or will AI become the dominant way we interact with information online? At the rate of improvement we’re seeing — “the scale of the largest AI computations is doubling every six months, far outpacing Moore’s Law” — putting any cap on the possibilities feels perilous.

But there’s a more narrow matter, of interest to the news business, that we can foresee. Right now, in lieu of those direct “answers,” Google sends a lot of traffic to news sites — more than any other external source by far. Newsrooms spend time and money figuring out a lot of those answers, and the reward they’ve traditionally reaped for them has been web traffic, monetized through ads.

But the more questions Google answers without a click, the less traffic those “answering” news sites will get. Less traffic means fewer ad impressions, which means lower revenue.

Why it matters: This has multiple implications for the PR industry, all of them serious. Less traffic to news sites that rely on ad revenue could mean either that more struggling news sites vanish — or that more content goes behind a pay wall to compensate for those that survive. That of course will make it even harder for us to do our job and spread messages.

But with many in the PR industry now also working on content marketing and building brand newsrooms that equally rely on search engine traffic to draw in new prospects, this also poses deep questions about the future of our own sales funnels.

The future is murky right now. It’s not time to panic, but it’s time to prepare.

After layoffs, Zoom CEO takes 98% pay cut

Zoom joined the chorus of tech companies correcting for pandemic-era over-hiring and laid off 15% of its workforce Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported.

But there’s a difference between this announcement and the others that have taken place over the past few months.

The CEO took a 98% pay cut and will forego his salary, taking home just over $6,000.

“We didn’t take as much time as we should have to thoroughly analyze our teams or assess if we were growing sustainably, toward the highest priorities,” CEO Eric Yuan said in a statement obtained by the Wall Street Journal. “I am accountable for these mistakes.”

Other CEOs have taken pay cuts amid layoffs, but Yuan’s is by far the largest

Why it matters: This is likely just a gesture, with most of Yuan’s compensation coming from stock and other sources. However, it does show how seriously Yuan is taking the losses and indicates a sense of personal responsibility that’s often lacking from CEOs slashing jobs and then raking in millions in bonuses for boosting stock prices in the process.

It’s likely to play well both internally and externally, helping retain existing talent and making it easier to hire in the future when fortunes improve.

TikTok trounces YouTube for kids

Kids age 4-18 are watching a lot of TikTok.

A lot of TikTok.

A study from Qustodio and reported by TechCrunch found that minors are watching 107 minutes per day of TikTok content, trouncing the next closest watch option, YouTube, with just 67 minutes.

Netflix (48 minutes) and Disney+ (40 minutes) trailed far behind. In terms of other social networks, Snapchat was kind (72 minutes), followed by Instagram (45 minutes).

Why it matters: Even as it faces a questionable future in the U.S., TikTok continues to be incredibly dominant and seemingly growing by the day. Kids — and adults — crave the snackable, addictive, algorithmic-driven content. While this creates worries about how this dopamine-rich content will affect developing brains, communicators trying to reach children need to be serious about TikTok — and serious about consulting counsel and experts on how to do that responsibly.

Allison Carter is executive editor of PR Daily. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.


2 Responses to “A rowdy State of the Union, search AI poses threat to content and more”

    Ronald N Levy says:

    This report is so good! If your communicator is trained to not get flustered by a heckle, your communicator who has the microphone may be seen as having
    more calm expertness than the heckler and be heard better!

    PR wisdom in a controversy is to focus on public benefit, your communicator seeming confident, not on who is interrupting or what’s wrong with the other side. Presidential press aides of both parties have repeatedly shown the skill of radiating confidence.

    The communicator who remains cool and keeps communicating may get the advantage of appearing to know more and know it better than the opponent who shouts and looks distressed.

    Ronald N Levy says:

    Although communicators must often defend against accusation, notice that in this case Biden (whom I’m not for nor against) was the accuser saying Republicans wanted to take away Medicare and Social Security. Even if largely untrue, an accusation like that could influence thousands of votes, perhaps millions. Old people may figure “I don’t know who’s telling the truth but why take a chance?”

    Few in PR are astute in ways to win accusation PR fights, so employers pay beautifully for those who’ve taken Crisis PR courses—and especially big bucks for those who’ve won awards and honorable mentions in Crisis PR competitions.

    It’s now more than 100 years since French army captain Alfred Dreyfus was exonerated following a French newspaper publishing on page one an open letter from Emile Zola headed “J’Accuse!” The letter showed Dreyfus had been accused unjustly but by then he had spent YEARS in prison on Devil’s Island! American employers today want neither imprisonment nor government action that can cause disaster, so employers who hire PR talent figure Winners Wanted.

    Although PR Daily educators are brilliant at teaching and judging Crisis PR, a mistake PR Daily makes is not giving a quiz at the end of a course, then awarding a Certificate of Expertness to the top 5%. At least competition winners get something they can show.

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