Courts to allow Biden’s employer vaccine mandate, more workers returned to the office in November, and Meta voted worst company of the year
Also: Ben & Jerry’s debuts new flavor with Chance the Rapper, Royal Caribbean handles latest cruise ship COVID-19 outbreak, and more.
Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s has collaborated with Chance the Rapper on a new flavor that also aims to do some social good. A portion of the sales of “Mint Chocolate Chance” will benefit Chance the Rapper’s Chicago-based nonprofit, SocialWorks.
This is Ben & Jerry’s latest foray into retail activism—the company has become known for producing specialty ice cream flavors taking on everything from climate change to racial equality.
While Ben & Jerry’s mission remains unchanged, the addition of Chance the Rapper offers the brand an opportunity to make headlines with a well-worn brand story.
Here are today’s other top stories:
Federal appeals court allows Biden’s employer vaccine mandate to advance
A federal appeals court has approved President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for large employers (with 100 or more workers). Last week’s ruling reverses a previous decision that had halted the vaccine mandate set to go into effect Jan. 4.
In a statement, the White House doubled down on the president’s message about protecting workers: “Especially as the U.S. faces the highly transmissible Omicron variant, it’s critical we move forward with vaccination requirements and protections for workers with the urgency needed in this moment.”
The vaccine requirement would apply to companies with 100 or more employees and would cover about 84 million workers in the U.S. Employees who are not fully vaccinated would have to wear face masks and be subject to weekly COVID-19 tests. There would be exceptions, including for those who work outdoors or only at home.
The administration has estimated that the rule would save 6,500 lives and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations over six months. On Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor, which includes OSHA, said the 6th circuit’s ruling will allow the agency to implement “common-sense, science-based measures to keep workers safe and healthy during a deadly pandemic.”
Why it matters: While opponents of the vaccine mandate promised to appeal the decision, this latest news is a signal for communicators and employers to take preemptive action on vaccine rules with their workers. Even if the legal question of the mandate is unresolved in the near term, leaders can remove the uncertainty for employees by taking the initiative to require vaccines under their own authority—with the expectation that federal rules might soon follow.
By focusing on removing uncertainty and doubt for workers, employers can position a move toward a vaccine mandate as an effort to protect and serve stakeholders, even if the rule is still working through a lengthy legal process.
Morning Consult’s U.S. Economic Outlook for December 2021 shows more workers returned to the office in November compared with October.
Sixty-four percent of workers polled in November 2021 shared that they “leave home to work in an office or other workplace,” the second-highest share recorded since the beginning of the pandemic.
Despite these numbers, a recent uptick in cases and the looming threat of the omicron variant could prompt office closings—as well as personal decisions to work from home to mitigate risk.
Communicators should be prepared to rework messaging about workplace policies heading into the latest virus surge, with the knowledge that employees may be growing tired of the whipsawing between remote and in-person work.
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Forty-eight people have tested positive for COVID-19 aboard the world’s largest cruise ship, according to cruise operators.
Royal Caribbean, the company that operates the Symphony of the Seas, was quick to pass the blame for the outbreak in an email to passengers obtained by USA TODAY, claiming the first known case was found to be a passenger who had sailed on a cruise earlier in the month: “This guest did not report symptoms to our onboard medical teams as outlined in our health protocols. Their post cruise test results were subsequently confirmed as the omicron variant.”
The 48 cases on the recently disembarked cruise “were found as a result of immediately identifying close contacts after a guest tested positive,” [Lyan Sierra-Caro, spokesperson for Royal Caribbean] said, noting each person was quarantined quickly. “Everyone who tested positive is asymptomatic, and we continually monitored their health.”
Royal Caribbean was seemingly caught off-guard by the outbreak, even as the world faces new threats from the omicron variant and the lingering delta variant of COVID-19. As the world enters the third year of the pandemic, it’s important to have a solid crisis communications plan in place for virus-related emergencies—especially for companies who deal in hospitality and are at a higher risk for an outbreak.
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Meta (formerly Facebook) voted worst company of the year
A new audience survey from Yahoo Finance found that people aren’t very happy with social media outfit Meta.
The company has faced a year of controversy, epitomized by the leak of the “Facebook Papers” by whistleblower Frances Haugen. Meta received 50% more votes than the runner-up, Alibaba, a Chinese ecommerce giant.
People hectored the platform for failing to police significant misinformation that in the view of critics contributed to people not taking the pandemic’s potential for death seriously (797,877 official deaths in the U.S. and counting). Facebook was also blamed for the rise of far-right extremism and “undermining democracy worldwide,” as one respondent put it.
Outside of the political conversation, many respondents were upset with the company’s effects on children and young people, citing its photo-sharing site Instagram and its effects on mental health, after internal documents revealed the company knew Instagram made teenage girls feel worse about body image issues but didn’t address the problem.
What it means: The survey is no surprise for those who have followed Meta’s many PR crises, dating back to the Cambridge Analytica scandal that marked the turn against the company. It’s another reminder of the true cost of brand reputation and public trust, sometimes nebulous company assets that PR pros can measure with numbers to make the business case for their work.
The survey is perhaps also confirmation that Meta’s attempt to change its name in the middle of a bad news cycle hasn’t enabled the company to leave its problems in the past. If anything, the new moniker has just raised questions about whether the company truly understands the problems and challenges it faces.
Thousands of helpless Israeli women and children have been murdered, blinded and crippled in their homes not for something they did a individuals—what could small children do to deserve being murdered—but because they were Jews. Ben & Jerry’s management, perhaps to increase sales among Jew-haters and certainly not to benefit the murdered women and children—announced a boycott that would apply to Jews but not to Arabs.
Could Ben & Jerry’s have intended to benefit anyone among the murdered and crippled Jews? If they moved onto land purchased from Arab owners, is that a good reason to murder them?
Do retail stores benefit Ben & Jerry’s by stocking their ice cream and other Unilever products?
Should we not only avoid buying that brand of ice cream but also buying from stores that stock it?
If all those murdered Jews were guilty, then guilty of what? Do each of us have a right to feel we don’t want to support Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever buy buying the products of companies that boycott Jews?
If we really believe in our hearts that discrimination by color or religion or gender are wrong, should we stand up for what we believe in by not buying from companies that openly admit boycotting Jews perhaps for no better reason than to sell more ice cream to Jew-haters? Should we avoid buying Unilever products, and buying from stores that sell Ben & Jerry’s because God’s will and an American principle is that all people are created equal before the Lord?
Behold the Facebook PR problem and opportunity.
ALL media of communication—including our phone companies, internet, post office and Facebook—can be called “guilty” of facilitating communications by all kinds of nuts, oddballs and hateful people. Who could doubt that we have too much of what Yahoo Finance reports—“right wing extremism and undermining democracy worldwide”?
The PROBLEM is that if we want to censor the communication of bad guys, will some people want to censor the communication of good guys? WHO is qualified to decide what ideas should be permissible in communications sent by Facebook, phones, mail and the internet?
Facebook’s PR blunder is that they keep trying to DENY–and then that’s it– the allegations of spreading falsehoods, which is something that can be done via phones, the internet and the mail as well as via Facebook. It’s instinctive to deny allegations of fault and Facebook management may be demanding it. Any of us would feel like denying guilt if a woman says, emerging from a department store elevator, “he patted my rump” or “he brushed up against my body!”
Deny we should and do but PR wisdom following accusation is not only to deny but to STATE THE POSITIVE OPPOSITE. Facebook should point out how much GOOD is done by those who communicate over Facebook. And how much GOOD is done by Facebook itself. From memory, Facebook earned $9 billion had had over $20-something billion in revenue In a recent quarter. Times four that’s $36 billion in yearly earnings and over $90 billion in revenue. Could Washington action like “tax the rich” or “thou shalt not” restrictive regs cause Facebook a loss of easily $18 billion a year in earnings and over $40 billion in revenue.? Lost Billions!
But look what’s likely if Facebook announces that in the new year Facebook is launching two “protect the public” programs:
.1. MORE SAFETY FROM SCHOOLYARD SHOOTINGS. A BILLION OVER THE NEXT TEN YEARS TO HELP Dr. Anthony Fauci’s team hunt for ways to detect early and sharply reduce childhood violent rage. New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital hired away from Johns Hopkins a brilliant medical doctor, a shrink, who specializes not in TREATING schizophrenia but in research to figure out what CAUSES it. Inherent in a theory of causation may be a policy of control. Millions of people die of congestive heart failure and a team at Johns Hopkins is looking for ways to defeat hemolytic anemia, a treatable blood ailment that often causes heart failure.
.2 MORE SAFETY FROM CANCER. AN ANTI-CANCER VACCINE developed at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has already gained FDA approval for limited use, and a team of great cancer doctors at MSKCC is hunting for a broad-spectrum anti-cancer vaccine that may become as widely used as America’s Covid vaccines. A CAR-T therapy research team under world-famous Dr. Andrew Zelenetz sends substances through the bloodstream of a patient. They are like secret police in dictatorships: every time good cells encounter cancer cells, bang! the cancer cells are killed, a process doctors call “apoptosis”.
If 200 million Americans learn that Facebook is doing these things to protect us from schoolyard shootings and from cancer, will NO sane politician propose taxing or restraining Facebook ops in a way that could reduce their earnings and ability to protect the public in two ways? It’s certainly not a lack of PR talent because the big American tech companies like the top Mideast oil countries today have our very best PR horseflesh—like the oil and chemical and pharma companies years ago. So I’m guessing it’s the vanity of top management.
A leader like Mark Zuckerberg, with a head for computers and logic plus an exec’s natural desire to try answering accusations point for point, may figure “Who needs this PR bullshit? I’m Mark Zuckerberg, our PR staffers and PR firms WORK for me, and they are trying to tell ME what to do?” Once an exec is so highly successful and admired that he can attend board meetings in a grey T-shirt or hoodie, it can go to his head.
BUT if he can be persuaded to heed PR wisdom (and ALL the great PR firms respect the wisdom of “give that ye may receive,”) the opportunity is “give that it may beautify thy bottom line.” The graduates of PR Daily courses are eagerly sought by recruiters and will go on to well deserved money and offices with more than one window. But if non-PR execs at companies like Facebook can be persuaded to take those PR Daily courses—and listen!–the execs may then create delightful answers to the age old question: “What shall it profit a man?”