Department stores close across the nation, hotel chains ask for $250B in government aid, and Facebook fights COVID-19 misinformation

Also: The Edelman Trust Barometer shows the importance of employer communications, Airbnb marketing head experiments with virtual networking, outstanding newsrooms, and more.

Macy's covid 19 response closings

Good morning, PR pros:

 Musa Tariq, global head of marketing for Airbnb Experiences, launched an impromptu video networking session after a meeting was canceled:

More than 40 people attended the meeting, offered through Airbnb’s portal on Zoom. Many more responded that they’d like to take part in future sessions, and Tariq promised to host another today.

It’s a great example of how you can network virtually and continue to make industry connections, even while working from home.

Here are today’s top stories:

Macy’s, Apple, Sephora and more close U.S. stores

 Many retail chains, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Disney, Bath & Body Works, REI, Macy’s, Apple, H&M and Sephora have temporarily closed locations within the United States. Some have also closed their locations in Canada and Europe, while others have shortened their store hours.

Check out an updated overview in this Twitter thread:

Why it matters: Communications regarding store closures, cleaning and health measures, and employee compensation are varied, but most companies have focused their messages on consumers’ and employees’ health, using terms such as “abundance of caution” and “wellbeing.” As you continue to communicate throughout the pandemic, ensure your tone matches the situation and your emphasis is on your audience.


Edelman released a Trust Barometer Special Report on COVID-19, which revealed 70% of people follow COVID-19 news at least once a day and 32% read news and updates several times daily. Nearly three-quarters (74%) worry about fake news and misinformation.

Twice as many people turn to major news outlets for their information compared with global or national health organizations, including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Younger consumers turn to social media (54%) nearly as often as news organizations (56%):

Image courtesy of Edelman.

Though most people rely on news organizations to receive COVID-19 information and updates, Edelman’s report also shows that employer communications are the most trusted source of information. It eclipses messages from organizations in general by 18 points and both government and news media sources by 27 points:

Image courtesy of Edelman.

Facebook fights misinformation

The social media platform has outlined the ways it’s ensuring users have credible health information on both Facebook and its app Instagram, including connecting users to verified resources and information from health authorities along with supporting fact-checkers.

In an overview, Facebook’s head of health, Kang-Xing Jin, wrote:

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Facebook is supporting the global public health community’s work to keep people safe and informed. Since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a public health emergency in January, we’ve taken steps to make sure everyone has access to accurate information, stop misinformation and harmful content, and support global health experts, local governments, businesses and communities.

You can view its overview here, which also includes how the company is supporting relief efforts and communities through donations and more.

Why it’s important: Fighting fake news is a shared responsibility. You might not work for a social media platform, but you can help stop the spread of misinformation by sharing information from well-known health care organizations and authorities along with verified sources. Encourage employees to practice fact-checking behaviors before they share information online as well.


A new report from the Institute of Public Relations and PepperComm reveals how the COVID-19 outbreak is affecting communicators across organizations and industries, along with where they’re turning for information.

The great news is that more than half (55%) say they’re “somewhat prepared” and 30% say they’re “very prepared” to respond to the crisis.

To learn more, read the full article.


The COVID-19 crisis offers communicators an important opportunity to show their value.

One way to help your company is to become a brand journalist and start telling the many stories that are being generated by employees and stakeholders in response to these unprecedented challenges.

Ragan Consulting Group’s Jim Ylisela goes over the many strategies he recommends to help your organization navigate the crisis with aplomb, from media relations and internal communications to crisis management.

See his full recommendations here.

Hotels seek $250B aid package

 Along with airlines, organizations in the hotel and travel industry, including global chains such as Marriott and Hilton, are struggling with the effects of the pandemic and have asked for government aid as they grapple with massive employee layoffs and billions in profits being lost.

 Reuters reported:

The requested package would consist of $150 billion in direct aid for the hotel sector and $100 billion for related travel companies, including convention businesses, industry executives said on a call after the meeting with Trump, who made his fortune in real estate and hotels.

… The hotel industry said it was expecting to lose $1.4 billion in revenue every week on account of the virus, according to statements from the American Hotel and Lodging Association and the U.S. Travel Association, which also forecasts a 30% drop in hotel occupancy over a year.

The sudden cratering of demand would cause the loss of 4.6 million jobs, the statements added.

Why you should care: Regardless of whether you work in the hospitality and travel industries, the current crisis continues to bring unexpected changes to organizations and their workforces, as well as consumer behavior. As you turn to your business contingency plans, focus on communicating often and as transparently as you can. Overcommunicating is better than maintaining radio silence and can help build trust with your audiences.


As communicators grapple with gathering and distributing information regarding the COVID-19 crisis, both Target and T-Mobile offer outstanding examples of newsrooms and information hubs.

Target offers all COVID-19 news in one place, including messages from its chief executive to consumers as well as employees. Underneath those messages is a “frequently asked questions” segment, with answers and links to adjusted store hours, online shopping services and more:

Image courtesy of Target.

 T-Mobile offers information in a similar fashion, with a message from its chief executive on top, along with an overview of its response to the pandemic, and followed by frequently asked questions organized by type (ex. “our customers,” “our network” and “our stores”):

Image courtesy of T-Mobile.


 We asked what some of biggest challenges were for your teams as many of you transition to remote work.

The majority of you said it was the “feeling of isolation” that cut the deepest.

Tressa Robbins with Burelles says that years of remote work has prepared her for this moment:

Others said that social media helped them stay connected:

We hope you continue to connect with us on our social media channels and on our website. Reach out to our channels and with our hashtag if you have questions or want to start a conversation.

Then again, some people also said they weren’t working remotely.  Do you wish you office would make the transition to virtual work? Share your thoughts with our new hashtag #DailyScoop.


 What person in the organization do people most want to hear from during the COVID-19 crisis? Should you focus on getting subject matter experts or business leaders in front of your audience?

Share your thoughts with our new hashtag #DailyScoop.


One Response to “Department stores close across the nation, hotel chains ask for $250B in government aid, and Facebook fights COVID-19 misinformation”

    Ronald N. Levy says:


    A third major PR message—besides “buy our products” and “we are good guys”—will be “use government money wisely.”

    We get a hint of this from Beki Winchel’s segment, “Hotels seek $250 billion aid package.” We can see it from the calls in congress for multi-billion and even trillion dollar packages to help the unemployed, small business plus urgent needs of states, cities, bus and airline companies, healthcare facilities and many more.

    Even before more national activist cries of “who is responsible for this mess” and “let’s punish the abusers,” we may see impassioned calls from good people to “help the emergency needs” of the unemployed, small business and such urgently important-to-the-public industries as pharmaceuticals, energy, automotive, chemicals, technology, retailing, security and more.

    Cautiously, experts may point out that if we print trillions of dollars to give—and guarantee loans for—all deserving people and companies, the value of the dollar (which means the value of our savings) will shrivel perhaps by 50%, 75% or even more. But not many in congress may shout “three cheers for economists who warn against printing money.”

    So how much government money is expended and who gets it may be largely determined by public opinion, and public opinion may be largely determined by our best PR communicators. Fortunately, our PR firms keep getting better and better.

    A focus of PR may be on who should get not just government checks but also government guaranteed loans, government trade protection, freedom from “excessive” government regulation and other lobbyist objectives.

    Vastly bigger budgets for PR firms and programs may be urged not only on managements but on lobbyists to whom the message from PR may be “help us get enough budget from management so we can generate tons of letters to legislators from voters who want what you want and we want and our management needs.”

    “Buy our products” and “we are good guys” will certainly continue to
    be persuasive PR messages to a frightened public. The effectiveness of these messages may depend partly on PR success in communicating how public money can best be used to cope with what is frightening and to serve the public interest.

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