‘Ellen DeGeneres Show’ loses a million viewers, hospitals face scrutiny after price transparency scandal, and Microsoft reports Gen Z struggles with remote work

Also: Domestic air traveler numbers return to pre-pandemic levels, PR Council opens registration for its certificate program, Krispy Kreme offers free donuts with proof of vaccination, and more.


Editor’s note: This article is a re-run as part of our countdown of top stories from the past year.

Hello, Communicators:

U.S. air traveler numbers have topped 1.5 million for the first time since March 2020 according to the Transportation Security Administration, a sharp rebound after the 60% decline of U.S. air travelers in 2020.

“TSA said it screened 1.54 million people Sunday,” reports Reuters, “the highest single day since March 13, 2020 and the 11th consecutive day screening volume exceeded 1 million per day.”

The milestone comes amid continued warnings from the CDC that people avoid air travel, but the agency has not yet issued new travel advisories. “It has so far declined to issue new guidance on travel for vaccinated Americans out of concerns prompted by travel-related surges that the United States encountered during previous holiday periods,” reports CNN.

While communicators should feel confident that the back half of this year will bring some return to “business as usual,” it is important to temper that optimism with continued concern and messaging around safety.

‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ loses over a million viewers following toxic workplace claims

When the latest season of Ellen DeGeneres’ daytime talk show, returned to air in September after a summer hiatus following allegations of a toxic culture on set, DeGeneres kicked things off with an apology that gave the show its highest ratings of a season premiere in four years.

Since September, however, the show averaged 1.5 million viewers, a sharp decline from 2.6 million during the same period the year prior. This 43% decline marks a steeper drop in viewership for “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” than any of its competitors.

The New York Times reports:

The decline has come at a time when workplace behavior, in Hollywood and elsewhere, has come under intense scrutiny against a backdrop of protest and social change. It is a startling setback for one of daytime television’s most successful franchises and for Ms. DeGeneres, who was at the forefront of an earlier cultural shift when, as the star of a prime-time network sitcom in the 1990s, she announced that she is gay.

Why It Matters:

While the events of this past year have brought renewed attention to workplace wellness gaps between employees and employers, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” ratings decline reminds us that a toxic workplace culture can inevitably cause external, lasting reputational damage. Make sure that the culture your company communicates externally matches with what employees are experiencing by creating consistent channels for dialogue between employees and leadership. Conduct workplace surveys, and act on the data by following up to address employee concerns.


The start of spring brings new opportunities for agency communicators across roles, organizations and industries to develop stronger relationships with their clients.

Ragan Communications and the Institute for Public Relations are conducting a brief survey on the relationship between PR agencies and their clients, which will be presented at the Ragan’s April 7 Media Relations & Measurement Conference and published in a report that will be launched in May 2021.


Please share your insights with us before the deadline on April 2, 2021. The survey should take less than 10 minutes to complete and your responses will remain confidential. As a thank you for your time and insights, you will be entered into a drawing for one of two $50 gift cards.

Take our survey here.


Krispy Kreme donuts announced yesterday that the franchise will offer one free donut per day to customers who show their COVID-19 vaccination card:

Some praised the campaign’s promotional image by pointing out its clever pun:


Others alluded to the fact that, while the offer promotes one push toward health, it also encourages obesity:

Others, still, accused those crying “obesity” of fat shaming:

While the spirited debate around the optics of this campaign ultimately brought more press and media attention to Krispy Kreme, communicators should always collaborate with the marketing team, reviewing its work and being deliberate in how that work is communicated. This is especially necessary during discussions around any campaign relating to promotions, or incentives, for customers who show proof of vaccination.


Looking for more insight on how to address the current global crisis and lead your organization into a strong recovery?


intelligence and research and start to strategize for the future of your organization.

Learn more about this exclusive membership here.


Microsoft announced yesterday that its headquarters in Redmond and Seattle, Washington will begin its limited re-opening on March 29th with a hybrid workplace approach. This moves the marker on the company’s “Hybrid Workplace Dial” it revealed last year to the soft opening stage:

Image courtesy of Microsoft

Communicators will note that this illustration, with its color-coded thresholds outlining each step in the transition, isn’t all that different from the thresholds that would be present on a crisis plan. Consider that mapping out your company’s plans for reopening may wind up looking like a crisis plan in reverse.


Microsoft has also supplemented its aforementioned hybrid work strategy yesterday with the release of its “Work Trend Index” study,  which surveyed workers to better understand what work habits people hope to maintain, or change, once COVID-19 subsides.

Image courtesy of Microsoft

“[A]mong the more than 31,000 workers it surveyed, 73% hoped remote work options would continue when the pandemic ends,” reports CNET. “Even Gen Z applicants were slightly more likely to apply for a job with remote options than for one strictly in an office. But those workers are also facing particular drawbacks…by saying they’re more stressed and find they’re struggling more than their peers. They tend to be single, since they’re younger, leading them to feel isolated. And since they’re early in their careers, they don’t have financial means to create a good workspace at home if their employer won’t pay for it.”

View the entire study here.

PR Council’s certificate program fills the void left by cancelled internships and delayed hires

The PR Council (PRC) has opened registration for year two of its popular Agency-Ready Certificate program, which starts on June 8. The program was created to address the litany of internship programs and entry-level positions that were suspended or canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program awarded 2,000 certificates last year, and the council said that many graduates were offered new positions by PR Council member companies.

“We designed the program to be particularly informative to non-PR or Communications majors and also to provide real-world training and industry insights to those majoring in the field,” PRC President Kim Sample said in a statement. “Sessions include earned media, client service, and writing, which are always important to industry success. Students will also learn about integrated marketing, data and analytics, and the mandate for diverse and inclusive workforces, all of which is critical knowledge in successful agencies.”

College students, recent grads and others interested in learning more about the agency business can register here or contact ARCHelp@prcouncil.net for more information.

Hospitals get caught hiding federally mandated pricing data in search results

Responding to a new federal rule that requires hospitals to publish their previously confidential prices online, many hospitals have hidden that data from search results by blocking it using special coding on their websites.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The code keeps pages from appearing in searches, such as those related to a hospital’s name and prices, computer-science experts said. The prices are often accessible other ways, such as through links that can require clicking through multiple layers of pages.

“It’s technically there, but good luck finding it,” said Chirag Shah, an associate professor at the University of Washington who studies human interactions with computers. “It’s one thing not to optimize your site for searchability, it’s another thing to tag it so it can’t be searched. It’s a clear indication of intentionality.”

Gizmodo reports:

[I]t’s worth noting that some hospitals claim that not all of these search-blocking code snippets were left intentionally. In some cases after being contacted by the Journal, hospitals pulled the snippet from their site, saying it was a piece of “legacy code” that was no longer needed. Others said that the code was left on their website “in error.” In some cases, the code could’ve been left as the hospitals worked to tighten up these pricing pages as a way to prevent the drafted document from being indexed in search—and whoever was responsible for the page simply forgot to take the snippet off.

Why It Matters:

Intentions aside, this incident reminds communicators that company transparency extends far beyond your messaging to all aspects of your organization. As new federal regulations are passed to address privacy concerns and industry-specific needs, making sure that your company operates above board also means partnering with SEO teams, developers and colleagues who work on the backend to ensure that your information is not only clearly communicated, but easily accessible as well.


As the news cycle continues to rapidly shift and communicators grapple to create strategies that overcome content exhaustion and misinformation, it’s crucial to embrace new best practices grounded in measurement, data and insights that can both build engagement and boost brand awareness.

Learn how to build stronger relationships with journalists to tell your story, and measure the results at Ragan’s Media Relations & Measurement Virtual Conference on Wednesday, April 7.


Attendees will discover new and smart opportunities to overcome crisis challenges, pitch stories that reporters crave, better understand and deliver to target audiences through analytics and insights, enhance media relations efforts through the PESO model and brand journalism, prove the ROI of your efforts, and more.

Learn powerful insights and secrets from speakers at organizations including NAACP, PepsiCo, Goodwill, Pfizer, Hilton and Britannica Group.

Register for our event here.


We asked what your first work priority was after sitting down on Monday.  A solid 60% of you kick off the week be replying to emails, while 27% of you plan your week before anything else. Only 11% of you check in with your team first thing, however, and just 2% of you start things off by checking in with leadership.


What GIF best expresses your feeling when a journalist agrees to coverage after the first follow-up pitch, PR pros and communicators?

Share your best face of earned media satisfaction below under the hashtag #DailyScoop. We’ll share top responses in tomorrow’s roundup.


One Response to “‘Ellen DeGeneres Show’ loses a million viewers, hospitals face scrutiny after price transparency scandal, and Microsoft reports Gen Z struggles with remote work”

    Meredith Neltner says:

    The Ellen DeGeneres Show scandal highlights the importance of a healthy and ethical work environment within organizations. As you pointed out, this is especially prevalent in the context of our country’s movement toward social justice after months of protests. As PR professionals, it’s our job to maintain a clean reputation for the company, and this starts internally with a suitable work environment.

    The best way to avoid misunderstanding and mistreatment in the office is by practicing open communication between staff and company leadership. This can be done in a variety of ways, but I like your suggestion to conduct workplace surveys. It’s a simple, yet efficient way to determine the status of your employees.

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