Equinox and SoulCycle downplay political backlash, Pizza Hut shutters stores, and marketers purr over #InternationalCatDay

Also: Storytelling insights from Hilton’s director of content, The New York Times’ stock drop reveals a muddy media picture, and how different social media platforms affect purchases.

Good morning, PR pros:

On Wednesday, The New York Times’ stock fell as the publisher announced that its digital advertising revenue was set to drop. Though its digital subscription revenue is set to increase, it’s not enough to offset investors’ fears.

The Wall Street Journal reported:

The warning comes as the New York Times reported second-quarter net income of $25.2 million, or 15 cents a share, up 6.7% from $23.6 million, or 14 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. Adjusted operating profit fell 6.4% to $55.6 million, and adjusted earnings from continuing operations were flat at 17 cents a share.

Revenue increased 5.2% to $436.3 million, driven by gains in subscription revenue as well as growth in advertising revenue and revenue from the television series “The Weekly” and growth from commercial printing operations.

It’s a reminder to PR pros looking to land media coverage or deciding on a sponsored content deal to dig deeper and find stories that can appeal to publications’ readership.

How are publications’ struggles affecting your pitches and marketing strategies?

Here are today’s top stories:

Equinox Fitness and SoulCycle distance themselves from Trump fundraiser

The luxury fitness companies responded to growing backlash and calls for a boycott in response to a political fundraiser for President Donald J. Trump, which will be hosted by the companies’ owner, Stephen Ross.

Both Equinox and SoulCycle swiftly issued statements in which they stepped away from Ross’ actions and said they did not get involved with politics:

Why you should care: It’s becoming harder to avoid backlash over political and social issues, especially as organizations’ executives and investors voice their thoughts and opinions. Have a crisis response prepared, so you can quickly let stakeholders know your organization’s values.

Soul Cycle’s chief executive, Melanie Whelan, didn’t mince words with her response: “SoulCycle has nothing to do with the event and does not support it. … We know who we are and we know what we believe in, and nothing will ever change that.”  

Related reading:


Which social media platform wields the most influence over consumers? Despite an extended period of crisis and scandal, Facebook still holds a lot of sway over the public.

A new study from the Manifest breaks down how each social media platform influences buying decisions for both men and women.

Does this match your investment in social media platforms? Please share your thoughts with the hashtag #MorningScoop.

Brand managers sink their claws into #InternationalCatDay

Digital marketers have already pounced on the trending #InternationalCatDay hashtag on Twitter. Posts from The Royal Ballet, Ashmolean Museum, Nintendo Europe, TickTock UK, Miss Universe, National Geographic and more featured the many ways that felines tie in to their brands:

A few social media teams, including those from BBC Radio 6 Music and “Peppa Pig,” solicited photos from their followers:

Impress your boss: Taking part in a national or international holiday can be an easy way to share fun content and boost engagement, but focus on building your online communities before and in between these special days.

In a previous poll, 72% of you said it’s OK to take part in holidays as long as PR and marketing pros do it right—which means understanding your audiences and building regular interactions outside of sharing cat photos once or twice a year.

Related reading:


For its 100th birthday, Hilton Worldwide cast aside the option to lavish consumers with the statistics of its success, sharing instead stories from the people who have made a difference and exemplified the chain’s vision—called #TheHiltonEffect.

Take a page from Hilton’s director of content for global brand communications, Lou Dubois, with our interview that reveals the storytelling efforts that went into this campaign.

You can learn more from Dubois as well as insights from Microsoft, Disney Parks, Toms, PayPal and more by joining us at Ragan’s Brand Storytelling & Content Marketing Conference at Disneyland, Sept. 19-20.

Pizza Hut to close 500 restaurants

The pizza chain will shutter the doors on hundreds of its dine-in locations as it focuses on take-out and delivery options. As with most transformation statements, a Pizza Hut executive served the announcement with a healthy helping of corporate blather.

Food Business News reported:

“We are leaning in to accelerate the transition of our Pizza Hut U.S. asset base to truly modern delivery/carryout assets,” said David W. Gibbs, president, chief operating officer and chief financial officer for Yum! Brands, in an Aug. 1 earnings call to discuss second-quarter results. “This will ultimately strengthen the Pizza Hut business in the U.S. and set it up for a faster long-term growth.

“During this transition, we expect a temporary deceleration in the pace of new unit development for the Pizza Hut division as continued healthy international unit growth will be partially offset by a short-term decline in the absolute number of U.S. units. As a result, our U.S. store count could drop to as low as 7,000 locations over the next 24 months, primarily driven by closures of underperforming dine-in restaurants before rebounding to current levels and above in the future.”

Why it matters: Many organizations are transforming their business models in response to consumers turning to e-commerce and online ordering. If your organization is announcing changes, drop the corporate-speak and focus on simple language to relay your vision for the future.

Related reading:


Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke has made headlines this week in his impassioned response to the shootings in his hometown of El Paso and in his sharp criticism of Trump. However, some of O’Rourke’s remarks have been bleeped out for mainstream audiences.

What do you think about the use of profanity in messages to big, diverse publics? Is it never a good idea, or OK in moderation?

Share your thoughts in the comments or online with the hashtag #MorningScoop, and we’ll include it in tomorrow’s update.

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