FedEx chief challenges NYT publisher to debate, Dunkin’ to end the ‘double cup,’ and the true cost of Starbucks’ bathroom policy

Also: Prince Andrew’s ‘catastrophic’ BBC interview, TikTok adds URLs to bios, how PR pros prefer to learn, and more.

Good morning, PR pros:

BBC News journalist Emily Maitlis recently spoke with Prince Andrew, Duke of York, in a video that is making the rounds online as one of the most disastrous media interviews ever:

Charlie Proctor, editor-in-chief of RoyalCentral.com, compared the interview to a “plane crashing into an oil tanker, causing a tsunami, triggering a nuclear explosion”:

Others have simply deemed the media sit-down an “unwise” decision.

CNN reported:

“I think any reputation management professional, whether lawyer or PR, is going to say that this was a catastrophic error of judgement,” prominent media lawyer Mark Stephens told the BBC on Saturday.

Share with us your thoughts under the #MorningScoop hashtag.

Here are today’s top stories:

FedEx chief lashes out against NYT tax article

On Sunday, The New York Times reported that FedEx cut its 2018 tax debt to nothing after owing more than $1.5 billion the year prior—a result of the Trump administration’s tax cut, for which FedEx lobbied. It didn’t take long for FedEx’s chief executive and chairman of the board, Frederick W. Smith, to respond.

Smith issued a statement in which he called the Times’ article “distorted and factually incorrect.” Further, he challenged the media company’s publisher and chairman, A. G. Sulzberger, to a public debate about federal tax policy “and the relative societal benefits of business investments and the enormous intended benefits to the United States economy, especially lower and middle class wage earners.”

Why it matters: PR pros must regularly communicate with journalists and stay on top of both current news and news media mentions about their organization, swiftly correcting misinformation and providing additional context when necessary. However, when your chief executive takes off the gloves, rev up your crisis strategy.

The Times reported that the tax cuts’ “impact dwindled quickly” and that FedEx’s savings have mainly “gone to reward shareholders.” The article does include a statement from the company, in which it says that it “invested billions in capital items eligible for accelerated depreciation and made large contributions to [its] employee pension plans.”

Smith’s statement didn’t provide additional information nor correct the Times’ report. Rather, Smith lashed out by listing the media company’s federal income tax responsibilities and capital investments over the last couple of years before issuing his challenge. Issuing such a defensive statement without focusing on his own organization makes Smith appear more guilty than vindicated.


FROM THE EXPERTS

Though data and analytics are all the rage for communicators proving the ROI of their efforts, don’t forget that “soft” skills are crucial for success, but JWM Talent’s Jamie McLaughlin argues that the combination of flexibility, data intelligence and other skills help PR pros to stand out from the rest. Check out his insights here.


MEASURED THOUGHTS

A recent study from the University of Texas at Dallas Jindal School of Management, Boston College Carroll School of Management, and SafeGraph revealed that Starbucks visits dropped 6.8% after the coffee chain instituted an open-bathroom policy.

Image from the study “The Perils of Private Provision of Public Goods,” via University of Texas Dallas, Boston College and SafeGraph.

Speaking about the report, Boston College assistant professor David Solomon told YFi PM that the numbers “highlight the difficulty companies can have when trying to engage in different forms of socially responsible behavior.” In Starbucks’s case, the decreased attendance could be chalked up to potential customers leaving after witnessing crowded tables and dirty bathrooms, which are now open to all, regardless of purchase.

Image from the study “The Perils of Private Provision of Public Goods,” via University of Texas Dallas, Boston College and SafeGraph.

Yahoo Finance reported:

The company disputed the study’s findings — and took a shot at its methodology.

“Customers are visiting Starbucks at record numbers,” a spokesperson told Yahoo Finance. “Rather than tracking cell phone data without user knowledge, we see real customers in our stores and the connections they make with our partners (employees) every day across more than 31,000 stores.”

In other coffee news, Dunkin’ is eliminating the double cup

By Dec. 1, the coffee-and-doughnuts chain is switching its polystyrene cups to more environmentally friendly paper cups. It’s also axing the double cup—a practice that ABC News reported is especially popular in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. To break the news to customers, Dunkin’ created ads that said the “double cup is breaking up,” further highlighting cold drinks as “iced, delicious and single.”

Why you should care: More and more organizations (especially in the food, travel and hospitality sectors) are revealing efforts to become more sustainable, from cutting down on single-use plastics to adding plant-based items to their menus. However, merely announcing the initiatives won’t net you positive press—nor is it the end of your PR work. Make sure you include ways to inform customers of changes before you make them. Aim your campaigns at persuading consumers to join you in the initiative, so they can become involved and get on board.


SOCIAL BUZZ

TikTok recently enabled users to add a URL to their bios, as well as adding website addresses to their videos.

The social media app is also reducing the amount of content from China in its trending section of videos that greet users, to appear more friendly to users (and marketing partners) in the United States.

The moves serve to highlight TikTok’s efforts to appeal to U.S. consumers, influencers and organizations as its user numbers grow—especially among Generation Z.


WHAT YOU SAID

We asked for your preferred learning style, as PR pros must keep current with trends, news and industry changes to stay on top of the competition and advance within the industry. Forty-two percent of you turn to podcasts and audiobooks for your knowledge (a smart choice during commutes or errands), and 38% read up with white papers and articles.

How else do you expand your skill set, PR Daily readers? Share your thoughts with us under #MorningScoop.


SOUNDING BOARD

Keeping your best workers happy and engaged in your company or agency is a top concern for many PR leaders. What’s the best way to retain your best communicators?

Share your thoughts, along with anything we missed, with the hashtag #MorningScoop.

 

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COMMENT

One Response to “FedEx chief challenges NYT publisher to debate, Dunkin’ to end the ‘double cup,’ and the true cost of Starbucks’ bathroom policy”

    Ronald N. Levy says:

    You can see right away why this FedEx response is a PR blunder when you look at the question this move in effect asks the public: “Who do you trust more, The New York Times which is accusing FedEx of not paying enough taxes, or FedEx which accuses the Times of being inaccurate?”

    Look how much better it would be for FedEx to instead ask these questions:

    .1. “Should the Times try to realize that it’s only fair for all taxpayers to deduct their business expenses?”

    .2. “Does the Times deny that like most taxpayers, the Times also deducts its business expenses and not just some years but every year?”

    .3. “Does the Times not realize that all taxpayers take all deductions that the law allows and that the Times accountants also take all lawful deductions?”

    A public accusation commonly claims that a company is damaging the public. A PR savvy response is that in TRUTH the company helps the public in six ways (which should be enumerated) but what the accuser favors would HURT the public badly as non-deduction of business costs would certainly do.

    Is the Times also against the child deduction? Or the deduction of huge healthcare costs? Or many other deductions the public deserves to keep?
    Asking these questions would be a hell of a lot better for FedEx than asking whether a newspaper publisher wants to debate whether FedEx has paid enough taxes .

    Right now you and I may not know why we should like FedEx since UPS seems to do the same thing and even the post office delivers packages. So if there’s a dispute between the Times and Fedex, do we have much reason to hope FedEx wins? But look how this would be different if we knew that FedEx is donating a million a month to a FedEx Health Protection Research Program at Mayo Clinic, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, or John Hopkins or Lymphoma Research Foundation. Would we tend to be more skeptical of those who criticize companies that are trying to protect our lives?

    When there’s a public accusation or dispute, over 150 million Americans may form an opinion about which side to favor. PR wisdom is that if you’ve made your company known for public protection, you have a better chance of being the “home team” than if you haven’t. The public is deeply grateful to public benefactors and this gratitude is felt by nearly all of us.