Goldman Sachs issues diversity challenge, 23andMe lays off 100, and Sonos chief apologizes after backlash

Also: Baskin-Robbins receives delicious PR from a viral video, the limits of voice search, Express to close 100 stores as it restructures, and more.

Good morning, PR pros:

 Baskin-Robbins received love after a TikTok video went viral. The clip features a baby reacting humorously to eating ice cream for the first time. The ice cream chain briefly responded by sharing the video’s coverage on “The Today Show”:

Some Twitter users suggested that Baskin-Robbins should reach out and offer ice cream for life to the infant-turned-brand advocate. What would you do in this situation to extend the positive PR?

Here are today’s top stories:

Goldman Sachs announces leadership diversity requirement

 At the World Economic Forum, the investment banking company’s chief executive, David Solomon, announced that organizations enlisting Goldman Sachs with their initial public offerings will be required to show “at least one diverse board candidate, with a focus on women.” Goldman Sachs will enforce the rule starting July 1 in the United States and Europe—and as 2021 nears, will request two diverse board candidates.

 CNBC reported:

About 60 companies in the U.S. and Europe have gone public recently with all white, male boards, [Solomon] said.

“Look, we might miss some business, but in the long run, this I think is the best advice for companies that want to drive premium returns for their shareholders over time,” Solomon said.

Why you should care: The announcement highlights the necessity of committing to diversity and inclusion aims, but some have argued that it will push organizations to meet the requirement right before their IPOs, which doesn’t address the ongoing struggle of creating and maintaining diverse, equal and inclusive workplaces.

TechCrunch reported:

Some will, perhaps rightly, see the announcement as little more than marketing.

… [W]e’re not criticizing Solomon — when it comes to diversity, every little bit helps. But if Goldman Sachs really wants to maintain its place in the banking hierarchy, a much bolder stance would be to only take public companies that have diverse workforces, which is far more important — and beneficial to all stakeholders — than adding a woman and/or person of color to a board of directors as part of preparing an IPO.

You don’t have to prepare for a public offering or make a public declaration to embrace diversity and inclusion efforts. Start by focusing on your organization’s culture and committing to be accountable to the D&I goals you set.


MEASURED THOUGHTS

The future of search might hinge on the success of voice-activated artificial intelligence, but the technology isn’t ready for the spotlight just yet.

Despite the number of professionals who predict voice search will dominate in coming years, most consumers still find the technology frustrating. In a recent report from The Manifest, only 5% of respondents said they never get frustrated using voice search.

Image courtesy of The Manifest.

However, as the technology improves, consumers could greatly increase their reliance on these systems, and brands that aren’t ready for the change could be left behind.

23andMe lays off 100 employees

The genomics and biotech company’s layoffs represent roughly 14% of its workforce and were focused on its operations team, which were tasked with scaling 23andMe’s offerings. The company’s chief executive, Anne Wojcicki, told CNBC that the layoffs are an answer to declining sales, something that “surprised” her. However, consumers’ growing privacy concerns probably contributed to the market decline.

CNBC reported:

In the coming months, the company plans to tighten its focus on the direct-to-consumer business and its therapeutics arm while scaling back its clinical studies arm.

… She acknowledges that “privacy is top of mind” both for consumers and her executive team. She said the company hired a new chief security officer, who previously ran security at Okta, earlier this week.

“I think the tech world needs to own this better communicate privacy standards to build trust,” she said. “I want to jump in and really own it.”

Why it matters: Privacy and data concerns can negatively affect your organization in a multitude of ways, from decreasing consumer interest to criticism over the way you collect and protect your customers’ information. Communicators must commit to learning about consumers’ privacy fears and adopting practices that keep their information safe, long before a data breach hits or you’re forced to comply with privacy regulations such as GDPR or California’s Privacy Act.


TACTICALLY SPEAKING

Another fashion retailer is closing many of its locations’ doors as it tries to create a business model that will meet consumers’ changing preferences and habits.

Express announced that it would close about 100 of its locations by 2022 as the company seeks to save $80 million per year over the next three years. The retailer will also restructure its workforce. Though Express didn’t say how many jobs would be cut, it estimates 10% of employees at its headquarters in Ohio and its design studio in New York will be affected.

 CNBC reported:

“When I joined Express, I outlined three priorities: changing the trajectory of the business, developing a corporate strategy, and putting the right team in place,” CEO Tim Baxter said in a statement. “We have spent the past six months developing a strategy with the intent to return Express to long-term growth and a mid-single digit operating margin. Today we took the necessary steps to put the right organization in place to support that strategy.”

Express’ shares rose more than 18% following the announcement.

Sonos chief apologizes after backlash

 The consumer electronics company’s chief executive, Patrick Spence, apologized following calls for a boycott. Sonos sparked consumer ire when it announced that its oldest products “have been stretched to their technical limits” and in May will no longer receive software updates and features. Any new smart speakers and other products connected to affected legacy devices will be cut off from the updates as well.

Spence issued a statement in which he promised customers that their older products “will continue to work as they do today,” though they won’t receive new software features.

It read, in part:

We heard you. We did not get this right from the start. My apologies for that and I wanted to personally assure you of the path forward.

… Thank you for being a Sonos customer. Thank you for taking the time to give us your feedback. I hope that you’ll forgive our misstep, and let us earn back your trust. Without you, Sonos wouldn’t exist and we’ll work harder than ever to earn your loyalty every single day.

Spence said Sonos would “offer an alternative solution” if the security patches for older equipment don’t fix a problem “core to the experience,” but didn’t offer additional details. He also said Sonos was “finalizing details” on a plan for consumers to use both newer and older products in their homes.

Why it’s important: “The letter from Sonos’ CEO doesn’t retract anything that the company announced earlier this week; Spence is just trying to be as clear as possible about what’s happening come May,” The Verge reported. What’s more, many consumers were quick to point out on Twitter that Spence’s statement doesn’t answer their questions about the future of their expensive equipment:

Though speed is crucial to a crisis response, telling angry customers that you’ve listened without walking back your decision or laying out the plan to address their concerns won’t do much to repair shattered trust. At best, it will buy your organization time to once again prove itself. At worst, it comes off as a corporate non-apology. Avoid issues such as these by listening to your consumers first, then announcing a course of action in a way that addresses concerns.


WHAT YOU SAID

We asked where you stand in the Oxford comma debate. Although AP Stylebook’s guidance is to not include the punctuation mark unless it’s necessary for clarity, more than 68% said you always use it:

If you’d like to spark a lively office debate to finish out the week, take a poll and see what your colleagues think.


SOUNDING BOARD

How important are visuals to your pitching efforts?

Share your media relations successes and methods with us under the hashtag #MorningScoop.

 

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