J&J stresses ‘open communication’ after vaccine pause, a quarter of U.S employers provide vaccine access, and Pinterest ends employee NDAs for discrimination claims

Also: Michigan executives issue statement against voting bills, Facebook lets users consult oversight panel about content removal, Disney Parks introduces more inclusive dress code, and more.

Hello, communicators:

Executives from three-dozen Michigan-based companies, including Ford and General Motors, issued a joint statement against proposed voting bills that will make it harder to vote in Michigan and other states.

“Government must support equitable access to the ballot to ensure that all eligible voters can exercise their rights,” the statement said. “Government must avoid actions that reduce participation in elections—particularly among historically disenfranchised communities, persons with disabilities, older adults, racial minorities and low-income voters.”

“The statement was signed by GM’s Mary Barra, Ford’s Jim Farley and Mike Manley from Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler,” reports the Associated Press. “It also was signed by executives from all four Detroit professional sports teams—including Christopher Ilitch, owner of the Tigers and Red Wings—and the leaders of auto suppliers, a major utility, banks and other businesses.”

This statement comes two weeks after several Georgia-based companies issued similar public objections to a controversial voting law that they also say will restrict access to disenfranchised communities.

Communicators, take note that aligning your purpose-driven campaigns and outreach with the popular sentiment of your community is a strong way to act a steward of goodwill among your neighbors. By aligning with the feelings of local activists, your company can win them over and turn them into brand advocates, too.

Johnson & Johnson responds after authorities halt vaccine distribution

The FDA & CDC have paused the distribution of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine after a rare blood-clotting disorder emerged in six vaccine recipients.

The New York Times reports:

“We are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” Dr. Peter Marks, the director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, and Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the C.D.C., said in a joint statement. “Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare.”

While they framed the move as a recommendation to health practitioners, the impact was immediate. By Tuesday evening, every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico had announced a pause in Johnson & Johnson vaccine injections.

“The safety and well-being of the people who use our products is our No. 1 priority,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement. “We have been working closely with medical experts and health authorities, and we strongly support the open communication of this information to healthcare professionals and the public.”

The statement ends with a legal disclaimer:

This press release contains “forward-looking statements” as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 regarding development of a potential preventive vaccine for COVID-19. The reader is cautioned not to rely on these forward-looking statements. These statements are based on current expectations of future events.

Why It Matters:

Communicators, take note to set expectations for open communication and transparency as policies and guidelines related to COVID-19 safety inevitably change. Share your messaging with partners and regulatory bodies before sharing with external audiences to ensure that the language your partners are using is consistent. Work with your legal team to ensure that any messaging pertaining to company procedures regarding COVID-19 contains appropriate, legally-required language and clauses to protect you should any guidance or messaging prove inaccurate as a situation develops.


MEASURED THOUGHTS

In a new study conducted by Willis Towers Watson, 24% of employers said they are facilitating access to a COVID-19 vaccine, either by  “obtaining vaccines to administer to their employees or facilitating access to vaccines through a third party.” Among those facilitating access, 55% are arranging vaccines to be administered for employees by retail pharmacies and 45% are planning to create a vaccine distribution center on or near the workplace.

Communicators, take note that providing employees with access to vaccines is more than an internal win, as those who feel supported and assisted by their employers are more likely to celebrate your company culture and practices externally, too.

Read the full study here.


SOCIAL BUZZ

Facebook will allow users to communicate with its content oversight panel if they object to a piece of content that Facebook or Instagram have decided to leave up.

TechCrunch reports:

The move expands the [Facebook Oversight Board’s] remit beyond reviewing (and mostly reversing) content takedowns—an arbitrary limit that critics said aligns it with the economic incentives of its parent entity, given that Facebook’s business benefits from increased engagement with content (and outrageous content drives clicks and makes eyeballs stick).

“So far, users have been able to appeal content to the Board which they think should be restored to Facebook or Instagram. Now, users can also appeal content to the Board which they think should be removed from Facebook or Instagram,” the FOB writes, adding that it will “use its independent judgment to decide what to leave up and what to take down”.

Keeping an open channel of communication between you and your external stakeholders provides a valuable stream of data in the form of feedback and user sentiment that can be used to guide future policies and improve the external stakeholder experience.


TACTICALLY SPEAKING

Walt Disney Parks has introduced a new dress code for its Parks employees, called “cast members,” in line with an increased focus on companywide inclusion that also includes changes to culturally outdated attractions, mentorship programs and more.

Josh D’Amaro, Chairman of Disney Parks said in a statement:

[W]hen we asked our cast how we could better cultivate a culture of belonging, they suggested the addition of a fifth key: the key of Inclusion. Like The Four Keys before them, The 5 Keys—with Inclusion at the heart—will continue to guide us as we interact with guests, collaborate together, create the next generation of Disney products and experiences, and make critical decisions about the future of our business.

We’re looking at other traditions, too—including the policies that guide how our cast members show up for work. Our new approach provides greater flexibility with respect to forms of personal expression surrounding gender-inclusive hairstyles, jewelry, nail styles, and costume choices; and allowing appropriate visible tattoos. We’re updating them to not only remain relevant in today’s workplace, but also enable our cast members to better express their cultures and individuality at work.

Communicators, take note that any messaging around purpose-driven initiatives should start with a commitment to internal change before explaining how the changes ultimately affect external stakeholders. Share the intended narrative of progress that your purpose work intends to fulfill with external audiences, and use those public commitments as a tool to hold internal stakeholders accountable for ensuring that the promised changes happen.


CRISIS LEADERSHIP NETWORK

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

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Join Ragan’s Crisis Leadership Network to connect and brainstorm with peers, get the latest intelligence and research and start to strategize for the future of your organization.

Learn more about this exclusive membership here.

Pinterest announces an end to employee NDAs in workplace discrimination settlements

Pinterest has announced that it will no longer require workers to sign NDAs that prevent them from speaking out about company culture when they come forward with allegations of discrimination and harassment.

Protocol reports:

Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann announced Tuesday that the company is supporting a bill in California that would free workers of their non-disclosure agreements in situations where they have experienced workplace discrimination and harassment. The bill, which will have hearings in the state legislature today, is co-sponsored by Ifeoma Ozoma, a former Pinterest employee who came forward last year with allegations of pay discrimination and retaliation at the company, and has since written and spoken extensively about the use of NDAs in the tech industry.

“Regardless of what happens in the legislature, whether the bill moves forward or not, we’re going to adopt the policies behind the proposed law,” Silbermann wrote in a company email reviewed by Protocol. A Pinterest spokesperson confirmed the contents of the email.

The company’s global head of communications, LeMia Jenkins, told Protocol that, effective immediately, the company will “not require employees to sign agreements that would prevent them from talking about their personal experiences at Pinterest after they leave.” That doesn’t, however, include NDAs that relate to trade secrets and confidential company information.

In an op-ed for The New York Times, Ozoma wrote:

Companies don’t need NDAs to keep their proprietary information safe; that information is already protected through the use of confidentiality agreements employees must sign when they are hired. Ultimately, in a society that claims to value speech rights, people should at least be able to tell the truth about their experiences.

This bill could also benefit the business community by increasing transparency for shareholders. Unless individuals speak up, shareholders are often kept in the dark about misconduct at the companies in which they have a financial stake. Pinterest shareholders are suing a number of the company’s top executives, alleging a “systematic culture, policy, and practice of illegal discrimination,” according to the plaintiffs’ suit, as a result of the disclosures that were made by me and several other former employees. Just last week, Alphabet shareholder Trillium Asset Management filed a shareholder resolution pushing Google to protect whistle-blowers after the firing of Ethical AI team co-leader Timnit Gebru. “Whistleblowers protect investors, not management,” said Jonas Kron, the chief advocacy officer at Trillium.

Why it matters:

Communicators, take note to partner with your legal team and make sure that all employee confidentiality agreements and NDAs are really protecting your company, rather than shielding leaders who are abusing their positions of power. If your company gets bad press for any such policies, go beyond making internal changes and partner with activists to reposition your company as leading corporate advocate for the change. Work employee feedback into shareholder communications before that feedback escalates the point of media coverage.


CONFERENCE ALERT

The business community is facing a workplace wellness revolution. No longer does “wellness” qualify as a nice-to-have employee benefit; it is now tightly integrated many facets of organizational strategy, especially communications.

Join us at Ragan’s Workplace Wellness Conference on April 21, 2021 to glean the essential tools and context you need to advance your career and guide your organization through this time of rapid change.

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Attendees will learn what it means to embrace the fact that employees who are mentally, physically, financially and socially healthy are more productive, engaged and resilient to potential crises.

Learn powerful insights and secrets from speakers at organizations including NVIDIA, Northwell Health, PwC, Microsoft, Cornell University, Facebook and more.

Register for our event here.


WHAT YOU SAID

Yesterday, we asked if you felt that leadership is substantively engaged with the purpose-driven campaigns you have launched. A surprising 45% of you said no, while 30% said that leaders back their purpose-led work internally and externally. You also said that leaders are more likely to speak up about this work internally (15%) than externally (10%).

Is there a question you would like to see asked? Let us know by tagging it with #DailyScoop!


SOUNDING BOARD

Wednesday work/life balance check in: Do you stop working at a reasonable hour most evenings, PR pros and communicators?

Let us know using the hashtag #DailyScoop. We will share the results in tomorrow’s roundup.

COMMENT

One Response to “J&J stresses ‘open communication’ after vaccine pause, a quarter of U.S employers provide vaccine access, and Pinterest ends employee NDAs for discrimination claims”

    Ronald Levy says:

    What J&J could be doing, although we’re not yet seeing it, is to communicate the GOOD news: although shots are on pause “to be extra safe,” the “J&J vaccine is already protecting over seven million lives and may already have contributed to SAVING thousands of lives from Covid. “

    It’s true and knowing this can add to the esteem millions of people have for J&J.
    Scientists are double checking and triple checking to be sure the J&J is not only protective but free of concerning side effects, that the vaccine is not creating harm but IS creating a LOT of good.

    The good news about bad news is that extra media means extra opportunity to
    get massive media coverage on how a company is protecting the public. We cherish our benefactors, the truth is that J&J is a huge public benefactor, and media coverage about the pause creates opportunity to create media coverage about “protecting the public” positive news.

    Our managements love it when in the middle of bad news, skilled PR people find ways to star by getting major coverage for good news.

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