Mattel introduces American Girl with hearing loss, U-Haul shuns new hires who use nicotine, and Spotify bans political ads

Also: California’s Consumer Privacy Act starts, workplace distractions take a toll on employees, Muscle Milk aims to reward year-round fitness fans, and more.

Good morning, PR pros:

On Wednesday, California’s Consumer Privacy Act went into effect, ushering in 2020 with a bevy of warnings for organizations that collect consumers’ data. The law dictates that organizations must disclose the information they collect along with its business purpose, and organizations must also comply with consumers’ requests to delete data, among other requirements.

As more and more consumers grow wary of organizations and social media platforms collecting and using or selling their data, communicators should be prepared for additional laws and regulations to restrict what information they can and can’t use.

Happy New Year. Here are today’s top stories:

Mattel debuts hearing-impaired American Girl doll

The toy company recently introduced its “2020 Girl of the Year”doll, Joss Kendrick—which comes with a removable hearing aid and a backstory detailing the “fierce athlete born with hearing loss and a passion for surfing and competitive cheer.”

Mattel’s American Girl brand collaborated with several surfing, competitive cheerleading and hearing loss experts to create Kendrick. For its PR and marketing campaigns, American Girl is partnering with 17-year-old athlete Caroline Marks, who is preparing to join the first U.S. Women’s Olympic surfing team. The company is also donating $25,000 to the Hearing Loss Association of America and is accepting consumer donations in its retail stores.

Why it matters: Weaving diversity and inclusion goals into your offerings can net your organization both kudos and a bottom-line boost. If you’re thinking of taking this route, follow Mattel’s path by consulting with experts to ensure that your decisions and campaigns don’t unintentionally offend consumers. By partnering with nonprofit organizations, you can also highlight your corporate social responsibility efforts in a meaningful way.


Workplace distractions can be annoying, but for 34% of respondents, said distractions make them like their jobs less, Udemy reported in its 2018 Workplace Distraction Report. Whether it’s office noise (a distraction for 70% of employees), smartphone notifications or chatty co-workers (which distract 80% of employees), these interruptions can do more than create workplace loathing. Roughly half of respondents said they’re significantly less productive because of distractions, with 20% saying they cannot reach their full career potential.

Image courtesy of Udemy.

Employers can help reverse the effects of workplace distractions, however. Aside from creating meetings-free days and encouraging employees to turn off their smartphones during the workday, more than half said that trying new tasks within their roles would make them more motivated. Others said that learning new skills, having a clear path to career growth, increasing education and participating in workplace training would also help them shun distractions and increase productivity.

Image courtesy of Udemy.

U-Haul to no longer hire nicotine users

 The moving-and-storage chain will “soon be the first major company in its field to decline job applicants who are nicotine users,” a recent U-Haul press release declared. The company’s new policy starts on Feb. 1 in Arizona, where it’s headquartered, as well as Massachusetts, Nebraska, Kansas, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Texas, Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Virgina, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan and Washington. In each of these 21 states, it’s legal to not hire someone who uses nicotine.

U-Haul said its new policy will not terminate current employees who are nicotine users, but rather is part of the company’s wellness program, which includes nicotine cessation assistance as well as health fairs and access to gyms, personal trainers and registered dieticians.

In its press release, U-Haul said:

“We are deeply invested in the well-being of our Team Members,” stated Jessica Lopez, U-Haul Chief of Staff. “Nicotine products are addictive and pose a variety of serious health risks. This policy is a responsible step in fostering a culture of wellness at U-Haul, with the goal of helping our Team Members on their health journey.”

Lopez also told KTAR News: “If we take care of our team members, they take care of our business.”

Why you should care: Many organizations have wellness programs in place for its workforce, but U-Haul’s decision has received mixed reactions. Some nonsmokers have supported the move, while nicotine users have criticized it. Ensure that your organization’s hiring and other HR decisions align with both your organization’s culture and image. Otherwise, even a masterfully crafted PR statement won’t save you from potential reputational damage as consumers and employees lash out.


“Going to the gym” is a top New Year’s resolution, but Muscle Milk wants to reward those who have been sweating throughout the holiday season. Throughout January, the company is offering fitness fanatics the opportunity to get $50 toward paying off their January gym fees.

To enter, you have to share a workout selfie on Instagram or Twitter that proves you “have been working out before the ‘resolutioners.’” The contest is open to U.S. residents age 18 and older, and entries must be tagged with #MuscleMilkSweepstakes, as well as follow the remainder of the contest rules.

Spotify pauses political ads

The streaming service recently announced that it will no longer accept political ads to run in between songs and podcasts. Though the decision only affects users in the United States who are using Spotify’s free service that includes ads, it’s still a vast audience that political groups have reached in the past. CNN Business’ Kerry Flynn reported that “Spotify makes the majority of its revenue from its 113 million paying subscribers, about 141 million users listen for free, as of its third-quarter of 2019 earnings.”

Why it’s important: Spotify said it made the decision because it lacks “the necessary level of robustness in our process, systems and tools to responsibly validate and review this content.” Spotify joins Twitter and Google in banning political ads, as Facebook faces further scrutiny for continuing to allow them. Expect more social media and technology services to distance themselves from politics and potential misinformation that will probably increase as this year’s presidential election draws near.


We asked for your social media predictions for 2020, and nearly half of you (46.4%) said LinkedIn will become crucial to communications efforts. More than 21% said misinformation would increase online, while nearly 18% predicted TikTok will fade away. More than 14% said additional social media platforms will experiment with hiding post engagement metrics, such as “likes.”


PR pros, how do you spend your lunchtime?

Weigh in with our Twitter poll and tell us about your routines (along with any New Year’s resolutions). We’ll share in the next #MorningScoop.

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