Messaging the SVB failure, salty ‘Wednesday’ comments and more
Plus: All AI news all the time.
The failure of Silicon Valley Bank sent the U.S. government scrambling to stop more runs and collapses. But outside the complex financial policy decisions, the Biden administration has also found itself making complex, difficult PR decisions.
As the Washington Post reports:
Although administration officials had largely decided by Saturday night that all depositors must be protected, they also worried about how to ward off the perception that they were acting primarily to bail out the rich and well connected who had been pressing for help. The plan does not protect the SVB’s shareholders or executives.
“There was a lot of concern about: What is the messaging here?” said one person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private deliberations. “Are we just saving these rich people, or are we doing something to save the economy? How do we present that, and what do we demand in terms of accountability to make clear this is not favorable treatment for a select few?”
And, indeed, Joe Biden has made a clear distinction between the depositors — many of whom were small businesses who had more than the FDIC-guaranteed $250,000 in deposits — and investors. Of the first group, Biden said, “All customers who had deposits in these banks can rest assured they will be protected and they’ll have access to the money as of (Monday),” CNBC reported.
Meanwhile, investors in the bank’s securities got more of a shrug from the president. “Investors in the banks will not be protected,” Biden said, according to CNBC again. “They knowingly took a risk and when the risk didn’t pay off, the investors lose their money. That’s how capitalism works.”
Why it matters: The very name of “Silicon Valley Bank” makes the company sound like a haven for latte-sipping elites, something Biden’s Republican opposition has already seized on. By drawing a line between people and businesses simply trusting the bank to hold their cash and those who took a risk on investment, Biden is hoping he can reassure the majority of Americans who hold some or all of their money with a bank while also not being seen as bailing out fat cats.
We’ll soon see in public opinion polls whether it worked or not.
ChatGPT gets upgrades as sector continues to move fast
OpenAI announced that it is rolling out GPT-4, the newest iteration of its game-changing text-based AI.
In a Tuesday blog post, OpenAI wrote that the differences between the old version and the new can be “subtle,” but called this update “more reliable, creative, and able to handle much more nuanced instructions.”
By way of example, the bot was run through a variety of tests, including the Uniform Bar exam. The old version was capable of completing the exam in the bottom 10%; the new is in the top 10%.
Additionally, the new version begins to roll out an option for visual inputs. While this is currently still in research testing and not available for everyone, users will soon be able to ask ChatGPT to “look” at photos and describe them and completed tasks based on that description — think “tell me why this is funny,” or, “make a recipe with these ingredients.
Why it matters: Parallel to this new version rollout is a whole other slew of news that underscores why this matters so much. Morgan Stanley is using OpenAI technology to develop an AI tool to help its 16,000 financial advisors better access and search the company’s research. Mark Zuckerberg is making it clear that AI is the future for Meta, too: “Our single largest investment is in advancing AI and building it into every one of our products,” he said.
This tech is going to be a part of our future.
But on the more ominous side of the coin, Microsoft has laid off the entire team that was responsible for advising the company on how to create AI products in a way that was ethical and responsible, Platformer reported.
Users show high interest in AI, especially in search
On an entirely related note, new research from Morning Consult reveals that Americans are very curious about these emerging technologies and seek to better understand how they will impact their lives.
When asked how interested they were in interacting with a range of technologies in the next five years, 51% of Americans showed interest in AI in search engines, 49% in AI in internet connected home devices and 48% in AI in healthcare. Those were the top three spots on the lengthy list; self-driving vehicles came in fourth, but then AI appeared again in the form or education or workplace AI with 45% interested.
These beat out even buzzy topics like package delivery from drones (41%), food delivery by robots (37%) and the metaverse (37%).
Why it matters: If your company is thinking about using AI, you need to be thinking about how you’ll communicate that to the public in a way that’s interesting but also reveals the care, thought, human oversight and privacy protections you’ll have in place for them. Stay on top of this technology and user concerns over it. With any fast-moving tech, there are going to be worries and bumps. Start planning out the pitfalls now and getting crisis plans prepped for the AI world.
‘Wednesday’ star Jenna Ortega is blunt about the show that made her a household name
“Wednesday,” a reboot of the beloved “Addams Family” character, is now the second-most popular show in Netflix history. But the actress behind the titular character is showing a great deal of ambivalence to her star turn.
Variety reports that Jenna Ortega is being “brutally honest” in interviews about the show.
She said she was hesitant about doing the show due to her extensive TV experience and interest in doing movies. Which, fair enough. She said that she was asked multiple times to do the show, and eventually only agreed because of director Tim Burton.
She said it would have been “preferable” to be on a show that wasn’t such a massive hit, revealing a deep ambivalence to her stardom.
In earlier interviews, Ortega seemed nearly antagonistic to the hit show, claiming that she had to demand line changes and even complaining about specific lines of dialogue she felt didn’t fit the character, Variety reported.
“There were times on that set where I even became almost unprofessional in a sense where I just started changing lines. The script supervisor thought I was going with something and then I had to sit down with the writers, and they’d be like, ‘Wait, what happened to the scene?’ And I’d have to go and explain why I couldn’t go do certain things.”
Why it matters: We all have parts of our job that we don’t like, and authenticity is valued in all aspects of PR and comms, including for celebrities. However, there comes a point when that transparency can be alienating to your coworkers. “Wednesday” is already renewed for a second season, and now the writer’s room and Ortega will have to work together with this kind of dirty laundry flapping in the breeze.
Ortega is young and stardom is (presumably) exhausting. While Ortega’s complaints may be sympathetically received by her audience, it’s a reminder that we shouldn’t alienate internal audiences to gain favor with external.
Allison Carter is executive editor of PR Daily. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.
The “rich and well connected,” words from the Washington Post story, are sometimes poor and badly connected at PR.
Meta announced the Facebook employee cuts backwards. Instead of leading with the good news that well over 90% of employees would be kept on, Meta management hopes to bring the others back as soon as possible and service to the public will be better than ever, the company led with the bad news that some employees would be laid off.
America’s top Arab Ally, Saudi Arabia, could have better used the news of Sweden and Finland joining NATO by saying that Saudis propose also joining America in the NATO mutual protection alliance. Instead Saudis announced new diplomatic relations with with America’s adversary Iran.
Saudis and other Arab countries use our very best PR firms–our best!–and get top people there but may not be listening to advice. It’s amusing to think of a Saudi prince saying “I’m royalty, you work for me but you are telling ME what to do?”
PR success can be limited by not just PR ability but by client vanity and ignoring wise counsel.