Publix and others offer COVID-19 responses, Apple and Google mark International Women’s Day, and Twitter’s first flagging of a doctored video

Also: Dairy Queen celebrates 80 years, effective crisis communications in the face of canceled events, and more.

Good morning, PR pros:

 Dairy Queen is celebrating its 80th birthday with a deal: Consumers who buy one Blizzard Treat can purchase a second for 80 cents. The promotion lasts through March 15.

Here are today’s top stories:

More organizations grapple with COVID-19

As the COVID-19 outbreak spreads throughout the United States, additional organizations are working to address shortages, employee safety, travel restrictions and more.

Publix joined grocery store chains such as H-E-B and Kroger in limiting the number of hand soaps and sanitizers each person can purchase, while Costco pulled its free food samples to limit potentially spreading COVID-19.

Apple told employees to work from home this week if they could, as did Eli Lilly. The organizations join Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and more who are asking employees to work remotely where and when possible. Here’s what Box’s chief executive, Aaron Levie, tweeted (his employees are also encouraged to work from home):

Though travel and hospitality companies have been offering flexible schedules and waiving cancellation fees, some are looking to stem the monetary loss of canceled trips. Carnival Corp. and Holland America are offering incentives for travelers who keep their cruise bookings, such as free drinks and onboard credit.

Why it matters: Your crisis communications responses and policies should focus on the people whom your decisions affect, not your bottom line nor business operations. Ensure that your messages reflect your organization’s values and mission as well.


For Americans, open office spaces are contributing to Coronavirus fears.

In a survey conducted by Bospar, 50.6% of Americans are worried about contracting the COVID-19 virus because they work in an open office. More than a third of Americans are concerned that novel coronavirus might kill them, and more than 45% are worried it will kill a loved one.

When the survey asked respondents about what action should be taken, many say offering remote work is an important step.

More than a third of Americans in the survey said companies should make employees work from home right away to stop the spread of this disease.

Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman, and Dr. David Nabarro, WHO special envoy for COVID-19, agree that business leaders must act.

Steps they recommend include:

  • “Get your CEO out in front communicating with employees and all relevant stakeholders.”
  • “Establish a cadence of frequent communications (preferably twice a week) with your employees and stakeholders to keep them updated on all relevant developments.”
  • “Correct misinformation immediately.”
  • “Create a platform that is routinely updated with pertinent information that may impact the lives of your employees and your company’s operation.”
  • “Set up a hotline that employees can call with any questions they may have surrounding the virus.”

See how workers are worrying about workplace health by reading more of Bospar’s study.

Apple and Google celebrate International Women’s Day

Many brand managers shared messages for International Women’s Day on March 8, with some extending campaigns thoughout March, which is Women’s History Month. Apple and Google are two notable examples, both focusing on individual women and the stories of their breaththroughs.

Apple dedicated its front page to female leaders including Alicia Keys, Malala Yousafzai, Gloria Steinem and more. It also shared a video titled, “Women behind the Mac”:

The company’s chief executive, Tim Cook, tweeted his support, too:

Google dedicated its doodle to women “who persist tirelessly to take charge together” within three time periods: The late 1800s to the 1930s, the 1950s to the 1980s, and the 1990s to today:

In a press release, Google wrote:

The multilayered 3D paper mandala animation, illustrated by New York and London-based guest artists Julie Wilkinson and Joyanne Horscroft from Makerie Studio and animated by Zurich-based guest animators Marion Willam & Daphne Abderhalden from DRASTIK GmbH, represents both the history of this powerful celebration and the significance it has for women across generations.

Why it’s important: When partipating in a holiday, trend or movement, focus on the people involved and telling their stories. Doing so can help you make emotional connections to consumers and leave a lasting impression much more than a limited-edition product. It can also underline your executives’ messages, as well as your brand values.


 Many organizations are canceling trade shows and internal events as the COVID-19 outbreak worsens. Russell Working shares event management tips as well as crisis communications best practices in a PR Daily article. Read it here.


The Washington Post reported that Twitter used its first “manipulated media” tag to flag a tweet from Dan Scavino, White House social media director.

The Post reported:

The version of the video shared by Scavino showed Biden stumbling on a line during a speech, then saying: “Excuse me. We can only reelect Donald Trump.”

But the edited video deleted the second part of the former vice president’s sentence. The whole thing said: “Excuse me. We can only reelect Donald Trump if in fact we get engaged in this circular firing squad here. It’s got to be a positive campaign.”

However, the attempt to alert social media users to fake news had its own pitfalls.

 Business Insider reported:

Twitter announced its new manipulated-media policy last month, designed to combat deceptively edited content. The tag doesn’t seem entirely effective, however, as a Twitter representative told Business Insider the company was working to fix a glitch that meant people who searched for the tweet weren’t being shown the tag. The person said it was showing up in people’s timelines. The tag did not appear when Business Insider searched for the tweet.


We asked if COVID-19 had affected your work travel plans and most respondents said, “Yes.”

Some said no, but a large number said they were thinking about it, meaning that more cancellations and changed meetings could be expected in the coming days.


 What are your thoughts on newsjacking or other PR tactics around the COVID-19 virus or “novel coronavirus”? Is it OK, or always a bad idea? IS there a right or a wrong way to go about this?

Share your thoughts with our hashtag #MorningScoop.


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