Shake Shack returns $10M loan, P&G embraces marketing during COVID-19, and grocery employees get asked to wear masks

Also: Instagram founders’ website tracks COVID-19’s spread, Facebook launches ‘care’ emoji reaction, celebrities make ‘quarantine wine,’ and more.


Hello, communicators:

Actors Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher have partnered with Nocking Point Wines and Battle Creek Vineyards to launch “Quarantine Wine”—a drink in which 100 percent of the proceeds will be donated to COVID-19 relief efforts.

The pandemic has forced many individuals and organizations to get creative as they stay at home. How are you highlighting this innovation in your communications?

Here are today’s top stories:

Shake Shack returns $10M PPP loan

Following criticism that many small businesses didn’t receive money from the Paycheck Protection Program, but global chains such as Shake Shack did, the fast-food brand announced it was returning its $10 million loan.

In an open letter on LinkedIn, Shake Shake’s chief executive, Randy Garutti, and Danny Meyer, Union Square Hospitality Group’s chief executive (as well as Shake Shack’s founder and chairman), wrote:

Shake Shack was fortunate last Friday to be able to access the additional capital we needed to ensure our long term stability through an equity transaction in the public markets. We’re thankful for that and we’ve decided to immediately return the entire $10 million PPP loan we received last week to the SBA so that those restaurants who need it most can get it now.

… Shake Shack, like all restaurant businesses in America, is doing the best we can to navigate these challenging times. We don’t know what the future holds. Our people would benefit from a $10 million PPP loan but we’re fortunate to now have access to capital that others do not. Until every restaurant that needs it has had the same opportunity to receive assistance, we’re returning ours.

Garutti and Meyer also explained why they applied for the loan, along with a list of suggestions its urging the government to adopt.

“If this health crisis and the associated economic shock has taught us anything, it is that we are all in this together,” Garutti and Meyer wrote.

Why it matters: The current crisis is making executives and communicators scramble to reassemble a new playbook as they engage both employees and consumers and safeguard their brand reputation. Though transparency has long been touted as a best practice, COVID-19 is making it essential to connecting with stakeholders and earning trust.


Kroger, Walmart and Sam’s Club are asking employees to wear masks to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Here’s what Rodney McMullen, chairman and chief executive of Kroger, had to say to both employees and consumers:

In a memo to employees, Walmart wrote:

We hope this step will promote safety and consistency across all of our facilities and be of comfort to our customers and members. However, it’s important to remember that face coverings are simply an additional health precaution. They do not guarantee against the spread of this virus, and they do not replace the most important steps you can take to keep yourself and others safe: 6-20-100. Whether at work or elsewhere, practice six feet of social distancing whenever possible. Regularly wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds. And if you have a temperature of 100 degrees or higher, stay home.

We’re also announcing today that we are extending our emergency leave policy through the end of May to ensure you have the support you need when you have to miss work.

The statements surrounding the change can serve as a crisis communications guide as you navigate your COVID-19 response. In both cases (as with other outstanding statements), the focus is on the health and safety of employees and consumers. Don’t forget to give an overview of what you’re doing to combat the spread and continue supporting your workforce and community (though don’t use that time to boast of your work).


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

Join Ragan’s Crisis Leadership Board to network 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.


How will this crisis reshape our industry and what can communicators do to prepare? Ragan Communications’ CEO Diane Schwartz talks with Margery Kraus, founder and executive chairman for APCO Worldwide, about how to be a steady leader in uncertain times.

Kraus takes lessons from motherhood on how to run a business and shares insights from a long career as an agency executive.

Get her take on how communicators are the secret to coming out of this crisis stronger than ever.


Instagram’s founders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, launched a website to measure the state-by-state spread of COVID-19 in the U.S.,

Image courtesy of


Gizmodo reported:


The tracker calculates Rt, or the effective reproductive rate, which is the virus’ transmission rate a given time. In other words, the metric is the estimation of how many secondary infections are likely to develop because of a single infection in a specific area. If the number is above one, it means we should expect more cases in that area. On the flip side, if it’s below one, we should expect fewer cases.


“We’re trying to take what is a complex topic and boil it down to a simple number that anyone can view from their home,” Systrom told Bloomberg.


You can view the data, which come from The Covid Tracking Project, through different filters, including single states, those with no shelter-in-place orders, and the 10 largest states. You can also view the data, which regularly update, through multiple time periods.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Though the website doesn’t give visitors any additional data nor information, it does enable people to better read and understand the data. Communicators should remember this concept, both when creating ROI reports and when helping an audience understand a trend, whether the audience is comprised of executives, investors, consumers, employees or volunteers.

P&G leans into marketing during COVID-19

The consumer goods giant is doubling down on marketing despite the current crisis—a move contrary to many organization’s responses.

 Campaign US reported:

The FMCG giant’s organic sales for the quarter grew 6%, compared with what chief financial officer Jon Moeller said was a projected 2% growth. Speaking on a call to investors, Moeller said that not only had buying levels gone up, but consumers were actually using more products – because, for example, they are cleaning their homes more frequently and doing laundry more often.

“It’s trite and overused, but we really do expect to come out of this stronger than we went into it,” he said, while acknowledging the crisis posed complex challenges to P&G, like all businesses.

That’s not to say P&G hasn’t shifted marketing messages nor adjusted campaigns. Rather, they’re emphasizing efforts to increase product supply to meet consumers’ needs.

Why it’s important: Along with slashed budgets and smaller workforces, communicators are grappling with what’s appropriate and what’s not, regarding PR and marketing campaigns. P&G provides a blueprint for not going radio silent, but rather pivoting campaigns and messaging to consumers’ current focuses. That way, you don’t inadvertently offend, but you’re also staying front-of-mind.


Facebook is adding a “care” reaction emoji to help users offer support during the pandemic.


The emoji will roll out on both desktop and mobile versions of Facebook this week. A similar emoji, the beating heart, will become available on Facebook Messenger.

USA Today reported:

The new Facebook reaction—an emoji hugging a heart—is intended as shorthand to show caring and solidarity when commenting on a status update, message, photo or video during the coronavirus crisis, Fidji Simo, head of the Facebook app, said in an interview.

On Messenger, users will be able to toggle to a vibrating heart “for when a regular heart does not feel like enough,” Simo said.

… “This idea of a hug reaction came back consistently as one of the emotions and feelings that were missing from reactions. So that’s something that was always on our minds,” she told USA TODAY. “And with the crisis that we are going through right now, there is no doubt that people need more compassion, more support.”

Whether through a new tool or with a social media post that encourages your community to come together, your focus during the crisis should be on ways to help your community feel more connected while staying physically apart.


We asked if you think Zoom backgrounds are fun, or if you avoid them in effort to be more professional. Nearly 73% of you embrace the virtual backdrops:

Freelance communications pro Steve Ryan says the backgrounds can be an icebreaker for virtual meetings:


Aside from time-sensitive news (such as impending layoffs or new procedures), how often are you communicating with your workforce during the pandemic?

Share your thoughts, along with your top employee communications channels, under the #DailyScoop hashtag. We’ll share in tomorrow’s roundup.



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