T-Mobile and Sprint celebrate merger approval, Netflix reigns according to Nielsen data, and NASA debunks viral #broomchallenge

Also: Southwest asks passengers to report unwanted behavior, Universal and Blumhouse embrace controversy over ‘The Hunt,’ a zoo’s unique Valentine’s Day offer, and more.

Good morning, PR pros:

Though most organizations are ramping up their PR, marketing and social media campaigns with messages of love in advance of Valentine’s Day on Friday, San Antonio Zoo took a different route.

The organization is offering consumers the opportunity to name a cockroach after an ex, and the zoo promises to “serve it up as an enrichment treat to one of our animals.” This vengeful display costs a mere $5. The zoo is also offering to name a pre-frozen rodent after an ex, which it will feed to a reptile for the bargain price of $25.

The zoo even set up a livestream of its cockroach habitat ahead of its feedings. Who says romance is dead?

Here are today’s top stories:

T-Mobile and Sprint celebrate approved merger

 On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero ruled to allow the $26 billion merger of the two telecom companies, saying he didn’t expect T-Mobile and Sprint to “pursue anticompetitive behavior.” Sprint’s stocks rose 70% and T-Mobile’s share prices increased 12%.

Following the announcement, T-Mobile’s outspoken chief executive, John Legere, tweeted a slew of messages supporting the merger and the companies’ vision for the future:


In a YouTube video, Legere also ran down the merger’s benefits with Sprint’s chief executive, Marcelo Claure:

In a blog post, Legere wrote:

Let me be clear. These aren’t just words… they’re verifiable, enforceable and specific commitments that bring to life how the New T-Mobile will deliver a world-leading nationwide 5G network – truly 5G for all, create more competition in broadband, and continue to give customers more choices, better value and better service.

Why you should care: It’s clear that T-Mobile and Sprint have prepared for this moment through the abundance of messages shared across formats and platforms. You can take a page from the companies’ combined playbook on how to easily organize and present information that caters to consumers across demographics and behaviors.

On newtmobile.com, consumers can watch the YouTube video, read an open letter or one of Legere’s blog posts, catch up on the U.S. Department of Justice’s press release or a statement by Ajit Pai, Federal Communications Commision’s chairman. Tweets by T-Mobile and Sprint are also shown, along with infographics that visually display the companies’ key messaging:


Image courtesy of T-Mobile.


 According to new data from Nielsen, Netflix is the current champion of the streaming wars—and it could get bigger. The streaming service right now accounts for 31% of streaming traffic, but streaming accounts for only 19% of total TV use.

How many streaming services does the average consumer subscribe to? The report says many are still only using one service, but some consumers have as many as five or more.

To learn more, you can purchase the full report.

Southwest asks passengers to call out inappropriate behavior

 As part of its pre-flight announcements and emergency briefing, the airline has requested passengers to report “unwelcome behavior” to its crew during the flight. Flight attendants are to follow procedures including requesting the behavior to stop, moving the offender from his or her seat, or in cases of more offensive behavior, alerting the captain, who might then alert law enforcement.

The Washington Post reported:

“This change reflects Southwest’s commitment to ensuring a safe and welcoming environment at all times for each of our customers and employees,” Southwest spokesman Brian Parrish said in an email to The Washington Post. “Southwest’s intention is to remind our customers that flight attendants are a frlendly, professional resource for reporting any unwelcome behaviors or conduct during a flight.”

Why it matters: The new strategy comes at a time when Southwest Airlines has been called out by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General. In a recent report, Federal Aviation Administration officials complained of the airline’s “safety culture,” USA Today reported. Whether the procedure’s timing is a coincidence or in response to the report, the move underlines the importance of culture and adherence to rules as a foundation of reputation management.


 NASA responded to a viral challenge that recently took off on Twitter, which claims the only day that brooms could remain upright was on Feb. 10 due to “gravitational pull”:

NASA dispelled rumors on Tuesday with a video and a tweet, in which astronaut Alvin Drew declares in deadpan: “It’s just physics.”

Along with racking up views and engagement, NASA took the opportunity to warn against fake news and misinformation.

Business Insider reported:

“This is another social media hoax that exemplifies how quickly pseudoscience and false claims can go viral,” NASA said in a statement emailed to Insider.

“While this hoax was harmless, it also shows why it’s important for all of us to do some fact-checking and research – including checking in with @NASA and NASA.gov for real science fun facts – before jumping into the latest viral craze.”

Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions announce ‘The Hunt’

 The companies are leaning into controversy over its film, a thriller and satire about a group of elite liberals who hunt down selected conservatives. “The Hunt” was originally slated for Sept. 27, 2019, but its release was suspended after criticism grew following mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas.

Variety reported:

The filmmakers may have intended to be equal opportunity in their portrayal of liberals as caviar and champagne swilling snobs and conservatives as gun-toting survivalists, but “The Hunt” became a hot potato before the public had even seen the film. “The Hunt,” which was the subject of criticism from President Donald Trump, was originally supposed to hit theaters on Sept. 27, 2019. In the wake of mounting controversy and the Dayton and El Paso mass shootings, Universal cancelled those plans, pulling it from the release calendar.

“It was the most talked about movie that no one has ever seen,” Jason Blum, founder and chief executive of Blumhouse Productions, told Variety.

Why it’s important: It’s a risky move to embrace the adage, “Any publicity is good publicity.” If that’s the tack you’re taking, make sure your organization is united and on board, your crisis response is prepared and you’re ready to receive criticism along with kudos.


We asked you about some of your least favorite email phrases and the response was proof positive: You don’t like clichés.

The two least popular choices were “Nice to e-meet you” and “per my last email.”

If you are guilty of using these email wordings, perhaps you should consider a rewrite before hitting send.


When you receive feedback about your work on the job, what is the best format to ease the blow and give the message the best chance of reaching you?

Do you have tricks for giving feedback to help make these awkward discussions more palatable for everyone? Share your thoughts with our hashtag #MorningScoop.

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