Trust in CEOs craters, Bed Bath & Beyond pulls ‘blackface’ jack-o’-lanterns, and Gen Z keys in on brand purpose

Also, Twitter blames missed earnings on platform bugs, Google claims the crown in quantum computing, the biggest barriers for PR pros, and more.

Good morning PR pros:

Confidence in corporate leaders is at its lowest point since the 2008 recession, according to a recent report.

The New York Times wrote:

Confidence among chief executives fell to its lowest level in a decade in the third quarter, according to survey data collected by the Conference Board, a nonprofit research group. The last time the survey came close to showing these levels of gloom, businesses were still shedding about 800,000 jobs a month because of the recession.

That’s a problem for communicators who want to get key messages in front of stakeholders. Even if you manage to break through, what are the chances your audience will believe you?

Some organizations have responded by ditching their CEO—at record numbers—but how can you get the trust back?

The Times’ piece hypothesizes that the recent spate of stock buybacks (made possible by Republican-sponsored tax cuts) have led to this crisis, in which companies can no longer invest in their own stock, which could trigger a market falloff.

Communicators should consider how they are sharing their plans and should talk about investing in their industries and communities to help rebuild the trust.

Here are today’s top stories:

Bed Bath & Beyond apologizes for ‘blackface’ jack-o’-lanterns

The Halloween decorations, painted black with animated faces in the traditional Halloween style, were found to be offensive to some, as they were reminiscent of blackface.

The controversy came to light after a law firm bought and displayed the decorations, only to remove them after hearing complaints.

Why it matters: It’s important to avoid marketing messages that could be seen as racially insensitive—and your team might have some blind spots on certain issues if you don’t have diverse representation at your workplace. To avoid inadvertently making a cultural faux pas, bring in diverse viewpoints when brainstorming and developing products and messaging.

In 2019 and beyond, it’s a business imperative.

Related reading:


MEASURED THOUGHTS

In a new study from Porter Novelli, Gen Z consumers report a deep belief that companies must take action on environmental and social issues.

The report also says Gen Z consumers care just as much about actions as they do bold statements, and they are ready to do the work to make sure a company stays true to its word.

The report states:

More than nine-in-10 (93%) say if a company makes a commitment, it should have the appropriate programs and policies in place to back up that commitment and three-quarters (75%) will do research to see if a company is being honest when it takes a stand on issues.

Companies that demonstrate authentic Purpose to this astute demographic will be rewarded, as Gen Zers use Purpose as a core filter in deciding which companies to associate with. Eighty-three percent (83%) consider a company’s Purpose when deciding where to work and nearly three-quarters (72%) factor in a company’s Purpose when shopping.

Leading with values also matters in attracting top talent, the report warns.

It continues:

“In the ever-increasing war for budding talent, companies must understand that Purpose is a strong filter for Generation Z,” says Alison DaSilva, EVP Purpose & CSR, Porter Novelli/Cone. “Gen Zers are not willing to check their values at the workplace door, so companies need to clearly communicate how they are making an impact to appeal to this driven but discerning generation.”

Twitter blames ad targeting woes for missed earnings

The social media company lost as much as 20% of its stock value after it missed revenue predictions in its latest quarterly report. The company is blaming the shortfall on platform bugs, one of “a number of headwinds” that held down profits.

Why you should care: Bad numbers will trigger a drop in stock price, but deft explanations can help mitigate the damage. However, in Twitter’s case the explanations amounted to a perfect storm of multiple factors, and it’s hard for analysts to believe that any company has suffered that many one-time catastrophes in a quarter. Too much bad news, and investors will start to wonder whether bigger problems are dragging down your profit model.

Related reading:


TACTICALLY SPEAKING

Google says it has created a computer that can solve an “impossible” problem in 200 seconds. A supercomputer would have to work on the problem for 10,000 years, Google claims—though IBM rejects that assertion.

CNN reported:

Google (GOOGL) will now try to build “a fault-tolerant quantum computer” as quickly as possible. The company sees applications in designing lightweight batteries for cars and airplanes, as well as new medicines.

“Achieving the necessary computational capabilities will still require years of hard engineering and scientific work. But we see a path clearly now, and we’re eager to move ahead,” it said in the post.

IBM has disputed Google’s announcement.

CNN continued:

IBM (IBM) said in a blog post Monday that Google had overestimated the difficulty of the computing task. Instead of 10,000 years, IBM argued the problem could be solved by a classical computer in just 2.5 days.

“We urge the community to treat claims that, for the first time, a quantum computer did something that a classical computer cannot with a large dose of skepticism,” IBM said.

Many tech companies are trying to claim first place in the race to the latest generation of innovation, like AT&T announcing 5G evolution. Dreaming big has certainly led to big headlines for companies like Tesla—but the engineers have to make it work.

SoftBank takes hit over WeWork bailout

SoftBank’s move to save WeWork is taking a toll on its reputation.

The investment group was already heavily embedded with the coworking company, and perhaps it felt it had no choice but to rescue the struggling company after its failed IPO. However, reports of controversial CEO Adam Neumann’s more-than-billion-dollar golden parachute has hurt the reputation of SoftBank.

One industry analyst called the bailout “stone-cold crazy.”

Why it matters: Parting with a CEO or other exec can mitigate a crisis, but if they get a hefty payout—and if the public thinks that payout is undeserved—the bad press and online criticism won’t abate. SoftBank obviously wanted to get a deal done quickly, and perhaps a better deal could have been had if investors had been ready for a knock-down, drag-out fight. Instead, they were ready to settle with Neumann.

Now they will have to work hard to convince the marketplace that they have a new plan and can offer value to their stakeholders in the long run.

Related reading:


WHAT YOU SAID

We asked you what were the biggest barriers to doing your job in PR. The No. 1 response was “siloed teams.”

Isn’t it ironic how much trouble communicators can have when trying to communicate with each other?

One commenter pointed out that not all these stumbling blocks carry the same urgency.


SOUNDING BOARD

PR teams can become sidetracked by social media work that takes too much time and offers undefined results. How are you taking steps to make sure your social media efforts don’t gobble up all your time and energy?

Share your tactics and tips with the hashtag #MorningScoop.

 

COMMENT

3 Responses to “Trust in CEOs craters, Bed Bath & Beyond pulls ‘blackface’ jack-o’-lanterns, and Gen Z keys in on brand purpose”

    Anonymous says:

    Porter Novelli not only talks about taking action on environmental and social issues but does it.

    Porter became one of America’s top professors, writers and speakers on crisis communications related to the public interest.

    Feisty little Bill Novelli not only communicated about winning on issues but won on them and not only at Porter Novelli. He left to head an anti-tobacco group that helped save thousands of lives, perhaps millions.

    Carol Cone was America’s first great counselor on CSR (for Corporate Social Responsibility). Her idea was that it’s not just a nice thing to do but a corporate responsibility to back causes that benefit society. If you do this with PR wisdom, she guided savvy accounts to recognize, you can in major ways benefit not only the cause but your company.

    Ronald N. Levy says:

    Porter Novelli not only talks about taking action on environmental and social issues but does it.

    Porter became one of America’s top professors, writers and speakers on crisis communications related to the public interest.

    Feisty little Bill Novelli not only communicated about winning on issues but won on them and not only at Porter Novelli. He left to head an anti-tobacco group that helped save thousands of lives, perhaps millions.

    Carol Cone was America’s first great counselor on CSR (for Corporate Social Responsibility). Her idea was that it’s not just a nice thing to do but a corporate responsibility to back causes that benefit society. If you do this with PR wisdom, she advised savvy accounts, you can in major ways benefit not only the cause but your company.

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