United Airlines thanks employees on LinkedIn, teens consume more user-generated content than traditional media, and Red Lobster faces scandal over sick leave

Also: Lay’s advertises at Super Bowl after 17-year hiatus, Bank of America eliminates insufficient fund fees, and more.

Hello, communicators:

Lay’s potato chip brand announced that it will advertise at the Super Bowl for the first time in 17 years, marking the occasion by giving away a limited-edition line of chips in bags branded to match 29 NFL teams.

Lay’s says the “golden grounds” chips, a play on the classic description of its chips as “golden rounds,” were made from potatoes grown in soil that has been recycled from NFL stadiums and fields across the country. Fans hoping to win a bag can reply to tweets about the sweepstakes using the hashtags #LaysGoldenGrounds, #Sweepstakes and the handle of their favorite NFL team.


Courtesy of Lay’s

“The limited-edition chips are our way of celebrating fans who stand by their teams through victory, defeat and everything in between, Frito-Lay North America VP of Marketing Stacy Taffett said in a press release. “I can’t think of a better way to kick off our journey back to America’s biggest stage with Lay’s return to Super Bowl, where we’ll look to spread even more joy with delicious game-day snacks and an incredible new commercial we’ll unveil soon.”

While this sweepstakes demonstrates how a brand can celebrate the fans of its advertising partners, it also shows how an engagement campaign and hashtag can be deployed to acquire valuable data about your consumer’s tastes and preferences—their favorite NFL team, in this case—that can guide your messaging strategy moving forward.

Here are today’s top stories:

United Airlines CEO shares staffing memo on LinkedIn amid virus surge              

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby sent a memo to staff on Tuesday, Jan. 11 disclosing that nearly 3,000 employees have recently tested positive for COVID-19, amounting to 4% of the airline’s workforce. He went on to say that United would cut its flight schedule to manage the shortage and emphasized the company’s decision to implement a vaccine mandate.

Kirby wrote in the memo:

While we go to great lengths to avoid cancelling flights, we worked to get ahead of the impact by acting early to cancel flights when necessary and notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport – we’re also reducing our near-term schedules to make sure we have the staffing and resources to take care of customers. As a result, we’ve been able to get a high percentage of our customers on other flights and close to their original arrival time. And considering the impact of Omicron and winter weather, our NPS scores and contact center hold times continue to hold up well. While we hate to ever have any operational disruptions, these results are a credit to all of you and your teams so thank you again.

The second and most important piece of good news is that our vaccine requirement is working – and saving lives. While we have about 3,000 employees who are currently positive for COVID, zero of our vaccinated employees are currently hospitalized. Since our vaccine policy went into effect, the hospitalization rate among our employees has been 100x lower than the general population in the U.S. Prior to our vaccine requirement, tragically, more than one United employee on average *per week* was dying from COVID. But we’ve now gone eight straight weeks with zero COVID-related deaths among our vaccinated employees – based on United’s prior experience and the nationwide data related to COVID fatalities among the unvaccinated, that means there are approximately 8-10 United employees who are alive today because of our vaccine requirement.

In dealing with COVID, zero is the word that matters – zero deaths and zero hospitalizations for vaccinated employees. And while I know that some people still disagree with our policy, United is proving that requiring the vaccine is the right thing to do because it saves lives.

Why it matters:

Kirby’s message highlights the fact that United was the first airline, and one of the first large U.S. employers, to implement an employee vaccine mandate. This demonstrates how the company has stayed consistent with its employee commitments and communications amid changing circumstances and supported its decisions with data at every turn.

United’s decision to publish Kirby’s staff memo on LinkedIn demonstrates how leaders can tell employees and external stakeholders important news at the same time. This deliberate approach sends a message that your company considers its internal communications and external communications with equal attention, ensuring employees don’t find out about major changes after the general public.


A recent study from the Consumer Technology Association found that user-generated content (UGC) accounts for 39% of weekly media hours consumed by Americans, while traditional media accounts for 61%. Americans over the age of 13 spent 16% of their weekly time with media watching UGC videos and 18% watching traditional TV content, while teens aged 13-17 spend 56% of their media consumption time with UGC, compared to just 22% among consumers over 55.

“The data underlines the evolving shift away from traditional media, and towards more democratized social media platforms as the key form of content consumption,” wrote Social Media Today. “While there’s clearly significant value in UGC, and big benefits for exposure and audience building in social apps, there’s also still something to be said for editorially-defined content.”

Check out the full report here.


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Bank of America (BoA) has announced that it will eliminate insufficient funds fees, and reduce its overdraft fees from $35 to $10, beginning in May. The company said that these changes will slash overdraft fees by 97% compared with 2009 levels. It also shared a timetable documenting its progress toward reducing overdraft fees that began in 2010.

According to its press release:

“Over the last decade, we have made significant changes to our overdraft services and solutions, reducing clients’ reliance on overdraft, and providing resources to help clients manage their deposit accounts and overall finances responsibly,” said Holly O’Neill, President of Retail Banking, Bank of America. “Throughout the process we have engaged our National Community Advisory Council (NCAC) for their guidance and feedback on our changes. These latest steps will further support our clients and empower them to create long-term financial wellness.”

“We remain committed to taking actions that will further bring down overdraft fees in the future and continue to empower clients to drive positive changes to behavior pertaining to overdraft,” added O’Neill.

BoA’s announcement follows Capitol One’s decision this past December to fully eliminate overdraft and insufficient fund fees. While that announcement was more sweeping and thorough, BoA still demonstrates a commitment by providing a timeline of its key commitments toward reducing overdraft protection and a commitment to continue reducing that number in the future. While the announcement alludes to a partnership with NCAC, details of the guidance it received from that partnership and how decisions were arrived at would go further in explaining BoA’s commitments to promoting long-term financial wellness.

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Red Lobster responds to reports that employees are forced to work while sick

The seafood restaurant chain is facing an investigative report by Popular Information and A More Perfect Union that alleges restaurant managers at multiple locations require employees to work while sick unless the worker can find someone to cover their shift. The report also cited a survey claiming that just 12% of Red Lobster workers reported having paid sick leave.

Popular Information reports:

In response to Popular Information’s request for comment, a Red Lobster spokesperson sent the following statement:

“Red Lobster’s paid time off policies are consistent with our industry, in which the vast majority of our workforce are hourly employees with flexible scheduling options. There are some states that have paid sick leave requirements, and where that is the case, we follow the law and honor and pay it. We take health and safety very seriously and have an Ill Employee Health Policy in place that is designed to keep both employees and our guests safe. No one is allowed to work sick. Employees who violate this policy are subject to disciplinary action, including termination of employment.”

What it means:

Red Lobster’s statement shows how responding to accusations by restating company policies can be ineffective when reports challenge the effectiveness of those policies. In such instances, your response should address the specific accusations and offer a holding statement that commits to an internal inquiry if more information is not immediately available.



One Response to “United Airlines thanks employees on LinkedIn, teens consume more user-generated content than traditional media, and Red Lobster faces scandal over sick leave”

    Courtney Gotham says:

    Additionally, Red Lobster’s response regarding sick time feels tone-deaf, especially in a pandemic environment. The move to “our practices are consistent with the industry” is ineffective and doesn’t actually how the lack of sick affect employees and their families, as well as employee retention (which I know is inherently high in food services, but …). Be a leader in the industry. Hear the feedback and take this moment to evaluate your practices. While they are “industry standard,” is it who you want to be as an organization? Is now the time to challenge what might be an unfair industry standard? The response feels like it lacks empathy and an understanding of the larger discussion here.

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