Victoria’s Secret CMO retires after transgender hire, Google employee memo goes viral, and Coke stands firm on same-sex ads

Also: The optimum number of hashtags for social media success, Walgreens to close 200 stores, and Krispy Kreme teams up with Reese’s for a sugary win.

Good morning, PR pros:

A Google employee’s memo is going viral within the company, racking up more than 10,000 views by fellow staffers since it was published last week. The memo alleges she faced discrimination and then retaliation because of her pregnancy and maternity leave.

Meanwhile, a Walmart employee is reporting that the retail behemoth retaliated against him after he urged co-workers to sign a petition asking the chain to stop selling firearms and ammunition following recent mass shootings. The employee’s access to his corporate email account and the company’s Slack channel have been suspended.

Both crises highlight the importance of listening to employees’ concerns and addressing them quickly, instead of ignoring growing criticism. By avoiding responses, organizations risk having their workplace’s dirty laundry put on display for all to see, sending shockwaves through the internal culture and tarnishing its public reputation.

How can you better engage your employees to avoid a PR crisis?

Here are today’s top stories:

Victoria’s Secret marketing chief departs after transgender model is hired

In November, Victoria’s Secret’s chief marketing officer, Ed Razek, apologized after he implied that transgender models don’t fit the company’s “fantasy” image. Times have changed, because Victoria’s Secret recently hired 22-year-old transgender model Valentina Sampaio:

Days after the casting, Victoria’s Secret said goodbye to Razek.

The Guardian reported:

The news that Razek is to retire, which came via a note from Leslie Wexner, the chair and chief executive of the brand’s parent company, L Brands, comes at a time when Victoria’s Secret has faced increasing criticism in the post-#MeToo and Time’s Up era.

Why you should care: “Out with the old and in with the new” is a helpful adage to embrace when it comes to PR and marketing messages, as well as tired tropes and dated mindsets. To engage today’s ever-changing and diverse audience groups, make sure your communications team can look past stereotypes and come up with fresh ideas.

Related reading:


How many hashtags is too many for your Instagram post? The optimal number of these social media labels depends on the size of your following, according to a new study from Social Insider. It can also matter whether you put the hashtag in the caption or in the first comment on your post.

One thing is certain: Smaller followings have better engagement rates.

Walgreens to close 200 stores

The retail chain is slimming its brick-and-mortar portfolio to cut costs and keep up with growing e-commerce trends. Though 200 stores is a sizeable list, that’s fewer than 3% of Walgreen’s 10,000 locations, and the company says it plans to keep “the majority” of employees by hiring them in other locations.

The closings follow an announcement earlier this year by Walgreens’ parent company, Walgreens Boots Alliance, to close 200 stores in the United Kingdom.

Why it matters: Organizations must change to meet consumers’ shopping habits and behaviors, or they risk being left in the dust. If you’re facing a transformation, ensure you communicate it, sans corporate jargon, to your employees first.

Walgreens’ clunky statement is an example of what to avoid.

As reported by CNBC:

“As previously announced, we are undertaking a transformational cost management program to accelerate the ongoing transformation of our business, enable investments in key areas and to become a more efficient enterprise,” the company said in a statement.

Related reading:


Krispy Kreme and Reese’s recently teamed up by placing the iconic chocolate-and-peanut-butter combination inside the popular doughnuts:

Consumers reacted with glee to the partnership:


Looking to reach a new audience of potential customers? Consider teaming up with another popular organization to maximize your media reach.

Coca-Cola stands firm on diversity amid Hungarian ad backlash

The beverage giant is facing criticism for its “Love is Love” ads, which feature same-sex couples embracing and kissing over bottles of Coca-Cola:

Love is love ❤️

Posted by Coca-Cola on Sunday, August 4, 2019

An online petition calling for a Coke boycott has roughly 50,000 signatures, and at least one Hungarian politician has asked for the ads to be removed. However, the company defended its ads, saying they reflect company values.

Why it matters: More than ever before, consumers look to organizations to embrace diversity and inclusion, along with vocalizing stances on social and political issues. Decide how these issues fit into your organization’s values and mission—and then stay firm in the face of criticism, referring to these values in your response.

Coke did just that in its short, but powerful statement defending the ads.

CNN Business reported:

“The Coca-Cola Company strives for diversity, inclusion and equality in our business, and we support these rights in society as well,” a company spokesperson said a statement. “As a long-standing supporter of the LGBTQI community, we believe everyone has the right to love the person they choose. The campaign currently running in Hungary reflects these values.”

Related reading:


We asked if “pay to play” communications opportunities are chipping away at PR’s credibility. It’s a nuanced issue for many PR pros, but that doesn’t mean people don’t feel strongly about the topic.

Though most of you said it’s a problem, more than a third said “pay to play” tactics are OK, provided there’s disclosure:

Caitlin New, senior supervisor at Ink Communications, highlighted the crucial element of transparency and said that sponsored content can be “mutually beneficial to readers and the brand”—provided it’s well done and properly disclosed.

Lack of transparency can hurt the reputations of both the sponsor and the publisher.


How much are you focusing on diversity and inclusion this year? Sound off with your insights on Twitter @PRDaily:

Don’t forget the hashtag #MorningScoop.

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