Walmart pays full college tuition for employees, news outlets embrace newsletters, and Instagram announces new policies to protect kids

Also: Seattle Mariners award community grants, CDC reinstates indoor mask guidelines and Shutterstock acquires AI companies to help customers.

Hello, communicators:

The Seattle Mariners baseball team has announced that its nonprofit, Mariners Care, will present community impact grants to organizations that are working to improve physical and mental health for kids from Black, Indigenous and other communities of color (BIPOC). The grants are part of a $1 million program that the baseball team announced last July to award organizations that are “focused on sustainable and strategic change to systems that have historically impacted the ability of BIPOC communities to thrive,” according to the press release.

“The Seattle Mariners value our place in the Pacific Northwest Community and strive to make a difference in the lives of the people in our region,” Seattle Mariners EVP and general counsel Fred Rivera said in the release. “We believe we can have a positive impact by investing strategically to support partners working toward systemic change, particularly in BIPOC communities. We are focused on improving the physical and mental health of our youth and growing economic equity in under-resourced communities.”

Rivera’s words about the Mariners Care grant program highlight how your organization’s purpose and values efforts should start locally by engaging the communities where your efforts will have the greatest impact. Emphasizing the hyperlocal focus of your outreach with facts and statistics about your community will demonstrate a level of empathy that humanizes your organization, position you as a true neighbor and earn the support of local advocates.

Walmart announces plans to pay for employees’ college tuition and books

Walmart, the largest private employer in the country, has announced that it will pay 100% of the college tuition and books for employees who attend a select list of schools, part of its Live Better U program. Schools with an agreement with Walmart and Sam’s Club include Johnson & Wales University, the University of Arizona, the University of Denver and more.

Courtesy of Walmart

According to its press release:

“We are creating a path of opportunity for our associates to grow their careers at Walmart, so they can continue to build better lives for themselves and their families,” said Lorraine Stomski, senior vice president of learning and leadership at Walmart. “This investment is another way we can support our associates to pursue their passion and purpose while removing the barriers that too often keep adult working learners from obtaining degrees.”

Why it matters:

Walmart hopes to offer unique value to employees in a hot labor market as workers have questioned employers’ investment in their welfare and advancement.  Walmart’s program not only demonstrates Walmart’s ability to use its massive reach and resources to help its community, but also frames this initiative around the future of work. The company’s messaging also highlights how your brand can position itself as forward-thinking to prospective employees who may be reluctant to rejoin your company’s sector of the workforce.


A report by Pew Research has found that news outlets with the highest traffic are adopting digital outreach and engagement methods in large numbers, including Flipboard (95%), newsletters (93%) and Apple News (88%). Meanwhile, 75% embrace podcasts and just 39% allow comments on their articles.

Courtesy of Pew Research

These numbers show how digital news outlets are increasingly pursuing curated experiences for audiences, especially newsletters. The trend of newsletters has only grown in popularity since 2020 as publishers seek to engage audiences with tools that allow for the ethical, responsible collection of user data and third-party data collection is on the verge of becoming illegal.

Be sure to read and research the outlets that you pitch to understand how they are communicating with their audiences and compose your outreach to match those formats whenever possible.

Check out the full report here.


The CDC is changing mask guidance once again, urging vaccinated people to resume wearing masks indoors in areas where COVID-19 is on the rise,  or if they share a household with immunocompromised family or young children. This messaging reverses course on prior mask guidelines, which said that fully vaccinated Americans can forego masks indoors with confidence.

The Washington Post reports:

“It is not a welcome piece of news that masking is going to be a part of people’s lives who have already been vaccinated,” [CDC director Rochelle] Walensky acknowledged. “This new guidance weighs heavily on me.”

Anthony S. Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, said in an interview that “the situation has clearly changed” since May 13.

“Vaccinated people are transmitting it, and the extent is unclear, but there’s no doubt they’re transmitting it,” Fauci said. “People who are vaccinated, even when they’re asymptomatic, can transmit the virus, which is the scientific foundation of why this recommendation is being made.”

Walensky stressed that agency scientists continue to believe that breakthrough infections in vaccinated individuals are rare, adding they “continue to represent a very small amount of transmission in the country.”

The announcement comes the week after Los Angeles County reinstated its indoor mask mandate, and other states, including Nevada, have since followed suit:

By acknowledging the regrettable nature of her announcement outright, Walensky builds empathy with the American public and supports the idea that this decision wasn’t reached lightly. Fauci’s comments, meanwhile, anchor the change to a scientific explanation that offers context around the decision. As revised rules from state and local officials continue to be announced in the coming days, this news serves as a reminder that your organization’s COVID-19 messaging should always contain a clause that allows for the potential of guidelines to change with no notice.


The Institute for Public Relations, Ragan Communications, and the University of Florida are conducting a follow-up survey to their 2020 report, “The Career Path of a Social Media Professional.”

This year’s survey investigates and illuminates the career path potential of social media professionals, shedding light on how social media is being managed, viewed and evaluated within organizations. Here are some highlights from our 2020 report.

We invite you to take this survey whether you’re in charge of social media for your company or are involved in some aspect of social media for a client. The survey should take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete, and all responses will remain confidential.

As thanks for taking the survey, you’ll get an opportunity to enter a drawing for three $50 gift cards and will receive a copy of the full report, which promises to be chock-full of valuable data for benchmarking and budgeting purposes. The report will be presented on Sept. 9, 2021 at Ragan’s Social Media Conference in Orlando, Florida and published through IPR and PR Daily.

Take the survey today!


Stock media platform Shutterstock has announced the formation of Shutterstock.AI, a program that will improve Shutterstock’s predictive performance capabilities using artificial intelligence [AI] following the company’s acquisition of three leading AI platforms —Pattern89, Datasine and Shotzr.

According to its press release:

“With these three acquisitions, Shutterstock.AI will help our customers globally solve the biggest creative challenge they have—discovering and selecting the right content that is relevant, and that resonates with audiences. We want our customers to create with confidence,” said Stan Pavlovsky, Chief Executive Officer at Shutterstock. “To complement this, Shutterstock.AI will also help new customer segments accelerate the development of artificial intelligence, by unlocking the power of the data associated with our vast content library. From autonomous vehicles, to content moderation, to AI powered process automation, Shutterstock.AI’s high quality data and services will enable companies to develop the next generation of technologies.”

By framing its news of an acquisition around solving the creative challenges of its users, Shutterstock artfully ties its business imperatives to the needs of its external stakeholders and demonstrates that the company is listening to customer needs.


Ragan has released its annual Communications Benchmark Report, an exclusive study from Ragan’s Communications Leadership Council that analyzes the major trends in the profession over the last year.

During that time, comms pros have been called on to develop and distribute messages on new policies that affect internal and external stakeholders alike. Their role has become more essential as they helped keep their organizations focused and moving forward. They’ve seen their access to the C-suite increase throughout 2020, and they forged important new alliances with peers in other departments, including HR, finance and workplace wellness.

Culled from more than 750 respondents, the 32-page report is available in its entirety exclusively to members of the Communications Leadership Council.

Download your copy of the exclusive Benchmark Survey Executive Summary today and get a crucial competitive advantage that will fuel your success for 2021 and beyond.

Instagram explains new changes to protect teenage users

Instagram has introduced changes to the platform’s advertising and privacy policies that aim to protect teen users. The new ad policy reduces parameters for hyper-targeting ads to teens so that campaigns can no longer use interests and activity across other websites but only age, gender and location. The new privacy policy, meanwhile, makes accounts for users under 16 private by default, along with the development of technology to stop accounts with “potentially suspicious behavior” from seeing or interacting with users under 18.

According to Instagram’s blog post:

We already give people ways to tell us that they would rather not see ads based on their interests or on their activities on other websites and apps, such as through controls within our ad settings. But we’ve heard from youth advocates that young people may not be well equipped to make these decisions. We agree with them, which is why we’re taking a more precautionary approach in how advertisers can reach young people with ads.

We want to strike the right balance of giving young people all the things they love about Instagram while also keeping them safe.

These new policies have been introduced in response to recent accusations that the platform, and its parent company Facebook, don’t do enough to protect its youngest users. The conversation reached a boiling point this past May amid reports that Facebook was working on a version of Instagram specifically for kids under 13.

What it means:

As the word “balance” does a lot of heavy lifting in Instagram’s messaging, this announcement focuses on the needs of multiple stakeholders at once, including teenage users who want to have a public profile to build a presence, parents who are concerned that their kids aren’t equipped to stay safe from advertisers or predatory users on their own, and experts who have cautioned against the platform’s stated focus to increase its teenage userbase.

When crafting a response to a publicly contested issue or debate, be sure to not only explain why, but how your organization arrived at its new policies to minimize the likelihood of a  backlash. And as a best practice, always consult independent industry groups and legal experts on the potential ramifications of any initiative involving kids before announcing it.


In light of the new CDC guidelines recommending wearing masks indoors, have you discussed revising your business’ policies with leadership, PR pros and communicators?


One Response to “Walmart pays full college tuition for employees, news outlets embrace newsletters, and Instagram announces new policies to protect kids”

    Ronald N Levy says:

    A beauty of PR Daily, when you compare it to newsletters that are largely rewrites of routine personnel releases, is that PR Daily reports on ACTIONS—what top firms are doing—not just on who’s been hired.

    We see how Walmart is making out—huge growth in sales and earnings —and we see from PR Daily stories like this on HOW Walmart and other succeeders are doing it. Often they are DOING more for their publics and the publics are doing more for them, saying yes to shopping there and no to unions that want to get in between Walmart and its workers who are in this together.

    A smart ass could wisecrack that casting thy bread upon the waters will create soggy bread. But a smart aspiration is to do what WORKS. A merit of PR Daily I admire is that it reports on what works and on how the winners are successfully working it.

    Will this free college program pay off for Walmart? I don’t know but Walmart probably knows because their sales and earnings show that they do savvy PR forecasting on how good deeds like this work out. Many investors do very well for their earnings by buying and selling what Warren Buffet and other successful investors do. In the same way PR people can do very well by emulating the success initiatives of PR Daily reports and courses on what’s succeeding.

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