Walmart pushes back on gender bias claims, digital marketing is rising, and WeWork’s CEO apologizes for IPO debacle

Also: Merriam-Webster adopts nonbinary ‘they,’ FedEx speaks out on the U.S.-China trade war, the worst crises of 2019, and a perfect ‘Princess Bride’ tweet.

Good morning PR pros:

Merriam-Webster is adopting the language of inclusion with its latest move: The nonbinary pronoun “they” is officially a part of its lexicon.

The dictionary added more than 530 terms to its catalog, along with thousands of changes and updates. Some are abbreviations; others are coinages such as “vacay” and “solopreneur.”

The addition of “they” as an acceptable pronoun for someone who identifies as gender fluid is a welcome change for many.

How are you using language to make consumers and stakeholders of all kinds feel welcome in your organization? For communicators who want to be supportive, adding pronouns to your email signature is a great place to start.

Here are today’s top stories:

FedEx CEO paints bleak global economic picture

The shipping and delivery company has had a rough year, which its top executive says is because of the trade war with China. China’s contracting economy has had global impacts on markets that supply Chinese consumers, notably Europe.

Yahoo reported:

“I think there is a lot of whistling past the graveyard about the U.S. consumer and the United States economy versus what’s going on globally,” FedEx CEO Fred Smith said during an earnings call with analysts and investors Tuesday.

Why it matters: The trade war with China has become a big problem for companies with extensive international portfolios, and some say the situation is damaging economies and consumers. That could mean asking your CEO to speak about these issues—and it doesn’t have to be an interview with a reporter to make it into print.

However, with U.S. consumers still spending robustly, it will be tricky to make a comprehensive domestic case on trade.

Related reading:


According to the 2019 CMO Survey, marketers expect budgets to continue to increase for messaging and content development.

Marketers are seeing a significant spending increase in online efforts.

To learn more, see the full report.

Walmart hit with allegations of gender bias

The superstore retailer has been hit again with complaints about unfair compensation of female employees.

As Forbes put it:

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says that Walmart likely discriminated against 178 female workers by paying them less, denying them promotions or both, because of their gender. It’s an opportunity for Walmart to step up and take action, but will these allegations bring about change?

So far, Walmart’s crisis response has failed to wow the critics.

Forbes continued:

Walmart is not giving the impression that they fully get the problem, which is not a positive sign that change at the retailer is likely. According to the Wall Street Journal, Randy Hargrove, a Walmart spokesman reported that the allegations are more than 15 years old and “not representative of the positive experiences millions of women have had working at Walmart.” Walmart also told the EEOC it was willing to engage in a “conciliatory process,” but they thought that the EEOC’s reasonable cause findings were “vague and non-specific.”

Why it matters: For modern communicators, it’s not enough to simply tout your products to journalists and write speeches and memos. You have to be a strategic advisor that helps your company safeguard its reputation and business future. Many communicators believe they must lead on culture change campaigns, because they know the PR consequences of failing to deliver.

Related reading:


After a Variety article floated the idea that some Hollywood insiders wanted to remake the film classic “The Princess Bride,” many fans took to Twitter to voice their disapproval.

However, the best tweet in opposition belongs to Cary Elwes, who played Wesley in the film.

Twitter loves pop culture references, especially those with a dash of sardonic wit. Communicators can take a lesson from Elwes’ tweet: On Twitter it’s best to be funny and concise, work in a bit of pop culture and, above all, be right.

WeWork leader offers humility after IPO debacle

Co-founder and CEO Adam Neumann shared with employees that he was “humbled” after the company failed to launch with its IPO this week.

Notable departures including its communications chief didn’t help, and the leadership team will have to work hard to rebuild the company’s reputation. The IPO collapse is also a lesson for companies looking to transition for the world of startups to the more staid and established world of publicly traded companies.

Markets Insider reported:

Neumann’s larger-than-life personality played a “huge role” in the listing’s failure, the Financial Times reported, citing someone who worked closely with him. Fears of emulating the disappointing public debuts of Uber, Lyft, and other disruptive businesses this year factored into Neumann’s decision to postpone WeWork’s IPO, people close to the cofounder told the newspaper.

What you should know: Investors have become more skeptical of disruptive tech companies after companies like Uber and Lyft have failed to deliver with their IPOs. That means communicators and leaders for companies planning to share their first stock offering must carefully craft and project a professional organization. The high-flying, wild west atmosphere that might have fueled your startup days won’t cut it when you’re heading to the stock exchange, and a poor first outing might undercut any future attempts.

Related reading:


Are PR firms becoming choosier about their clients as they seek middle ground between helping organizations in need of their services and potential clients with unsalvageable reputations? Here’s how the demand for companies to lead with their values is affecting the PR industry.


We asked how your organization was investing in content creation, and the top answer was original writing.

Social media and long-form video came in second and third, showing that Tinder and AirBnB might be trendsetters but the tactic has yet to catch fire.


PR Daily Editor Ted Kitterman made a list last week of the PR crises that have defined 2019.

What has been the top crisis in 2019? Share your thoughts with the hashtag #MorningScoop.


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3 Responses to “Walmart pushes back on gender bias claims, digital marketing is rising, and WeWork’s CEO apologizes for IPO debacle”

    Ronald N. Levy says:

    Notice that there’s no charge Walmart IS discriminating. The charge is that 15 years ago someone at Walmart discriminated THEN. Walmart denies it and no one admits it. Since lawyers are commonly paid 33% of what they recover, does it seems likely that after 15 whole years, lawyers haven’t been able to get even a lower court jury somwhere in our whole country with thousands of counties, to rule that Walmart was guilty–even 15 years ago–of SOMETHING? At least that men got the good parking spaces but SOMETHING?

    So far we see proof of NOTHING and we’re not seeing in the newspapers that there is at least EVIDENCE of something. Not even a lawyer-coached female cashier weeping “I worked so hard and they paid male cashiers more than us!”

    Any of us, and any company, can be sued by lawyers who can figure people would rather settle to avoid bad publicity. But settling can look like an admission of guilt so even after 15 years a company may figure “the hell with this, we’re not guilty even slightly so let them sue!”

    Maybe the lawyers can sue a retail stores association: guilt by association!

    Ronald N. Levy says:

    We can see online that the brilliant Malcolm Forbes died long go, the Forbes headquarters building was sold in 2010, and in 1914 Forbes was sold to a Hong Kong based investment group called “Integratd Whale Media Invesments.”

    The magazine sill publishes lists of what it says are the richest people but Forbes editors and ad salespeople, alas, are not on the lists.