WeWork’s CEO doubts remote workforce engagement, how companies earn trust, and cruise lines share plans to resume sailing in July

Also: the latest tech offers new horizons for accessibility, Instagram adds pronouns, and Ohio creates lottery to reward vaccinated residents.

Hello, communicators:

Since the pandemic, many companies are exploring new accessibility communication tools to help differently-abled stakeholders interact with their content.

The latest example comes in the form of a new, experimental device that turns thoughts into text and has helped a paralyzed man quickly construct sentences on a computer screen. The man was able to generate text with 95% accuracy just by imagining that he was handwriting the letters on paper.

“The system relies on electrodes surgically implanted near the part of the brain that controls movement,” reports NPR. “The team’s success decoding imagined handwriting is just the latest advance in efforts to link computers to the human brain. The handwriting approach ‘has brought neural interfaces that allow rapid communication much closer to a practical reality,’ wrote Pavithra Rajeswaran and Amy L. Orsborn of the University of Washington.”

Though software manufacturers like Zoom quickly caught on after being criticized for not having native captioning last year, this latest breakthrough suggests future of accessibility communications will be full of innovation that can make your communication efforts not only more accessible, but more inclusive as well.

WeWork’s CEO slammed for saying remote workers are less engaged

WeWork CEO Sandeep Mathrani has been widely criticized for comments that he made at The Wall Street Journal’s Future of Everything Festival claiming that the employees eager to return to the office are more engaged than remote workers.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

“Those who are uberly engaged with the company want to go to the office two-thirds of the time, at least,” said Mr. Mathrani, a veteran of the commercial real-estate industry. “Those who are least engaged are very comfortable working from home. People are happier when they come to work. The bigger issue is do you come to work five days a week or do you come to work three days a week? That’s the bigger issue. There’s no issue of not coming to a common place.”

Mathrani’s comments quickly went viral, and Twitter didn’t hold back in questioning his true intentions behind the comment:

Some drudged up WeWork’s past financial turmoil and restructuring woes while questioning Mathrani’s expertise:

Though others expressed larger concerns that these comments irresponsibly stigmatized remote workers:

Why It Matters:

Mathrani’s comments echo JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon’s memo to employees bluntly recalling workers to the office by July, a sentiment that was similarly derided. In both instances, workers expressed their belief that leadership is demonstrating distance bias, a phenomenon wherein a worker’s value is assessed by their physical presence and proximity to the central hub of operations, often over the work itself. Communicators can reduce distance bias by crafting executive messaging that expresses empathy and awareness of employee life struggles that leadership does not see or personally experience. If you don’t know what those struggles are, check in with employees to find out and communicate what you learn to leadership.


MEASURED THOUGHTS

A report by Harris Poll and Adage stresses that companies can build trust in 2021 by delivering on promises. More than three-quarters (76%) of those surveyed said that they expect companies to follow through on the stances they take. When asked what that follow through looks like, 50% said that companies could follow through by donating money to causes they profess to support, followed closely by internal changes, such as to hiring practices, product lines or operating structure (47%). Discussing the issue on social media was easily the least-preferred method (just 32% support).

This stakeholder awareness of the distinction between promises and action is a reminder that doing what we say matters and trust can be measured quantifiably. Don’t stop at “creating awareness” by discussing an issue on social media. Follow through by living your commitments by putting your company’s money where it’s purpose-driven mouth is.

Read the full study here.


SOCIAL BUZZ

Instagram has added a new pronouns feature to user profiles in an effort to promote greater inclusion on the platform. The feature lets users select up to four pronouns so other users know how they wish to be addressed.

Social Media Today reports:

It’s a good addition for Instagram, which adds to its broader push to maximize inclusion, and ensure that all users are able to represent themselves as they choose on the platform. That movement is actually gaining more traction across the broader social media sphere, with LinkedIn also recently adding pronoun listings on its user profiles, while Instagram’s parent company Facebook has had pronoun options available within its user display tools since 2014, though they have evolved significantly over time.

Instagram’s addition of pronouns serves as a reminder that inclusion and accessibility practices are closely intertwined. Accessibility initiatives should fall under the larger umbrella of your DE&I work and include an audit of your communication approaches, including the technology you use to communicate, to ensure that every stakeholder’s identity is accommodated and represented.


RAGAN’S 2021 BENCHMARK REPORT

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.


TACTICALLY SPEAKING

Ohio Governor Mark Dewine has announced a lottery for vaccinated citizens to boost vaccination numbers across the state:

The Washington Post reports:

 “I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money.’ But truly, the real waste at this point in the pandemic—when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it—is a life lost to covid-19,” DeWine said in a statewide address.

Dewine’s lottery promotion, which arrives on the heels of national promotions by McDonald’s, Uber and Lyft to facilitate vaccine access, adds an element of fun to a sobering ask by introducing a contest into the mix. Infusing a similar element of gamification into your messaging campaigns, be they in the form of a contest, poll or crowdsourced activity, is a proven way to drive stakeholder engagement.


COMMUNICATIONS WEEK

Ragan is delighted to add industry event and thought leadership brand Communications Week to our portfolio. You can read the full press release here.

“We are reimagining Communications Week as a year-round endeavor,” says Ragan Communications CEO Diane Schwartz. “The rollout will begin next month with thought-provoking content on the future of communications on Commsweek.com, Ragan.com and PRDaily.com, culminating with a weeklong series in November that will feature conferences, networking events, workshops, webinars and more.”

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The flagship event for 2021 will take place Nov. 15-19. Stay tuned for updates on the many opportunities and offerings that will help communicators connect, learn and celebrate their achievements later this year.

Cruise lines rely on CDC guidance to tout plans to resume sailing in July

Carnival Cruise Line has announced plans to gradually resume sailings from Florida and Texas ports beginning in July. The company stressed that this plan is contingent on approval from the CDC, which the industry has been working with on plans to resume operations.

The Sun Sentinel reports:

“We continue to have constructive discussions with the CDC but still have many questions that remain unanswered,” Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, said in a statement. “We are working diligently to resume sailing in the U.S. and meet the CDC guidelines.”

In an email to employees posted last week on Cruise Hive’s website, Duffy urged all Carnival employees to get vaccinated as soon as possible but acknowledged some live in places where vaccinations are rolling out slowly. Carnival will provide opportunities for those employees to be vaccinated, she said.

Meanwhile, Norwegian Cruise Line is considering skipping Florida ports altogether when sailings resume after Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an order banned businesses from requiring customers to provide proof of vaccination. The order contradicts Norwegian’s proof of vaccination policy for all passers and crew.

AP reports:

[Norwegian CEO Frank] Del Rio told analysts during the company’s quarterly earnings call Thursday that if the company can’t operate in Florida, it can go to other states or the Caribbean “for ships that otherwise would have gone to Florida … we certainly hope it doesn’t come to that.” Del Rio said the company is still discussing the matter with DeSantis’ office.

What it means:

The cruise industry and the CDC have been very public frenemies since the sailing ban first took effect, as a cruise industry trade group went from publicly lambasting the CDC in late March to cooperating with the federal agency in late April to position a safe return as a shared goal. Now that Florida’s governor has enacted a policy at odds with the safety expectations of the CDC, Carnival and Norwegian must navigate conflicting partner protocols without turning their plight into a political issue.

To stay the course, they have each crafted optimistic, solution-oriented messaging that charts a course for progress while calling out the partners who are stalling that progress from happening.


CONFERENCE ALERT

Communicators are in a unique position to collaborate with other DE&I leaders to foster unity, build a stronger internal and external brand reputation, maximize innovation and improve the bottom line. The days of brands comfortably remaining silent are gone as employees and customers are demanding impactful change.

Join us at Ragan’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion conference on May 19 and glean timely strategies to educate, engage and uplift your employees and customers in the wake of unparalleled uncertainty, political upheaval and a new mandate for social justice change.

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Learn powerful insights and approaches from speakers at organizations including Ben & Jerry’s, Reebok, Warner Music Group, E.W. Scripps, NielsenIQ, Facebook and more.

Register for our event here.


SOUNDING BOARD

It’s Thursday and we’re over the hump, PR pros and communicators! Show us your best face of perseverance, in GIF form, for toughing it out until the weekend.

Leave that GIF in the comments below. We’ll share the results in tomorrow’s roundup.

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