On June 30, Karen Parkin, the global head of human resources for Adidas, stepped down after allegations surfaced from employees—not for the first time—that she failed to promote diversity within the company. In a moment when the nation is hyper-sensitive to racial inequality in any form, the move is a high-profile example of a company publicly attempting to start transformation from the top.
Stories by Sophie Maerowitz
It may seem like conversations on social media couldn’t possibly get more polarized. But in the face of a pandemic and plummeting economy, during an election year no less, brands continue to find themselves caught in the middle of hot-button issues, forced to choose sides on topics previously thought to be outside their wheelhouse. As they address the possibility of employees going rogue on social, communicators should find recourse in the law, internal policy and strategy.
a new study from University of Haifa in Israel found that TikTok is fast becoming a cache of extremist sentiment and hate speech. The study, conducted from February through May 2020, revealed far-right extremist content promoting fascism, racism, anti-Semitism, chauvinism and xenophobia, researchers said. From encouraging violence to promoting conspiracy theories and glorifying terrorist organizations, the 200 posts studied mirror the harmful content that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others have been grappling with for years.
After a Black employee quit over its dress code, supermarket chain Publix stated it will not allow workers to wear clothing featuring Black Lives Matter messaging. In response to what could be an emerging communications crisis for the brand, Publix spokesperson Maria Brous pointed to company policy. TheoryComms’ CEO Andrea Hamiton argues PR cannot stay on the sidelines in a moment of national turmoil and transformation.
Earlier this week, IBM and Amazon said they will pull back from facial recognition technology contracts with law enforcement. The use of machine learning technology that detects faces has come under renewed scrutiny for racial bias. In addition, the technology is known to be flawed, particularly when applied to non-white faces. Until today, Microsoft was notably quiet on the issue, given it too has provided facial recognition software to police.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. curfew on June 2, the city’s first such rule since 1945. The curfew, effected following consultation with local police and state government officials in hopes of preventing looting, extends to rideshare apps. While Uber and Lyft complied with the order, as well as Citibike—the bicycle share program owned by Lyft—the latter brand did not go down without a fight on social media.
Skittles pledged to honor LGBTQ Pride Month by removing the rainbow colors from its signature product late last month. “Only one rainbow matters during pride,” greyscale candy wrappers read; individual candies will temporarily be leeched of color. Skittles will donate $1 per pack of its all-white Skittles to LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD. Here are communications takeaways to consider as Pride month—amid nationwide protests against racial inequality—begins.
Franklin Templeton Issues Timely and Effective Crisis Response Following ‘Central Park Karen’ IncidentMay 27th, 2020 by Sophie Maerowitz
On Memorial Day, a video went viral of a white woman, Amy Cooper, calling the police in New York City’s Central Park on a black man, Christian Cooper (no relation) after he asked her to leash her dog in a leash-required area. The video sparked widespread outrage at Ms. Cooper’s racist report, with some lawmakers calling for false calls to law enforcement like Amy Cooper’s to be classified as hate crimes. Franklin Templeton, Cooper’s employer, enacted a rapid crisis response.
Some organizations have taken a risky approach, building digital or earned media campaigns that stand in for the usual awareness-building events—in-person rallies, press conferences or protests—now limited by bans on public gatherings. Two notable efforts of brand activism have stood out over the course of the pandemic; one local, one national: a mask-wearing campaign in Chicago, and political statements from longtime mercantile activist Patagonia.
As of Tuesday evening, two dams have failed in Midland, Michigan, the home of Dow Chemical’s headquarters. Given chemical products including pesticides and Styrofoam are produced in the area, Dow’s current weather-related crisis could soon erupt into an environmental catastrophe. Gene Grabowski, partner at D.C. firm kglobal, says that at this early stage, Dow’s communications team is responding “intelligently and appropriately” to the flooding in Midland.