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Out of Scope: Issue 03
This week’s non-required thinking on reputation, business, and culture
This week, Facebook shares more disinformation (but about itself), the Queen of Tennessee wins our hearts, we relish two bits of well-deserved schadenfreude, and we look back at one particular case of the rich and powerful engaged in awkward dance moves.
📡 ON OUR RADAR
As the pandemic accelerates the future of esports, brands in the space are trying to elevate themselves as entertainment businesses.
The Wing was everything that “millennial pink” promised and more. A space for high-powered #girlbosses to meet, the home base of the #resistance, complete with #aesthetic bookshelves and furniture … but in the end, what was it? This past year’s collapse of the real estate market brought the girl-powered business’s true nature to the surface - an expensive bit of office space (with a hypocrisy problem). Call it a case of all message, no substance - we’re interested to see what comes next for the company now that it’s helmed by IWG.
Dolly Parton knows the importance of the right moment for taking the spotlight. She turned down Tennessee's generous offer to put her on a pedestal (literally) - making her even more deserving of that statue (in our humble opinions).
Is it time for the chief meme officer? The term “Internet meme” was--believe it or not--coined in 1994 and many of the most common memes in use today were already old hat in 2013. Not quite graffiti, not quite jokes, not reliant on any particular platform, it seems that memes, like 30-second commercials were to TV, are a permanent feature of the medium that gave birth to them.
Ding ding! Time for the latest round of think pieces about the evils of social media, in this case hung on the news peg of the Capitol riots and domestic misinformation. A piece we covered in last week’s issue raises the deeper structural problem: an unstable business model reliant on addictive algorithms and spying on users. As long as that’s in place, the old contract between purveyors of information and the free societies that depend on them will remain broken. Google’s agreement to pay News Corp. for links may be a step towards repairing that contract or a one-off solution. Stay tuned.
Facebook is overstating its video views again. They literally have emails from employees asking “How long can we get away with this?”
The only powerpoint presentation that could be described as a blockbuster is Benedict Evans’s annual look at the future of tech (and everything, really). Terms coined in this year’s version, relevant to marketers and comms folk: “Cambrian explosion in online tools,” “e-commerce as logistics,” and “the cookie apocalypse.”
🏆 REPUTATION FAIL OF THE WEEK: Tone-deaf politicians of the Great State of Texas
Most of the US was hit hard by an arctic storm this week, and no one has borne the brunt of it as much as Texas. Gradually, we’ve been learning fun and exciting bits of Texas trivia this week - Texas has its own power grid! - and watching in horror as Texans go without power, heat, and water, trapped inside with frozen roads. Now would be the perfect time to come together across political divides to solve this massive problem, right? According to former Texas Governor Rick Perry, of course not! “Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business,” Perry said. Current Governor Greg Abbott and Rep. Dan Crenshaw had their own spectacular takes as well:
The Texas Tribune responded to that idea with a short and decisive headline: No, frozen wind turbines aren’t the main culprit for Texas’ power outages. An official with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas stated, “It appears that a lot of the generation that has gone offline today has been primarily due to issues on the natural gas system.”
Plus, Texas Senator Ted Cruz thought now would be a great time to vacation in Cancún! 😎🌴
Even the right-wing parody site Babylon Bee is piling on.
It all comes down to a giant failure to read the room. In any response, putting people first, rather than brand interests, will go much farther. Whether you’re a politician or a corporation, relevant and compassionate messaging matters in a crisis. And the actions you take are sometimes the most important communications of all. As media critic Brian Stelter succinctly put it … Houston, we have a comms problem.
💡ON OUR MINDS
We found a use case!
From WSJ’s Joanna Stern: “Think Zoom but with holograms and real virtual backgrounds. Instead of 2-D video, you turn into a 3-D avatar and interact with others, who see virtual you but hear real you.”
Integrate virtual reality with the green screens Obama and Oprah used for their interview in November, and we’ll never have an in-person pitch meeting again.
What a prepared executive looks like
One question the mega-billionaire (and world’s best hype man) knew was coming on his book tour: how do you preach global sustainability and justify flying around in a private jet? By investing billions of dollars in companies that are striving to get the world to net-zero emissions.
The winning line from Gates: “If I have picked any winners at all, they’ll be responsible for removing much more carbon than I or my family is responsible for. The goal isn’t simply for any one person to make up for his or her emissions; it’s to avoid a climate disaster.”
Jeff Immelt, another former titan, is still saddled with an anecdote from his GE days about having an empty backup jet follow him around the world on his business travels. You know, just in case. Yet for Gates, Silicon Valley’s lovable uncle, the private jet issue probably won’t stick.
We’ll see you here next week! 👋
The fine print:
This newsletter brought to you by big thoughts from people who aren’t afraid to risk their reputations to get them out there.