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Out of Scope Issue 17: To Like or to Super Like? 👍
This week’s non-required thinking on reputation, business, and culture
This week is all about the power of social media - from birthday parties turned content opportunities to a tweenage band playing virality into a record deal, we’re looking at the moments that make or break life circumstances or just make the day go by a little faster.
📡 ON OUR RADAR
A customer acquisition strategy with a CSR flavor. Uber and Lyft are offering free rides to anyone going to or from vaccination sites. While the announcement is positioned as a way of making it easier to get vaccinated, Uber in particular stands to benefit from the positive PR and new downloads. The company has taken center stage in the debate around how to classify gig workers and is generally viewed as less socially responsible than Lyft. Will reframing itself in the eyes of the public finally help Uber become profitable?
Small-town newspaper meets neighborhood watch meets social network -- all without the accountability of a professional newsroom. Nextdoor is a platform where neighbors and local authorities can share community news. As it becomes harder for small newspapers to survive, is Nextdoor the solution to reclaiming local news, or is it yet another example of social media’s ability to weaponize misinformation?
Speaking of the power of social media, you may have seen that one teen’s birthday party invite went viral on TikTok, skyrocketing him to fame overnight and starting a mass mobilization of teens and content creators across the country, who flocked to California to attend. Journalist Taylor Lorenz pointed out that this is the result of a rebrand -- events are now viewed as “content opportunities.”
ICYMI: The Linda Lindas, 2021’s pre-teen Riot Grrl band, went viral this week for a song titled “Racist Sexist Boy,” written by the band’s 10-year-old drummer and 14-year-old sister and performed at the Los Angeles Public Library. This particular viral moment had all the ingredients for a perfect storm, bringing the internet some perfectly wholesome energy while tackling a prevalent issue right now -- racism during the pandemic.
We don’t even know what to call this type of headline, but we’re in awe and disgust at the ability to get people to tune in to boring district news by tapping their favorite celebrity gossip:
Apparently, the “Supermoon” is all branding. The term cropped up in 1979 at the hands of an astrologer - and astronomers are saying the phenomenon is not quite the spectacle its name suggests since the difference between a supermoon and an average full Moon is almost indistinguishable to the naked eye. Besides, how many times can you read news that there’s a supermoon and get excited when they come multiple times per year?
Facebook is attempting to depressurize social media by letting people decide whether or not they want to remove likes. Meanwhile, Twitter is turning up the competition with a new monetization feature: “Super Followers.” While taken in opposite directions, both initiatives account for the user’s innate need for more.
Another not-so-good look for Bill and his comms team. Michael Larson, the man who manages the Gates fortune, has been accused of workplace misconduct. Now that their split is public, Bill and Melinda don’t have to come across as united on the communications front, which leaves us wondering -- does Melinda have a better PR team?
Is this the next step in a post-cookies world? To get closer to accurate consumer data while protecting privacy concerns, many companies are transitioning to rewarding consumers for sharing their data.
This week saw the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, when a prosperous Oklahoma Black neighborhood (often referred to as Black Wall Street) perished at the hands of a violent white mob. Several publications pulled together long-form pieces on the topic that are well worth a read for some historical context on this event, including The New York Times, Fortune, and Morning Brew.
🏆 REPUTATION FAIL OF THE WEEK: RUSSIAN PR ON PFIZER
A mysterious Russia-linked PR agency has been trying to persuade science and health influencers in France and Germany to make false claims about Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine in exchange for money. Fazze, an “influencer marketing platform,” has been contacting influencers about joining an “information campaign” via sketchy emails that list an unregistered London-based address. When influencers tried to find out who was running the agency, LinkedIn trails led to Russia.
“Explain … the death rate among the vaccinated with Pfizer is almost 3x higher than the vaccinated by AstraZeneca,” one email asks. “Do not use the words ‘advertising’ in your posts, stories, and videos… Present the material as your own independent view,” another writes. Some influencers were asked to link to reports (since removed) that supposedly substantiated the claim.
Rule number one of communications? Know your audience. The campaign was doomed from the start due to its illegitimate roots, but Fasse expedited its demise by targeting the wrong influencers – specifically those who specialize in health and science. We agree with French Health Minister Oliver Veran that efforts like this are “pathetic, dangerous and do not work.”
💡ON OUR MINDS
Osaka boycotts French Open media
The 23-year-old Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka announced that she will not take media questions at the 2021 French Open due to the mental health impact of news conferences on players.
Osaka faces a potential $20,000 fine for breaking Grand Slam rules. But the highest-paid female athlete ever seems unbothered by the threat and hopes her fines will be donated to mental health charities.
"It's anxiety-inducing when you sit there and have to constantly quietly pray that you've left no room for ambiguity with the answer you've just given, just in case someone decides to take it out of context and portray it differently for 'clickbait' - which could obviously cause huge damage to your reputation and career,” she wrote.
Her defiance raises the question of whether it is fair for players to face press straight after defeat. We’re curious to see how the media, fellow players, and fans react as she acts on her boycott.
An International He Said / She Said: Belarus Diverts a Commercial Flight
A Belarus fighter jet forced a Ryanair commercial flight passing through the country to land at its capital. Once landed, Belarusian authorities arrested several passengers on board -- most notably dissenting journalist, Roman Protasevich, and his girlfriend.
The aftermath has sparked a firestorm of crisis communications. Belarus claimed it diverted the plane because of a suspected bomb threat. The CEO of Ryanair countered that it was “premeditated and unlawful” hijacking. The EU, US, UK, and NATO have all condemned the incident and may enact sanctions on Belarus.
While navigating the various communications strategies at play here is a highly sensitive, highly political mess, one response that definitively did not go over well came from the EU commissioner for transport, who tweeted that it was “great news for everyone” when the Ryanair flight was finally able to depart Belarus. Commenters were quick to point out that Protasevich, arrested on the ground, now faces the death penalty in Belarus.
If you’re looking for a quick explainer -- we’ve sung Dave Jorgenson’s praise before, but the Washington Post Guy nails it again, breaking down a complicated story about Belarus’ sanctions by putting it to the tune of one of Netflix’s most popular shows of the moment.
We’ll see you here next week! 👋
The fine print:
This newsletter brought to you by UFOs, which, in one of those odd cultural shifts, have suddenly leaped from the world of grainy documentaries and obscure websites to the front pages. 🛸