Discover more from Out of Scope
Out of Scope Issue 23: Communication Band-Aids
This week’s non-required thinking on reputation, business, and culture
This week, we’re looking at social media pivots, The Pentagon and UNC frantically hitting “undo,” and whether a spectator-less Olympics is even worth it.
📡 ON OUR RADAR
Thursday, Zaila Avant-garde was crowned this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee champion. The fourteen-year-old is the first African American to win in the competition’s 96-year run, and she also happens to hold three basketball world records. When asked about Avant-garde’s approach to preparing for the bee, her coach Cole Shafer-Ray serendipitously provided a great insight for communications professionals: “She knew, not just the word but the story behind the word, why every letter had to be that letter and couldn’t be anything else.”
We 💖 an aptly named, well-designed graphic. The Economist’s “Normalcy Index” is a set of interactive graphics that show how behavior has changed around the world since the onset of COVID-19, and it’s a great example of how to present data in a digestible, engaging format.
Europe’s vaccine passport does not include people who have received Covishield, a version of the AstraZeneca vaccine made in India. The decision sparked backlash, as Covishield was the core vaccine provided to low- and middle-income countries by the EU-backed COVAX program. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) responded with a statement to CNN that attempts to clarify the nuances in vaccine approvals. But when dealing with such a sensitive communications challenge that also has global implications for access to travel, the explanation reads as a bit nitpicky.
As much progress as we feel we’ve made regarding workplace culture, maybe we’re actually just stuck in the 1930s? Quartz ties today’s work-hard culture to an infamous Soviet-era miner. But the tides may be turning on the glorification of the “superhero worker.” Iceland recently tested a 4-day work week with some success, and countries like Japan and Spain are working on their own plans. Maybe superhero output comes from forced efficiency.
Keep your friends close… and your competitors closer. This week the Wall Street Journal ran an ad in the digital newsletter, Morning Brew (see below). While it’s probably not the first time this kind of cross-pollination has happened, it is interesting to see one of the most influential print publications in American media aim to secure a younger, primarily digital audience. Don’t be afraid to meet the eyeballs where they are!
What we’re now calling the Champagne-troversy — Putin broke conventional wisdom by signing a law that says only Russian-made sparkling wine can and should be called ‘champagne,’ which threw France for a loop. And while this debacle has made for some spectacular puns, it is an interesting case study of how important a seemingly simple title, label, or descriptor can be for international sales.
Where do you draw the line when margins begin to impact reputation? For Spotify and its exclusive arrangement with Joe Rogan, it seems that we’re still quite far away.
Fauci recently joined TikTok to chat with influencers about vaccine misconceptions as the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services push to increase the youth vaccination rate. His online presence follows in the footsteps of politicians like AOC, who have developed a robust online presence to share messaging. We expect social media will continue to be a powerful tool for politicians to get in front of their target audiences in future elections.
The Pentagon decided to take back its contract with Microsoft. The fall of this project, which was intended to revitalize the Pentagon’s cloud capabilities, serves as a good reminder that no matter what scale the project is, if you don’t meet the clients needs in a timely manner, there’s always the chance they’ll open up for competition. The brief has changed to a “multi-vendor” project, and the Pentagon will now RFP the likes of Amazon and Google.
Art imitates life, or is it life inmates art? The Washington Post released an article this week focusing on the use of autonomous weapons in battlefields like Libya and Armenia. The article describes a real scene that’s eerily familiar to the Netflix alternate reality show, Black Mirror. As more AI advancements turn up, news outlets are faced with the challenge of distinguishing between sci-fi clickbait and reality.
You can’t put a communications band-aid on an operational injury. The New York Times wrote a deep dive about the internal and external perceptions on Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg’s working relationship with each other, Washington, and the media.
The next summer anthem might just be a vaccine-related bop. In an effort to encourage people to get vaccinated, a dating app has partnered with hip-hop artist Juvenile to give his 1999 hit, “Back That Thang Up,” a 2021 transformation. “Vax That Thang Up” has amassed nearly 2 million views since being released, but the verdict is still out if the remix has effectively reached and impacted its target audience: unvaccinated 18-to-29-year-olds.
In an effort to put their natural ingredients first, Corona beer bottles are being stocked on shelves “backward.” With the brand label facing in, the ingredients on the bottle are the first thing consumers see. It’s also a clever way to distance themselves from the other corona…
🏆 REPUTATION FAIL OF THE WEEK: Spectator-less Olympics
Will the Tokyo Olympic Games be remembered as the Fyre Festival of athletics? After the event was canceled last summer, organizers have long insisted that they can hold it safely this year, despite COVID-19 concerns. But a sudden spike in cases wreaked havoc on that plan and forced organizers to change course, barring spectators only hours before the Olympic torch was set to begin the last leg of its trip through Japan. For an event that already has a history of poor financial outcomes, the economic impact of a spectator-less Olympics could become a massive challenge for organizers to overcome as they look to secure future host cities.
Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihide Suga spoke to reporters to address the issue and attempt to mitigate negative press. While he acknowledged the country’s challenge in light of the highly contagious Delta variant, he also provided an optimistic twist. He pledged to deliver an Olympic Games that would go down in history not as another victim of the pandemic, but as an example of fortitude in the face of adversity. “I want to transmit to them a message from Tokyo about overcoming hardship with effort and wisdom,” he said.
💡ON OUR MINDS:
Following weeks of controversy, Nikole Hannah-Jones officially announced on CBS This Morning that she has declined the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's belated offer for tenure and will instead be the inaugural Knight Chair in Race and Reporting at Howard University.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning essayist, most recently known for her work on the NYT 1619 Project, was up for the prestigious position of Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism. But despite being well qualified, she was denied tenure after UNC’s largest donor questioned whether she would “distract” from the school’s values.
Following the outcry from within and beyond the university’s community, UNC eventually reconsidered, reversed its decision, and offered Hannah-Jones tenure. But many, including Hannah-Jones, reacted to this reversal as too little too late: “I wanted to send a powerful message, or what I hope to be a powerful message, that we’re often treated like we should be lucky that these institutions let us in. But we don’t have to go to those institutions if we don’t want to,” Hannah-Jones told AP.
UNC has since issued statements of support for Hannah-Jones, but the university will have to prove its values through actions – not just words – to recover from this reputational blow.
TikTok vs. Every Other Social Media Platform
TikTok’s rapid growth, particularly among a no-BS Gen-Z audience, has pushed social media giants to rethink their strategies, triggering a slew of copy-cat platform updates by the likes of Facebook, Snapchat, Reddit, and YouTube.
This week the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, announced a complete strategy pivot for the platform over on Instagram Reel. He describes how the platform is “no longer just a square photo-sharing app,” and will instead focus on creator-led content, videos, e-commerce, and messaging. Mosseri specifically mentions how the ability for creators to share their more authentic selves on TikTok has increased competition.
These updates across social media suggest a race to create the best omnichannel presence, where users can go to one platform to do nearly anything. Marketers can get a sense of how this may start to play out from Chinese retail-based apps. It begs the question: do users gravitate toward certain platforms for their ability to deliver a unique experience, or are social platforms entering a survival of the fittest battleground?
We’ll see you here next week! 👋
The fine print:
This newsletter brought to you by the real-life Spongebob pretty patties.