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Out of Scope Issue 28: $5 million book deal gone bad
This week’s nonrequired thinking on reputation, business, and culture
This week, we’re looking at the latest TikTok out of the White House’s vaccine marketing campaign for Gen Z, Cuomo’s resignation, Vogue Scandinavia’s debut, and celebrity dirt (literally).
📡 ON OUR RADAR
Women, particularly women of color, “are often present in tech without being listened to,” writes Mar Hicks from the MIT Technology Review. Most recently, Canadian voice actor Bev Standing sued TikTok for using her voice as the standard text-to-speech audio without her permission. Hicks argues that women across the creator and tech industries continue to speak up for recognition, but will need the support of allies, historians, journalists, and more in order to be heard.
When you can’t afford to pay a celebrity for their massive audience, just raise the stakes. Paris Saint-Germain F.C. (PSG) benefitted from the emotional drama surrounding Lionel Messi’s departure from Barça, where he’s played for 21 years. PSG gained 5 million new Instagram followers in 48 hours, and counting, after the tearful announcement.
Swimwear brand, Andie, took a more active approach to build brand awareness by asking one of their investors to star in their new out-of-home ad campaign. The investor? Demi Moore.
“The Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap” offers an unusual case study for brands with a complex origin story and nuanced evolution. In this article, the New York Times recounts the difficulties of crafting a brand story of hip hop itself that accounts for the genre’s “contradictions, its competing narratives and its inconsistencies.”
How do you manage crisis communications if you don’t even know what’s causing the crisis? The National Security Advisory faces that challenge in their struggle to protect US diplomats from a mysterious illness.
Evidence that meme culture is changing our language — “shitposting”, a term for back-to-back tweets, is worthy of coverage in the New York Times.
A Colorado Rockies fan was accused of yelling a racial slur at a player loud enough to be picked up on the broadcast, but after investigating, The Rockies concluded that the fan was...only trying to summon their mascot over for a picture. While the Rockies released a statement that they have zero tolerance for derogatory language, maybe they should also just rethink the mascot name? Or invest in some explainer content on the proper pronunciation.
Take note comms teams for Nasdaq companies, you might have a challenge on your hand in a year’s time. Last Friday, The Securities and Exchange Commission approved Nasdaq’s proposal to require most of the nearly 3,000 companies listed to have a least one woman and one person from a racial minority or who identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer to be on their board of directors. It will be interesting to hear from the companies who don’t fulfil the requirement within a year and will be required to explain why.
Everyone wants to be a media company these days. Axios reports that Salesforce is trying their hand at streaming, complete with an in-house studio and original content, indicating that they’re shifting from pure customer acquisition to owned media.
Internal comms challenge: communicating new hire incentives to current employees. Companies like Chipotle are raising wages for new hires, leaving people who have worked there longer asking, “helloooo, what about me?!” Without a strong internal communications plan in place, companies may risk attrition.
Bumble, the dating app developed with the mission to make women feel safer when dating online, is building on their brand by offering trauma support for sexual assault victims. That’s what we like to call action communications: listening to your stakeholders and taking action based on what you hear..
Gaming was on its way to becoming THE popular kid for advertisers looking to build next-gen audiences. But the companies that make the most popular games are under fire for toxic workplace cultures, amplified by mismanaged comms (see: Activision Blizzard). And now they’re paying the price by losing brand sponsors that don’t want to associate with such a reputation.
Yelp is letting users filter by whether a business requires vaccinations or not. While not everyone is responding well to the update, the filter could be useful to the vaccine hesitant and the vaccine compliant. If you care about vaccination status, find businesses that align with those values. If you don’t, you can now find places to avoid.
Mountain Dew released their twist on a hard seltzer, and listen, how much more chemical fiz booze do we really need? We’ll keep an eye on whether they do anything unique to break through what’s now an overly crowded space.
Vogue Scandinavia officially launched its first issue and chose Greta Thunberg to be the magazine’s first cover feature. The 18-year-old Swedish climate activist sports several chic looks contrived exclusively from ethical fashion brands for the piece, where Greta directly calls out the harmful effects of fast fashion. Considering that Vogue Scandinavia was launched to reflect the fashion industry’s changing climate alongside the Nordic region’s deep-rooted affection for nature while pushing the boundaries of modern media consumption, we think that choosing Greta as its first feature was an excellent branding move to sets the tone of the publication and makes sustainability chic.
Platforms continue to try to take editorial responsibility for their content, with mixed results. As the popularity of kids-related content has increased, YouTube has found itself under pressure to better police child-focused channels. But changes YouTube has made to help protect kids have brought challenges for well-meaning creators.
What’s been on the mind of the Biden-appointed director of the CDC since January 2021? Communications. Though an impeccably credentialed scientist, the new director’s tenure may well be defined by how well she can persuade the public to overcome vaccine hesitancy. Says the Wall Street Journal: “As director of the CDC, Dr. Walensky said she is still trying to figure out what messaging will prompt people to make the best decisions for their health, and to get vaccinated against Covid-19.”
This digital gaffe wasn’t as cute as the HBO intern who sent an accidental test email to the public. New York Times’ lawyers, who have been advising executives on union negotiations, mistakenly sent around a private strategy memo on the NYT to staff union. Transparency for the win?
🏆 REPUTATION WIN OF THE WEEK: Let’s Talk about VaxTok.
The White House is no stranger to the world of celebrity marketing. Back in 1956, when the polio vaccine was the new scary shot, public health officials asked Elvis Presley to roll up his sleeve on “The Ed Sullivan Show” to encourage viewers to also get vaccinated. With civilian contention around the COVID-19 vaccine, the White House marketing department has been working overtime to encourage Gen Z to get the shot.
First, actress and pop star Olivia Rodrigo visited the White House to meet with President Biden and Dr. Fauci and speak directly to Americans from the press room, encouraging her fans to get vaccinated. Now, we get to follow Kooper (aka TikTok star Benito Skinner), as he shows us a day in the life of a White House “intern”, featuring none other than the brilliant press secretary Jen Psaki. The video follows Kooper around as he finds the initiative to schedule Jen’s nail appointments (much to her chagrin), gives us a quick tour of the West Wing entrance, and a sneak peak into what meetings with the press secretary might feel like. Then, finally, we are reminded that every American should be getting the COVID-19 vaccination.
Even State and local governments are getting in on the action with “local micro-influencers” — those with 5,000 to 100,000 followers — and offering up to $1,000 a month to promote Covid-19 vaccines to their fans. This move might seem a little heavy-handed, but when fewer than half of all Americans aged 18 to 39 are fully vaccinated, harnessing the power of influencer marketing is a promising project.
💡ON OUR MINDS:
New York tough means New York loving?
Cuomo officially announced his resignation as New York’s governor in a speech this Tuesday - one that had everyone guessing until the last second. The video, with Cuomo’s stilted speech and the montage of creepy photographs may go down in history as one of the lease effective political apologies ever, up there with Nixon’s
In a double bind of personality politics, the first portion of the speech bounced between statements of belief in the women who’ve accused him of misconduct and claims that he never meant for things to be taken in that way, leaning on his Italian heritage to claim it’s just in his nature to be a little extra hands-on.
But for one publisher, it meant a final, fiery crash to a $5 million decision. In what the New York Times called “a gamble,” Penguin Random House imprint Crown outbid the competition to secure the rights to Cuomo’s “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the Covid-19 Pandemic.”
Last year, public response to the announcement already centered around Cuomo claiming an early win on New York’s Covid-19 response while the pandemic raged on elsewhere in the country and around the world.
Now, Crown faces a nearly un-marketable book - one that they paid dearly for.
Will the publishing brand take a reputation hit?
What is ‘hygiene’?
Celebrities - they’re just like us! Unless you’re an every-day-once-a-day bather, then maybe not so much.
On a recent episode of Dax Shepard’s podcast Armchair Expert, Mila Kunis admitted that she follows a more minimalist cleansing routine, “pits and tits and holes and soles.” And thus, the world was thrust into the whirlwind that is celebrity bathing habits.
The interview started a full-on barrage of soundbites from celebrities like Kristen Bell, Dwayne the Rock Johnson, Jake Gyllenhaal, and more.
As more and more celebs volunteer their own shower habits, fans seem to be both educated and enraged.
James Hamblin, physician and health reporter for the Atlantic, has long been trying to set the record straight on humanity’s cleanliness crisis. “...I don’t use soap. I only use soap on my hands,” Hamblin says in a recent interview with Gawker, “But [on my body] I just do a little bit of scrubbing.”
Honestly, amidst this loofah hooplah, we find ourselves with more questions than answers - what is the right level of cleanliness? Do we shower every day? Once a week? Once a month? Where is the line? Are we too clean? Are we not clean enough? Should we even be talking about this in public?
Magazine features on celebrity beauty routines and the modern obsession with all things influence-able have brought this issue into the spotlight - and it remains to be seen whether reputations will be tarnished by a little extra dirt.
We’ll see you here next week! 👋
The fine print:
This newsletter was brought to you by Olympic swimmer Caeleb Dressel’s gold medal pup.