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Out of Scope Issue 27: XOXOh-no
This week’s nonrequired thinking on reputation, business, and culture
This week, we have drama — from our favorite Olympics coverage to parasocial relationships to saying a spicy goodbye to Fleets, and everything in between.
📡 ON OUR RADAR
Following suit to most TV series reboots, the new HBO Max “Gossip Girl” series is not doing so hot. In what seems like an effort to attract viewers, Gossip Girl’s Instagram account added a select group of followers (mainly influencers) to its close friends list and DMed them in the show’s voice. Will this PR stunt impact the show’s popularity? Only time will tell. XOXO, Gossip Girl
Is creating a PBS-style internet (i.e. not-for-profit, publicly funded media) the solution to stopping the spread of misinformation? If so, it’s been a long-time coming. One of HL’s founders advocated for the same position as long ago as 2013.
Fleets, Twitter’s answer to Instagram stories, turned out to be fleeting — Twitter has officially sunsetted the feature, and people took a not-safe-for-work approach to celebrate the end of the underused program on Twitter, which resulted in more fleets posted in its final week than probably...ever? When a user asked Twitter’s CEO if he’d bring back fleets given the brief boost in popularity, he promptly said, “NaN”.
Bobbie, an infant formula that aims to reduce the US stigma around formula feeding for those who can’t or don’t want to breastfeed, released its first national campaign. While they say they don’t have a paid influencer budget, they’ve got some star power touting the product, like Queer Eye’s Tan France. We’ll see if an old-school word-of-mouth strategy is enough to combat a breastfeeding narrative deeply ingrained in American culture.
Anyone else feeling the pandemic whiplash? Just as we collectively thought things were approaching a “new normal,” we’re seeing another wave of infections and hospitalizations. It might be time to think twice about publishing pieces about a post-Covid world… since it’s increasingly clear that we’re not there yet, and misinformation continues to spread across every platform.
Crowning the thought leader of household goods. Hearst UK is pushing for the rest of its brands to build the same level of trust among consumers as Good Housekeeping. One broadly applicable observation: the company that has the infrastructure to gather data (in this case, product testing and reviews) most often becomes the thought leader.
Facebook needs better customer service. You shouldn’t have to buy an Oculus to get Facebook’s customer service team to help reclaim a hacked account.
Speaking of, Facebook got in a little tiff with the FTC this week. Facebook blocked New York University researchers from studying political advertisements on the platform, claiming it was doing so to protect user privacy under an FTC order. The FTC essentially responded with “not so fast.” In a public letter to Zuckerberg, the FTC writes, “The FTC is committed to protecting the privacy of people, and efforts to shield targeted advertising practices from scrutiny run counter to that mission.” Apparently, Facebook is supposed to give the FTC a heads up when publicly citing the decree, which is a good reminder to confirm your sources before releasing external comms.
NBC’s streaming service Peacock tapped Kevin Hart and Snoop Dogg to provide commentary on Olympic highlights, and the praise from fans and pop culture media alike prove that creativity — and in this case, comedy — are better when they include diverse perspectives. Also see: Leslie Jones’ unofficial Olympic coverage on TikTok.
The shift to digital advertising is not slowing down anytime soon, according to Insider Intelligence’s US B2B 2021 Advertising Forecast. The data suggests LinkedIn will continue to be a go-to source for advertising to professionals, with the platform holding the largest share of US B2B display ad spending in 2021.
If you’re a celebrity without an alcohol brand, are you even a celebrity? From George Clooney to Travis Scott, Cameron Diaz to Kendall Jenner, organic wines, canned tequila, American-made vodka, and many more, everyone seems to be expanding their personal brand in the space.
Released this week, an episode of Disney’s Muppet Babies, features Gonzo transforming into Gonzorella, who wears a dress to the ball. Hosts from Fox and Friends disagreed with the show’s decision to “push the trans agenda,” on children, but influencer Matt Bernstein took to Instagram to explain, “It should not be controversial to teach kids to love themselves and embrace diversity at any age.” Both culture and our governmental structures are far from settling on a universally accepted way to discuss this issue.
Kamala Harris has a comms crisis brought on by repeated negative press that questions her “political judgment” and “dysfunction in her office.” This week, some of the most powerful women in the Democratic Party held a dinner to discuss how to effectively defend her. Reportedly, they discussed a comms strategy that leans on Hariss’s record as a prosecutor and directly calls out sexist coverage. We’ll be watching to see if this gives Harris the desired boost, or whether the existence of the plan itself will be seen as a liability.
The New York archdiocese told its priests not to give religious exemptions for Covid vaccines. Why? It’s a moral issue, says the Archdiocese — vaccines help the greater good in the fight against Covid. A good reputation, as a necessary attribute of authority, is at stake along with the public health issue: “... the nation’s second-largest archdiocese recently distributed a message to priests: Do not lend legitimacy to the notion that the church supports Covid-19 vaccine exemptions.”
🏆 REPUTATION FAIL OF THE WEEK: Cuomo Falls Off His High Horse
New York Attorney General Letitia James released findings this week in a report that revealed Cuomo sexually harassed several women, including current and former employees and women outside of the state government. The report cites “unwelcome and non-consensual touching,” “suggestive” comments, and creating a “hostile work environment for women.” Cuomo responded by denying all allegations, doubling down by releasing an 85-page statement and a video address that shows a photo montage of him — and there’s no other way to say this — touching people. As a part of his defense, Cuomo claims that the women who have accused him don’t understand the difference between a friendly, everyday hug and a lecherous one.
Unsurprisingly, this tactic backfired. Several politicians from the Democratic party, including President Biden called on Cuomo to resign. In the larger media landscape, pieces are popping up around topics like how to collect valuable evidence to support this type of investigation and perspectives on the substantial difference between the thoughtful nuances in James’ report and the “context-free” response that Cuomo gave.
This isn’t the only scandal involving Cuomo that sparked attention this week though. Though Cuomo was once celebrated for how he communicated with New Yorkers during the early days of the pandemic, the FBI is now investigating how Cuomo and his administration counted New York’s Covid-related nursing home deaths.
In a reversal of public sentiment, perhaps Bill DeBlasio, whose reputation has begun deteriorating even among some Democratic party stalwarts, will enjoy a tangential reputation boost:
💡ON OUR MINDS:
Fanning the flames of fandom: Parasocial relationships
In light of today’s online connected world and as the media industry has grown, parasocial relationships are becoming more common than ever.
What defines a parasocial relationship, you might ask? The term, first coined in 1956 by social scientists Horton and Wohl, was created to describe the one-sided relationships that the increasingly TV-obsessed American public was forming with performers.
Given the need for social distancing in the past year and a half, it’s no surprise that interest in the dynamic of parasocial relationships is rising.
From podcasters and politicians to social media influencers, reality TV stars, and even journalists, blurred lines are building between creators and consumers.
Some public personas and brands have taken advantage of the opportunity to build an even stronger relationship with their audiences: think Peloton’s shout-outs mid-ride, Taylor Swift’s comments on fan tumblr posts, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s Instagram Live sessions on new legislation, and of course, Patreon and Twitch, each of which directly monetizes and offers rewards for fandom.
But the darker side of these bonds is that they can create an unhealthy dependency in the viewer — where the viewer attaches too much of their mental wellbeing to interactions with an object that isn’t quite real, or consistent.
What’s the future of parasocial for brands? We’re predicting greater personification of brands in their comms strategies, deeper bonds, and increasing demands from audiences.
Internal comms moment
Are chief marketing and communications executives perfect for the blossoming role of Chief of Remote Work roles? Digiday says yes.
The Chief of Remote Work role is specifically designed to facilitate a smooth transition to full or hybrid remote working situations. As Digiday puts it: “Their core responsibility will be to evangelize new ways of working both internally and externally, he added — and storytelling is crucial, especially in the midst of the hotly tipped “Great Resignation”.”
Executives with marketing and communications backgrounds have experience storytelling with purpose, and in the quickly changing landscape of remote or hybrid work, this skill is crucial to effectively manage dispersed teams.
Whether a company should lean toward a marketer or communicator depends on what they’re trying to do. For companies looking to attract new talent by touting their work-from-home capabilities, a marketer makes more sense. But for companies looking to ensure the employee experience is productive and fulfilling, a communications background — emphasis on internal comms — may work out better.
Prepare those resumes!
We’ll see you here next week! 👋
The fine print:
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