Business As Usual?

With President Biden abroad this week, Vice President Kamala Harris is taking the national reins— just like her predecessors. But what’s remarkable about this unremarkable state of affairs is just how much coverage she’s been getting for doing her job.

Harris is continuing recent vice presidents’ trend of taking on a more activist role, like Dick Cheney during the Bush years and Biden himself during Obama’s tenure. But she’s been getting far more coverage for far more— and more minor— activities.  

  • Is Harris getting more attention for doing the same job because of her gender and race? Or are reporters trying to fill a post-Trump, post-vaccine airtime void? News outlets rarely assign beat reporters to vice presidents, but they have for Harris. 
  • Is this experiment going to work? Cheney and Biden had been in Washington for decades before assuming the executive office’s second most powerful post. Despite her talent and future prospects, Harris is a relative newcomer. Will she be able to keep up?
  • What happens next? In addition to promoting vaccines in South Carolina— an important primary state— Harris is meeting this week with Texas Democrats who blocked a voting bill. But perhaps most interesting, Harris invited all 24 women senators – a third Republicans— to her home for dinner tonight, the first official social event at her home and first of its kind in many years. 

If Harris can revive bipartisanship among a quarter of the Senate’s voting body, she’ll be exceptional indeed.

Can You Hear Me Now?

If advertising revenue is any indication, podcasts are gaining steam as a major media format. But capitalizing on this growth isn’t as simple as applying your radio playbook.

Though their audio format can feel similar to radio, podcasts are different in ways that require a specific type of pitch and spokesperson.

FGH’s Health Media Insights newsletter recently shared top tips for podcast pitching: 

  • Identify your most conversational spokesperson. Unlike most television and radio, podcasts generally take a long-form approach with limited editing. 
    • Significant expertise and confident speaking ability are always important attributes for a spokesperson, but a good podcast spokesperson should be able to speak at more length on a subject – this means carrying a 30-minute conversation on health disparities, for example, rather than producing a 30-second sound bite
    • A podcast spokesperson should also be able to speak naturally about their personal biography and motivations, as well as news or current events. 
  • Treat the pitch as more than just the news. Because podcasts are generally not focused on breaking or hard news, podcast pitches need something extra. In addition to highlighting why your spokesperson is a fit from a content perspective, you also need to communicate that they have a sufficiently interesting personality to carry the conversation forward. That means sharing details like their personal interests and back story. Bonus points if you can share examples of past speaking engagements so the podcast host knows they’re the right guest.

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Abortion Rights Divisive as Ever

As the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling faces a challenge for the first time in years, FGH’s Insights team looked at recent polling around Americans’ views on abortion rights:

  • 62% of registered voters say they want the Court to uphold the decision in Roe v. Wade, while 24% want it overturned.
  • 53% of Americans claim to be pro-choice and 43% say they’re pro-life.
  • 47% of Americans think that abortion is acceptable while 46% of Americans believe it’s morally wrong. 
  • Americans’ support for Roe v. Wade has increased from 52% to 66% since 1989.
  • 46% of Republicans favor overturning Roe v. Wade while just 21% of Democrats say the same. 
  • 48% say abortion should be legal under certain circumstances, while 32% of adults say it should be legal under all circumstances. 19% believe abortion should never be legal.
  • 80% of Democrats say abortion should be legal, while only 35% of Republicans say the same.

The Road Ahead

FGH’s London-based Faeth Birch recently wrote in PR Week about corporate trends to watch for globally in the second half of 2021:

  • Communicators have a key role to play in warning chief executives of the cost of lagging behind on climate change, such as reputation damage, increased regulation and tax. Ahead of COP26, one-third of the FTSE 100 has signed up to Race to Zero, a UN-backed organization for climate leaders. A Net Zero pledge used to make businesses stand out; now it makes you part of the pack. Companies that fall behind face growing pressure from regulators, investors and civil society. The emphasis is shifting from lofty, long-term targets to showing businesses are doing enough, fast enough, with clear plans.
  • The ‘S’ in ESG has gained a permanent spot on boardroom agendas. The consequences of the pandemic have not been equitable along racial or socioeconomic lines. The effect on women’s career advancement is still unclear. Women’s representation on boards improved, but neither executive levels nor pipeline progression are good enough. Diversity is lacking. This is an urgent priority: boards are mandating rapid action.
    • Additionally, mental health challenges have become a critical consideration. Staff will be supportive of employers that act with integrity and respect. How companies ‘show up’ and deliver meaningful change is crucial to legitimacy.
  • Boards are looking for the transformational deal or innovation surfaced by the pandemic to catapult them ahead of their rivals. Change creates opportunities for the brave, but must be driven by clear purpose to maintain trust and build advocacy.

Business As Usual?

We asked TrendSpotters – FGH’s proprietary insight community of civically engaged individuals  – for its take on U.S. businesses’ public posture on the conflict between Israel and Palestine. 

Key Takeaways:

  • U.S. businesses’ response to recent events in the Middle East is viewed within the wider context of how major companies are perceived to be engaging more on social and political issues.
    • For Republicans, this past year of heightened corporate engagement in social issues has made them even more resistant to such an approach, and as a result they are happy not to have seen a large-scale response from U.S. business.
    • Democrats, on the other hand, wished they’d seen more of a public response from U.S. companies in supporting a peaceful resolution or providing aid and support. They want to see businesses use their influence for the greater good while remaining neutral.
  • As we’ve seen with previous research, corporate engagement on social issues is often viewed through the lens of its potential impact on employees. Reactions to Amazon employees petitioning Jeff Bezos to cut ties with the Israeli Defense Force crystalize this – mainly out of concern for employees’ safety.
    • Many fear businesses taking a clear stance will cause divisiveness among employees and create a hostile work environment.

Show Us the Money

The distinctions between platform and publisher, average Joe and influencer, continue to blur— underscored by a raft of new social platform announcements. 

The dramatic digital shift caused by the pandemic contributed to the success of platforms like TikTok, which embrace user-generated content as their selling point. As micro and macro influencers gain followers, they can now leverage demand for their content into real paydays. 

It’s forcing platforms like Twitter to reassess their monetization options for users, both to retain their audience and provide a way to generate revenue for their most popular accounts. 

Twitter recently unveiled the look of its new pay-to-play “Super Followers” feature in the footsteps of Instagram and Substack, which allows individual users to monetize their content. 

The new “Super Followers” count would be shown alongside the regular Followers number, with the intention of inspiring people to become paid monthly subscribers to exclusive tweets and extra content from their favorite accounts.

The related news that Twitter just relaunched its verification program – an important step on the path to a Super Following– overwhelmed the company so much that they paused the program just eight days after they announced its relaunch.

Meanwhile, Substack has no intention of backing down as it continues to grow its global foothold.

As users begin to really understand the value of their content – from funny tweets to insightful newsletters – watch for platforms to keep competing to help them monetize it.

Be Our Guest?

With vaccinations in the United States on the rise, in-person gatherings are making a return. But coronavirus will continue to shape events for the rest of 2021.

Here’s the outlook for events through the rest of the year:

  • Health and safety precautions will be foundational to any in-person event. While everyone is eager to be back together, companies must prioritize guest safety and comfort by following CDC guidelines, communicating the measures in place and ensuring on-site execution is consistent with messaging. For example, mask-wearing, physical distancing and sanitizing helped the NFL Draft mark a successful return to large-scale live events, with tens of thousands gathered in Cleveland—outdoors. 
  • Events will remain largely local and not global for the rest of the year, with uncertainty around variants and travel as well as varying speeds of vaccine rollout. The World Economic Forum had to cancel its 2021 event in Singapore due to worsening COVID outbreaks in countries around the world. 
  • Virtual events aren’t going anywhere. Some corporate event planners are rushing to assume prospective guests have Zoom fatigue and that they should resume in-person events as soon as it’s permitted. But many people will prioritize social gatherings and travel for the rest of the year and may not be ready to return to other events until 2022. Even then, virtual events be won’t going away, and they shouldn’t—they’re more inclusive and accessible, and they’ve fostered creativity

Overall, strategically reintroducing safe, smaller in-person gatherings while considering which experiences should continue to take place virtually or in a hybrid format will result in more successful, innovative and engaging events.