Seeking Justice for George Floyd

With poignant timing, FGH this month was honored for our pro bono work on the prosecution for George Floyd’s death that tragically occurred two years ago tomorrow. Our communications support for the office of the Minnesota attorney general was recognized with a SABRE Award and the Public Relations Society of America “Best of Silver Anvil” award. See here for a video explaining our work. 

We also spoke with PRSA about what we learned along the way. A few key takeaways from the interview: 

  • Transparency can be your most powerful tool to stop the spread of misinformation. We found sentiment trending against the prosecution, despite strong public opinion in their favor. The trial’s public broadcasting helped combat disinformation and turn social media sentiment from negative to highly supportive of the state’s case.
  • Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Despite the strong public opinion in our favor, a guilty verdict on all counts was not a forgone conclusion. We prepared for a range of scenarios, including a hung jury, split verdict or acquittal that could have led to civil unrest. This foresight allowed us to quickly execute a cross-channel, multi-week national communications strategy following the verdict.
  • Strike while the iron is hot. When the trial concluded, we had a short window to cement the legacy of the verdict and help bring systemic change. So we worked around the clock to maximize the voice of the prosecution team and not allow the opportunity to pass.

Baby Blues

Amid baby formula shortages nationwide, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing tomorrow on “Formula Safety and Supply: Protecting the Health of America’s Babies.”

The hearing comes a week after the House and Senate passed a bill aimed at easing the impacts of the baby formula shortage for families participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) by allowing flexibility for participants to purchase whatever brand is available. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture urged states to take advantage of the flexibility to help families access formula. WIC is ”by far the largest purchaser of formula in the U.S.,” according to POLITICO

President Biden on Wednesday also invoked the Defense Production Act to address the baby formula shortage. The New York Times reports the action would create “Operation Fly Formula” to deploy Defense Department planes and speed formula shipments into the United States from overseas.

Lawmakers are also considering boosting staffing at the Food and Drug Administration with a $28 million emergency spending bill, which has passed the House but faces uncertain prospects in the Senate.  

Earlier in the week, Abbott Nutrition announced it had reached a deal with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to fix safety issues and reopen its Sturgis, Mich., factory that has been closed for more than three months. The company cautioned it could still take months to get formula back on the store shelves. 

Meanwhile, infants remain one of the only groups not approved for a COVID vaccine

Macron Bets on Stability

This just in from our colleagues in our Paris office: The new French government’s announcement late Friday echoes the expectations of the French people for stability and sovereignty amid global disruptions and recession anxiety.

June’s parliamentary elections are key. Macron needs a functioning majority to further push with a political agenda—aligned with his previous one as far as reforming the economy is concerned—but also addressing fear-based populism, consumer hardships and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne’s government intends to address the French people’s dented spending power. The selection of Bruno Le Maire to continue as finance minister signals to French and global businesses the new government’s priority to advance the French economy in a world marked by an ever-increasing competition and strong recessionary headwinds. Le Maire will fight to support consumers’ inflation-dented spending power.

Pragmatism + Colbertism = Macronism. The government remains an important player in the economy, but it clearly intends to amplify this role if needed. This is probably what Macron intends to do in the fields of energy, tech and infrastructure. Macron’s government is keen to foster the country’s competitiveness, support innovation, welcome foreign direct investment (FDI) and revamp France’s industrial foundations to the extent they fulfill his key objectives.

Businesses can expect calls for projects, investment plans, FDI and competition scrutiny in the years to come. French and international businesses should prepare to participate and strategically engage with leading decision makers and to make their voices heard.

Roe Approaches

Last week we shared some initial considerations for companies in responding to the leaked Supreme Court vote on Roe v. Wade. As the final decision nears, here are some additional guidelines to consider in your response:

  • Center your people. No immediate changes to constitutional rights have occurred yet, but this is a moment where employees may expect to hear from companies on a human level that the potential impact is being considered.
    • Ensure the dialogue is respectful of different viewpoints.
    • Equip leadership and managers to respond to questions from employees, even if you have not made concrete decisions yet. 
    • Seek out ways to support company mental health by sharing information on available resources.
    • Be mindful that not all groups have the same viewpoints and also not all are personally impacted equally. This may have a disproportionate impact on groups in certain demographics and communities, and they may require a different response from you.
  • Consider stakeholder expectations. If your organization has previously actively and proudly engaged on issues related to gender equity and human rights, stakeholders are more likely to expect to hear from you on this.
    • Past participation in broader gender equity conversations (such as recently celebrating Women’s History Month or International Women’s Day) may spur media and other stakeholders to reach out for your response.
    • Abortion-rights advocates may well call out companies as hypocrites if they have previously advocated for gender issues and are not participating at the current moment.
    • Actions now will create precedent for later battles on other issues. For many the developments on abortion are seen as a wedge into broader privacy issues that also provide legal foundation for LGBTQ+ rights and any other matters concerning personal autonomy and control over personal health decisions.
  • Sector and customer base matter. Organizations that have strong connections in healthcare or consumer brands, especially those geared toward women, may be faced with higher expectations to take action and/or speak on this issue. A B-to-B brand may come under less public scrutiny than a consumer-facing company but should still consider morale and recruitment among employees or expectations of customers.

Midterm Mood

Will the recent Supreme Court leak foreshadowing a decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade make a difference at the ballot box this fall? It remains a very open question. 

In examining recent polling on the topic, FGH’s Research and Insights team found the demographic most likely to prioritize abortion access is paying the least attention to the midterms.

Here’s what else they found: 

  • Access to abortion is a high priority for Gen Z voters going into the 2022 midterms, with 57% saying it is very important a candidate supports abortion access. It is a much higher priority for them compared to Millennials (39%), Gen Xers (40%) and Baby Boomers (41%). 
  • Nearly two-thirds of Americans say the decision to overturn Roe does not affect their decision to vote in the 2022 midterms. Despite the visible outrage, only 40% of Democrats say the Roe decision will make them more likely to vote. 
  • The Roe leak has likely had little to no effect on people’s anticipated voting decisions in the upcoming midterms. In the days following the leak, those who say they lean toward voting for a Democratic candidate in the midterms fell 2 points to 44% compared to the days right before the Roe leak. Those who lean towards voting Republican rose 4 points to 49%. 
  • Almost half of Gen Z Americans (48%) say they are not paying attention to the 2022 midterms, while only 9% of Baby Boomer voters say they are not paying attention. 
  • More Republicans (68%) say they will definitely be voting in the 2022 midterms compared to Democrats (59%) and Independents (44%). 
  • The top issue among voters is still the economy (79%) despite abortion becoming an increasingly important issue going to the midterms. Will voter intensity on abortion further spike if /when the Roe repeal becomes reality?

Inflation Nation

President Biden has characterized inflation as his “top domestic priority” and outlined proposals to lower costs to American families for energy, prescription drugs, food, housing and health care

He also called on large corporations and the wealthiest individuals to pay their fair share. And he criticized Republicans for proposing to raise taxes on the middle class and subject Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act to possible cuts every five years – both key elements of Sen. Rick Scott’s (R-FL) 12-point platform that has failed to garner significant support from other Republicans. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report last week showing the Consumer Price Index rose 0.3% in April and 8.3% from a year earlier – markedly less than that of previous months. That led some economists to conclude that inflation may have peaked in year-over-year measures. The news could give Democrats an opening to resume efforts to pass parts of Biden’s Build Back Better agenda via reconciliation. 

And with the national average gas price hitting a new all-time high, Congressional action aimed at addressing high gas prices is coming soon, with House Democrats teeing up a vote on energy price-gouging legislation.

A Roe Decision: What To Consider

Responses from corporates—or lack thereof— on last week’s leaked draft Supreme Court opinion on abortion will be closely scrutinized. 

Here are some initial considerations as you develop your response in the short-term:

  • Before the decision is final, we recommend a cross-functional, rapid process of due diligence and discussion that will inform how a company responds. This should be led by HR, legal, policy, comms and operations working together, and potentially the board of directors as needed.
  • There is no “one size fits all” approach. Each organization needs to ground its response in the actions it has and will take, not just rhetoric, considering: 
    • Your values
    • The context of your past engagement on this and similar issues
    • A deep dive into your employee footprint mapped against state-level restrictions (existing or proposed)
    • Health care benefits’ current status and options
    • Legal risk based on existing or proposed state laws, and 
    • The needs of your employees and other interested stakeholders, such as customers or investors.
  • Consider action and response on this issue not only narrowly, but in the context of approaches to broader social issues. This decision is coming against the backdrop of highly public debates that may even further politicize reproductive and/or LGBTQ+ rights. All these areas will likely continue to be conflated by some stakeholders.
  • Prepare for a range of decisions: 
    • Benefits. Those companies with employees in the 28 states where the opinion would likely have direct impact will have higher expectations to say something about what they are or are not doing differently about benefits, to employees even if not publicly, than companies in non-affected states. It is likely these companies will have little option to make statements without detailing any action they may or may not be taking.
    • Advocacy. Will the company get involved in or take a position on any proposed state- or federal-level legislation?
    • Rhetoric. What will the company say, if anything, and via what vehicle/channel, spokesperson and audience?