Georgia’s voting law fallout, checking your ‘iffy quotient,’ and more

Get takeaways on how to maintain credibility, how to weave DE&I into your creative process, and a timely reminder not to ruin Easter.

Ahoy there, communication pros!

Here’s a handful of big comms stories to consider from March 29-April 2, 2021.

1. Georgia’s voting law comes under fire, draws corporate ire.

Consumers have an increasing expectation that the brands they support take a clear stand on important social issues. Such is the case with Georgia’s restrictive new voting law, which is dragging the Peach State’s top execs into the fray. It’s the latest prime example of companies being pushed to exhibit the “core values” they so often tout.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian, who is taking heat for not pushing back against the bill before it passed, sent a memo to employees to clarify the company’s stance. He called the law “unacceptable,” stating that the final iteration of the legislation “does not match Delta’s values.” He continues:

“After having time to now fully understand all that is in the bill, coupled with discussions with leaders and employees in the Black community, it’s evident that the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives. That is wrong.”

Bastian took a step further by addressing the specious reasoning behind the new law. He writes:

“The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections. This is simply not true. Unfortunately, that excuse is being used in states across the nation that are attempting to pass similar legislation to restrict voting rights.”

Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey also slammed the new law (after it had passed).

EXCLUSIVE: Coca-Cola CEO says the restrictive Georgia voting law is “unacceptable…it is a step backward…”

Quincey also says “this legislation is wrong, and needs to be remedied, and we will continue to advocate for it both in private and in now even more clearly in public” pic.twitter.com/cdruteEiat

— CNBC Now (@CNBCnow) March 31, 2021

Microsoft, which is planning a major Atlanta-area investment, chimed in as well—noting that it had “voiced concern about this legislation even before it was passed.” Microsoft President Brad Smith writes:

“We are concerned by the law’s impact on communities of color, on every voter, and on our employees and their families. We share the views of other corporate leaders that it’s not only right but essential for the business community to stand together in opposition to the harmful provisions and other similar legislation that may be considered elsewhere.”

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Communicators should pay close attention to this episode. It’s certainly a harbinger of things to come, and it’s a stark reminder that top execs should be ready and willing to speak out on broader societal issues and controversial legislation (preferably, before a law is passed).

The fallout in Georgia also serves as a reminder that companies might *gasp* actually be expected to act in accordance with all the flowery, inspirational language they so eagerly publish. Just a thought for those interested in maintaining credibility for CSR efforts, ESG campaigns, “core values” and DE&I pursuits.

Speaking of which…

2. Weaving DE&I into your creative process.

The hubbub around Georgia’s restrictive voting law is a good example that DE&I efforts should not be merely a reactive campaign or box-ticking exercise. One way to keep DE&I concerns top-of-mind is to weave unconscious bias training into your creative process. That’s the idea behind WFA’s new “Guide to potential areas for bias in the creative process” download, which shares best practices and pitfalls for communicators to avoid.

As MediaPost reports, “WFA has launched what it’s calling the world’s first-ever open-source guide addressing diversity and representation issues throughout the creative process, from defining the business and brand challenges to evaluation and analysis.”

The guide “highlights a dozen key areas where bias can occur and proposes questions that can be used as a litmus test at every stage,” and it “aims to highlight some of the simple nudges and critical questions marketers can use to avoid the gaps in representation these biases can create.”

Don’t wait until there’s an “incident” to prioritize unconscious bias training. An easy way to start is by pursuing more inclusive representation in your messaging. You might also see how other companies are addressing DE&I, download a DE&I workplace toolkit, or maybe get an assist from a diverse agency staffed by college-age pros who can point you in the right direction.

3. Checking your social media’s ‘iffy quotient.’

The University of Michigan (deep breath) School of Information’s Center for Social Media Responsibility (loud exhale) has a neat tool that tracks the movement of misinformation online. Those web-watchin’ Wolverines write: “The Iffy Quotient is a metric for how much content from “Iffy” sites has been amplified on Facebook and Twitter,” further explaining that, “Social media sites and search engines have become the de facto gatekeepers of public communication, a role once occupied by publishers and broadcasters. With this new role come public responsibilities, including limiting the spread of misinformation.”

Using data from News Whip to harvest which articles are being shared on Twitter and Facebook, UM runs the most-shared URLs through credibility strainers such as News Guard and MBFC to determine whether sites are “iffy” or legit.

With the endless proliferation of fake news and bogus websites shilling every manner of nonsense, communicators should proactively prevent the spread of misinformation. This is especially crucial regarding the flood of vaccination falsehoods flying around right now, so make sure your employees are getting and spreading that good information.

Speaking of which…

4. How employers are handling vaxx topics.

Many employers are still taking a hands-off or “Let’s wait and see what happens” approach toward employee vaccinations. Some, such as the folks at Houston Methodist, are not messing around and are requiring employees to get inoculated.

Others are going the incentive route, which is still very much a gray-area legal matter until the EEOC dictates otherwise. The Palm Beach Post reports that companies such as Aldi’s, Trader Joe’s, McDonalds, Target and Best Buy are offering employees PTO. Depending on where your employees are located, they might also be eligible for popcorn, very cheap beer or even some (legal) weed!

Whatever tack your company decides to pursue, you can do your part by instilling confidence in the vaccine’s efficacy. Share good news as you find it, and make good use of pre-packaged messaging that’s ready to roll.

5. Don’t ruin Easter, y’all.

Just a friendly reminder to not do anything silly this weekend. Such as, say, combining an already sugary soda with a marshmallow—or foisting anything “disturbing” or “inappropriate” upon the world. Maybe don’t do an April Fool’s goof either? Unless, of course, you’re swapping accounts with a ’90s band or something similar.

If you do feel compelled to hop into some last-minute Easter messaging, here are a few egg-sellent campaigns to spark your imagination.

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