Look Who’s Talking

Who’s driving the ‘Back to Work’ conversation on Twitter?

We used GPG’s proprietary Network Influencer Tool to identify the key players:

  • Atlantic science writer Ed Yong’s tweets about his article on coronavirus’ uneven course throughout the U.S drove the network’s highest engagement.  
  • With its 58 million followers, @Twitter topped the charts in terms of reach. Many mentioned it in their tweets quoting an MIT article that claims nearly half of the Twitter accounts discussing ‘Reopening America’ may be bots.

Though reopening is a global conversation, our analysis shows that most of the influential accounts driving it are discussing the reopening of the U.S.

Diplomats, They’re Just Like Us!

Working remotely since March in line with New York State requirements, United Nations bodies have been forced to adopt new work practices, at times straining their aging technology systems.

In what was meant to be a banner year for its 75th anniversary, the UN is instead facing challenges in bringing the world’s leaders together and struggling to replicate the rhythms of Turtle Bay. 

The Security Council, whose open debates are traditionally held in person in all five UN languages, now only broadcasts its opening remarks. Ambassadors can submit written statements in advance.

The daily press briefing is broadcast over live webcast from the home of the Secretary-General’s spokesperson, complete with all the glitches and muting issues facing remote workers in 2020.

The UN press stakeout, where journalists wait outside of committee rooms to catch principals for quick remarks and rapid-fire questions, has not been replaced. Now principals release live statements on UN Web TV without taking questions.

But remote work has brought some positive developments. Yesterday, the Secretary-General and the Prime Ministers of Canada and Jamaica hosted a high-level event on mobilizing financing for development with live statements from heads of government and global institutions such as the World Bank and IMF.

A similar event in the pre-COVID era would have taken months, if not years, to plan.

Can Public Transit Clean Up Its Act?

Municipal transit authorities are faced with the intersecting challenges of low ridership, anemic city budgets and passenger safety as states begin to reopen.

Despite $25 billion in federal stimulus funding, public transit remains one of the hard-hit sectors across the country.

While some predict COVID-19 could sound the death knell of U.S. public transit— which already faced major hurdles before the pandemic— others point to ways public transit could weather the crisis.

Cities outside the U.S. – where public transit is much more popular – have taken creative measures to ensure safety, from using drones to sprinkle disinfectant in hard-to-reach elevated places to coating metal poles on trains with copper, which kills viruses.

Revisiting schedules is also essential. Some cities are increasing routes for essential workers and minimizing transit on what are now low-traffic commuter routes.

And construction teams might take advantage of lower ridership to speed up timelines for transit maintenance or improvement projects.

Pitch Perfect?

Brands have a thin needle to thread when it comes to getting pandemic-era marketing right. And with more eyeballs fixed on screens as consumers stay home, people are paying close attention.

One study of the performance of nearly 500 coronavirus-related advertisements found some COVID-19 marketing fatigue among consumers. Many felt brands were exploiting the pandemic in their ads for what is ultimately a sales pitch during a time of crisis.

Despite the fatigue, the researchers found consumers still want brands to recognize our new reality. Consumers are still moved and empowered by some COVID-related advertising, showing brands’ efforts matter.

So what’s a brand to do? The spots breaking through are the ones breaking the mold.

Unilever ran an ad without a piano key in earshot, Bulleit Bourbon chose to make people laugh again, and French supermarket Intermarché looked to a post-pandemic future.

With states reopening and the U.S. economy starting back up, it’s time for brands to acknowledge the full spectrum of American consumers’ new reality–the mundane, the bad and, yes, the funny.

A House United?

There are a few key things both parties agree on when it comes to the pandemic’s effects and the steps required to reopen states and the economy.

In a survey GPG recently conducted among policy influencers nationwide, we found Democrats and Republicans aren’t envisioning the same path to recovery—but some issues and priorities are top of mind for both.

  • Governors – not the federal government – should drive decisions for when states reopen businesses. Almost all Republicans (92%) and a strong majority of Democrats (86%) favor governors making the call for re-opening.
  • Economic recovery will take longer than decline. Seventy-seven percent of Democrats and 65% of Republicans believe this. About a quarter of Republicans (27%), however, believe the economy will bounce back as quickly as it declined. And a fifth of Democrats (18%) feel the economy won’t bounce back to where it was before it declined.
  • Education and local budget shortfalls are major priorities. Republicans (75%) and Democrats (81%) both rated re-opening K-12 and preventing children from falling behind as paramount. And members of both parties say addressing impending state and local budget crises due to lost revenue and tax dollars (55% among Republicans and 71% among Democrats) is the next most important task ahead. When this happens, a majority of both Democrats (98%) and Republicans (63%) want the federal government to step in.

Read the full survey results here.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Despite sharing some policy predictions in a survey by GPG, Republicans and Democrats differ on the details when it comes to anxiety about the future.

While Republicans are more worried about violations of civil liberties as a result of the outbreak (77% compared to 65% of Democrats), Democrats are more focused on scrutiny and investigation of elected officials’ response to the outbreak (79% among Democrats compared to 48% among Republicans).

Associated with this, a majority of Republicans (85%) agree that taking actions that infringe on people’s privacy (i.e. tracking and tracing) sets a dangerous precedent and we shouldn’t do it – even during these difficult times.

And nearly twice as many Democrats as Republicans are concerned about economic disparities (86% among Democrats compared to 45% among Republicans).

At the same time, both sides agree it’s important to support small businesses and not prioritize economic relief to large businesses.

Seize the Megaphone

CEOs have turned to social media to address employees, stakeholders and consumers to discuss how they’re changing business practices, giving back to frontline workers and more.

What can we learn from those who are doing it right?

  • Video is your friend. People are craving human connection. Share a simple phone video discussing working from home or advice on remote leadership, for example.
  • Post long-form content. It allows you to express your authentic thoughts and emotions on LinkedIn, your brand’s website or a personal Medium page.
    • If you’ve been addressing employees via email, consider repurposing it as long-form content.
  • Use—but don’t overuse—hashtags. Hashtags are key for spreading awareness, especially on LinkedIn and Instagram, where users can follow hashtags.

Pandemic Puts Native American Health Disparities In Sharp Relief

For the Navajo Nation, COVID-19 is laying bare decades of health care and infrastructure disparities.The nation’s largest Native American reservation recently surpassed New York with the highest COVID-19 infection rate per capita in the country.

The historically underfunded Indian Health Service was ill-equipped to handle the surge of COVID-19 cases, with only 12 health facilities, 13 ICU beds and 28 ventilators available. Due to a shortage in nursing and specialized medical staff, the most critical patients have been airlifted to hospitals beyond the reservation.

Roughly 30 percent of homes on the Navajo reservation lack access to clean drinking water, making regular hand washing a challenge. In a territory roughly the size of West Virginia, there are only 13 supermarkets for a population of 170,000.

Forty percent of homes on the reservation do not have electricity, and 60 percent of residents do not have internet access, posing additional hurdles in communicating public health information.

Native American reservations had already been suffering from a glaring shortfall in federal health care funding. In 2016, the U.S. government spent $2,834 per person on health care in Indian Country and $9,990 per person in the rest of the country.

The CARES Act allocated $8 billion in relief funding to tribes nationwide ($600 million to the Navajo Nation). But as of last week, 40 percent of funds had not been released.

In a glimmer of hope, Navajo Nation president Jonathan Nez said Monday the curve is flattening there. And Johns Hopkins’ Center for American Indian Health, recently spotlighted in New York Times Columnist Nick Kristof’s Impact Initiative, is working to address public health gaps.