What we’re watching this week: 6/21/21

This week, we’re watching the administration return to domestic affairs after Joe Biden’s first trip abroad as president, a shifting of corporate calendars to include Juneteenth as the country’s 11th federal holiday, and the ever-changing map of active (and noisy) cicada broods. Here’s what else is on our minds.

Inflation nation

They seem to be everywhere these days: stories of the used-car market booming because of a shortage of new vehicles (and semiconductors that power those vehicles); of inflation being the reason we’re all going to be paying more for our burritos; and of having to wait nine months for a couch to be delivered thanks to stiff competition from lumber and foam shortages. To produce effective thought leadership, companies need to properly diagnose the problem. Is inflation caused by a few product categories, or is it an indication of a broader economic trend?

PR News provides guidance on how raising prices is an opportunity for companies to talk transparently about value.

• IKEA shares what they’re learning about warehouse efficiencies by studying the technology behind drone performances used in Metallica and Celine Dion concerts.

• In a proactive content move, BCG CEO Rich Lesser argued back in March that even though input prices were rising, it didn’t mean systemic inflation would definitely return.

Filling the local news gaps

The decline of regional and local newspapers is once again hitting the headlines. Hedge fund Alden Global Capital’s purchase of the Chicago Tribune and several other big-city papers has led to cost-cutting measures and buyouts, and veteran media columnist Jack Shafer reminded us this week that the collapse of local news would be incomplete without a discussion of readers’ disinterest. But there’s also evidence that bright spots exist—through efforts such as City Cast, which offers daily news podcasts in Chicago and Denver, and the fact that the Tampa Bay Times just took home its 13th Pulitzer Prize for a series on a local sheriff who used his post to harass residents and criminally profile schoolchildren.

Companies can make the most of this shift in user behavior by capitalizing on new formats and channels:

• The lawyers and advisers at Proskauer Rose LLP, for example, offer a robust and growing library of content filled with blogs, newsletters, surveys, and podcasts.

MassMutual and other financial services and professional-services firms are placing sponsored content in business journals that serve specific geographies.

UPS explains why and how small businesses should be using podcasts to reach their customers.

Back to the future?

In a sign of the times, we saw top banks take divergent stances on where their employees work. Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon told employees to “make plans to be in a position to return to the office” this month, and Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman said he’d be “very disappointed” if employees weren’t back by Labor Day. In a more mindful approach that recognizes the variety of circumstances employees face, Citi CEO Jane Fraser shared her preference for a hybrid model (and “Zoom-Free Fridays”). With open positions already exceeding available workers, top talent’s preferences may ultimately carry the day.

Knowing this, content creators can explore decisions around business models:

• Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison argues that companies that are overly focused on where employees work are looking backward.

• This McKinsey piece looks at how culture will change in a hybrid workplace.

• A new article in the Harvard Business Review walks executives through six behaviors to ease the transition to whatever is next.

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