Brands donate to frontline workers, Yelp pauses GoFundMe effort after backlash, and Ralph Lauren to make 250k masks

Also: The #WaffleHouseIndex, social distancing incorporated into logos for Audi, McDonald’s Coca-Cola and others, what organizations are hit hardest with COVID-19, and more.

Good morning, PR pros:

 Waffle House has closed 429 of its nearly 2,000 restaurants:

Using the #WaffleHouseIndexRed, you can not only see where you can get your breakfast fix, but also, how certain communities are faring during the pandemic.

Newsweek reported:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reportedly uses the “Waffle House Index” to determine the effect of a disaster, such as a hurricane, or in this case, a pandemic. The theory is that if the Waffle House Index is green, the restaurant is serving a full menu and there is only limited damage to the area, but yellow means Waffle House is serving a limited menu, which could be due to having to use power from a generator or low food supplies because of a localized disaster.

When the Waffle House Index is red, the restaurant is closed, suggesting that the area has been affected by severe damage or unsafe conditions requiring immediate assistance.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, who coined the term and index, explained to Newsweek in 2018, “If you got to an area and the Waffle House is open but there’s a limited menu, you knew you had power outages that were compromising freezers. If you got to areas where the Waffle House was closed, that’s not a good sign. That’s probably a place you need to start going to work.”

Here are today’s top stories:

Crocs, Krispy Kreme, Starbucks and Airbnb donate supplies to health care workers

Several organizations are offering their products and services to frontline responders to the COVID-19 pandemic, and are garnering kudos for their moves.

Crocs is donating 10,000 pairs of shoes daily—and the waiting list has eclipsed 400,000:

Krispy Kreme is giving health care employees a free dozen doughnuts each Monday through May 11:

Participating Starbucks locations are giving free tall brewed coffees:

Along with partnering with organizations such as the International Federation of the Red Cross, Airbnb is working to connect first-line responders to hosts who are offering their homes for free—with a goal of housing 100,000 health care and relief workers:

In a press release, Airbnb wrote:

“Medical workers and first responders are providing lifesaving support during the coronavirus outbreak and we want to help,” says Airbnb’s Co-founder Joe Gebbia. “We’ve heard from countless hosts around the world who want to provide a comforting home to heroic first responders. We are connecting our nonprofit partners, government agencies and others with our incredible host community to work together in these extraordinary times.”

Why it’s important: A little can go a long way to provide comfort and foster goodwill. If you can’t offer up your products and services for free to those providing COVID-19 relief, consider partnering with a nonprofit organization that’s making a difference. You can also get your employees involved with the effort, as well as sharing the news.


McDonald’s Brazil has received mixed responses about its recent logo change to emphasize the importance of social distancing:

Posted by McDonald's on Thursday, March 19, 2020

CNN Business reported:

The ad agency explained that despite the temporary separation between its customers and the company caused by closures of some of its restaurants, they “can always be together.” McDonald’s is offering food through delivery and drive-thru.

Several other organizations, including Audi, Volkswagen and Coca-Cola have incorporated social distancing into their logos with messages such as, “Thanks for keeping your social distance.”


The Washington Post recently published data from Yelp that showed consumers’ changing behavior during the pandemic, with some organizations experiencing demand surges as others saw traffic loss.

Guns and ammunition, fitness equipment, food suppliers and grocery chains, and adult entertainment are among the organizations seeing more purchases as people stay indoors. Blood and plasma donation is also up:

Image via The Washington Post.

 Activity- and service-based organizations have been hit the hardest, including breweries, shopping centers, amusement parks, bowling alleys and bridal stores. If you’d like to support local businesses in these industries, consider purchasing gift cards for use after quarantine restrictions are over. (Tip: You could give them to customers and employees.)

Image via The Washington Post.

Yelp pauses partnership with GoFundMe after backlash

 This week, Yelp launched a campaign with GoFundMe that was aimed at offering thousands of smaller organizations aid through online fundraisers:

Despite the good intentions, Yelp quickly received criticism from business owners, because they weren’t informed of the fundraisers and weren’t able to easily opt out of the efforts:

The Verge reported:

“On Tuesday, Yelp announced a partnership with GoFundMe to provide a fast and easy way for people to support their favorite local businesses by donating to a GoFundMe fundraiser directly on the Yelp pages of eligible businesses. In an effort to get businesses help quickly and easily, a GoFundMe fundraiser was automatically added to the Yelp pages of an initial group of eligible businesses, with information provided on how to claim it or opt out should a business choose to do so,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“However, it has come to our attention that some businesses did not receive a notification with opt-out instructions, and some would have preferred to actively opt-in to the program,” the statement goes on to say. “As such, we have paused the automatic rollout of this feature, and are working with GoFundMe to provide a seamless way for businesses to opt into the program moving forward, as we have received a great deal of interest and support for the program from both consumers and businesses alike.”

Why it matters: You might think an idea is outstanding, but you still should vet potential pitfalls and ramifications with your communications team. Yelp misstepped by not informing business owners—and then by making it difficult for the owners to act. Charitable actions can be greatly appreciated during this crisis, but make sure those efforts don’t come at the cost of privacy and autonomy.


One way of thinking about your COVID-19 response is to follow the mnemonic “TACOS” which stands for “Transparent,” “Authoritative,” “Consistent,” “Over-communicative” and “Social.”

Read more on how to address your audiences with empathy and offer the information they desperately need without creating more panic.


Jennifer Rankin Byrne, vice president of corporate communications for PBS, shared her takeaways on crisis and reputation management during Ragan’s Speechwriting and Public Affairs Virtual Conference on March 26.

PR Daily Editor Ted Kitterman gets into her top tips and takeaways from the organization’s response to COVID-19.


Ragan Communications has launched a new daily newsletter to bring readers the latest headlines, tools and insights to help them manage their communications during the COVID-19 crisis and tough moments that may come long after the pandemic is over.

The newsletter will contain tips on:

  • Remote work and culture issues
  • Health care communications
  • Internal communications
  • Crisis response tips
  • Human resources best practices
  • Technology updates
  • External communication
  • And more

Sign up to get the daily eNewsletter directly in your inbox.

Ralph Lauren to make 250,000 masks

The fashion designer is ramping up production of 250,000 surgical masks and 25,000 isolation gowns through its charitable arm, the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation. Those efforts have been coupled with a $10 million donation toward the COVID-19 response.

The BBC reported:

“At the heart of our company, there has always been a spirit of togetherness that inspires our creativity, our confidence and most importantly our support for one another. In the past weeks and months, that spirit has never wavered,” said Ralph Lauren, executive chairman of the fashion brand.

The move follows other designers and retailers including Canada Goose, Gap and LVMH making maks, scrubs, gowns and hand sanitizer.

Why you should care: CSR has always been a communications and business best practice, but your organization’s community involvement is even more important amid a global pandemic where many consumers are turned off to marketing messages. As much as you can, wrap purpose into your campaigns and your messaging—and aim to make it a longstanding strategy, instead of a one-off response to COVID-19.


We asked what your schedule and workload look like amid the COVID-19 crisis, and nearly 44% of you are working longer hours, while almost 28% are keeping a similar schedule. Nearly one-quarter of you are clocking fewer hours:


What are you doing to boost your health and spirits, both today and this weekend?

Need ideas? The American Red Cross shared several:

Weigh in via our Twitter poll and share your thoughts—and photos—with us under the #DailyScoop hashtag.

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