Hero Alaska Airlines flight attendant hits picket line, Paramount lays off hundreds days after record-high Super Bowl ratings

Plus: how AI is allowing companies to analyze employee messages.

Greetings, comms pros! Let’s look at a few news stories from the last week and see what we can learn from them.

1 . Steve Maller was one of the Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 attendants who helped ensure no one was seriously injured or worse when a door flew off the plane mid-flight last month. His heroism earned him accolades from many, including the CEO of Alaska Airlines. Now he’s hitting the picket line to fight for better work conditions for himself and his colleagues across Alaska Airlines and three other air carriers.

According to CNN:

“What 1282 reminds us, again, is the critical importance of flight attendants,” he said. “We don’t have these types of emergencies on a regular basis. But when they happen there’s no substitute for well-trained and qualified flight attendants [who are] willing to put their safety behind the safety of the people that they’re charged to take care of. And that’s what we all did.”

The picket in question is over a new contract that’s up for flight attendants, who want to ensure it has proper pay and protections. Maller added that in recent years, flight attendants have seen little increase in pay and benefits. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, (AFPA), can’t just go on strike, due to labor regulations in the U.S. But these pickets are designed to make sure that on their next contract, flight attendants earn what they feel they deserve. That’s why it’s so important for organizations to have plans in place to communicate with union liaisons.

In the wake of the highly-publicized fallout from the door incident in January, the airlines had a golden opportunity to take a look at the flight attendants in their employ and work with union representatives to take a step toward better compensation. Whenever employees hit the picket line, it’s an opportunity to open more lines of communication with union reps to build bridges that create positive connections between organizations and employees, leading to better job satisfaction and a stronger employer brand.

2. Paramount Global cuts nearly 800 jobs days after record ratings in Super Bowl LVIII

Just a few days after Paramount Global’s CBS aired the Super Bowl to over 120 million people, the organization is letting go of 3% of its workforce, totaling around 800 people.

In an employee memo shared by Dateline, CEO Bob Bakish said that the changes will help the organization reach its strategic goals in the year ahead:

To those with whom we are parting ways, we are incredibly grateful for your hard work and dedication. Your talents have helped us advance our mission of unleashing the power of content around the world.

We are a better company because of you.

While I realize these changes are in no way easy, as I said last month, I am confident this is the right decision for our future. These adjustments will help enable us to build on our momentum and execute our strategic vision for the year ahead – and I firmly believe we have much to be excited about.

We are coming off of a blockbuster event with Super Bowl LVIII that showcased the full power of Paramount. We’re launching a big slate of new and returning primetime programming on CBS, and last night marked the return of Jon Stewart to The Daily Show. We continue to release films, like Bob Marley: One Love this week, which reinforce our heritage as one of Hollywood’s most iconic movie studios. And we’re coming together as One Paramount more than ever, with continued commitment to our values, culture imperatives and fostering an inclusive workplace.

We should all take time this week to support one another – our colleagues who will be impacted, as well as our teams remaining – in adjusting to this change. Speaking personally, I want our entire team to know that I am committed to sharing updates when we’re able to.

Job cuts aren’t all that uncommon, particularly in 2024, with many large companies trimming back their workforces. But when a company claims it needs to get its finances in order when it just aired an event with a viewership in the nine figures, that can ring just a little hollow. (Though in fairness, Paramount+ has lost the company quite a bit of money.) While on the surface it might seem like a cold move to cut jobs after a ratings bonanza, Paramount’s leadership, to its credit, does its best to tie its recent wins back to its opportunities for growth – getting out in front of the obvious and keeping control of the narrative in the process.

That’s a classy way to handle a tough situation. Comms pros should always coach up their leaders to know when to say the right thing, and in a tough situation like a layoff, putting humanity first and thanking people for their work is the least a leader can do.

3. Organizations look to AI for employee message monitoring

AI has lots of applications — ideation, helping with basic copy, creating outlines — but according to a recent report, it might be used to track your messages at work.

According to CNBC:

Huge U.S. employers such as Walmart, Delta Air Lines, T-Mobile, Chevron and Starbucks, as well as European brands including Nestle and AstraZeneca, have turned to a seven-year-old startup, Aware, to monitor chatter among their rank and file, according to the company.

Jeff Schumann, co-founder and CEO of the Columbus, Ohio-based startup, says the AI helps companies “understand the risk within their communications,” getting a read on employee sentiment in real time, rather than depending on an annual or twice-per-year survey.

The report explains how the tool helps ensure employees are adhering to policies and compliant with regulations.

On the surface, it’s fine to want your employees to adhere to guidelines, but installing a virtual surveillance camera over them isn’t likely to engender a positive work culture. This sort of overwatch strips people of their individuality and can easily stifle creativity.

If there’s an issue at hand, discuss it. Putting a robot in charge to monitor people’s conversations is not a good way to get people to want to work for your organization or speak well about your company in the public sphere. AI has a lot of great applications. This is not one of them.

4. How about some good news?

Have a great weekend comms all-stars!

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports, a good pint and ’90s trivia night.


Ragan.com Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from Ragan.com directly in your inbox.