The 8 stories PR pros need to know on Monday morning, 2.1.2016

The New Influencers; Down to the wire in Iowa; Super Bowl media day; Alphabet earnings; Black History Month begins; CDC could declare Chipotle E. coli crisis over; Amtrak to release May 2015 crash data.

Ted Cruz meets with caucus-goers in Iowa. (Image via the CNN Politics Facebook page).
Ted Cruz meets with caucus-goers in Iowa. (Image via the CNN Politics Facebook page).

The New Influencers
Whether dispensing trendy fashion advice, delivering an important message of inclusion, or making kittens fight with lightsabers, brands are counting on this group to build an authentic bond with Gen Z - often in just eight seconds or less.

What to watch tonight: the Iowa Caucuses
The first caucuses, which have an outsized influence on who will be the Democratic and Republican nominees for president, will begin at about 8 pm. Candidates in both parties are making their final pitches to participants, with Hillary Clinton being accused of ripping off Bernie Sanders’ message and Ted Cruz under fire for a controversial leaflet.

The pressure is on Microsoft to get it right in Iowa
Precinct officials and volunteers will be using the company’s technology to count results on Monday night, and both contests are expected to be close. Officials from both parties have expressed confidence in the technology, despite concerns from Sanders’ camp.

Not interested in the Iowa Caucuses? It’s Super Bowl media day
Which probably should be renamed "media night." The NFL is holding its biggest pre-Super Bowl media event for the first time in prime time this year. Stars including quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Cam Newton will talk to members of the press from Santa Clara, California.

After the markets close: Alphabet earnings
The company formerly known as Google will release its first quarterly earnings since reorganizing as Alphabet this afternoon. Its report is expected to outline how much "moonshot" projects such as driverless cars are costing the company, which could surpass Apple as the world’s most valuable corporate entity.

Major Chipotle announcement expected from the CDC
The government agency could declare that the E. coli outbreak that has hobbled Chipotle since late last year is over as soon as today, according to The Wall Street Journal. The illness sickened 50 customers in nine states, and investigators are still unsure of its origins. The chain’s sales were down 30% in December.

Black History Month begins
Sneaker brands Nike and Adidas have released special collections, for which a percentage of sales will go to nonprofits. Ruffles is teaming up with the NBA to raise money for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund while honoring "real-life MVPs."

Amtrak to release data on May 2015 Philadelphia crash
The railroad is set to make public a trove of information on the May 2015 crash in Philadelphia that killed eight commuters and injured hundreds. As many as 2,000 pages of documents could be distributed, including interviews with the train’s conductor and its crew. 

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