Breakfast Briefing: 5 things for PR pros to know on Monday morning

Biden names all-female White House communications team; Moderna seeks emergency approval of COVID-19 vaccine.

President-elect Joe Biden has named an all-female White House communications team. Kate Bedingfield and Jen Psaki will be in the key roles of communications director and White House press secretary, respectively. Meanwhile, Karine Jean-Pierre will serve as principal deputy press secretary and Symone Sanders has been named senior adviser and chief spokesperson for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Pili Tobar was appointed deputy White House communications director. PRWeek has all the details on the hires.

The latest COVID-19 vaccine news: Moderna will request emergency clearance from the Food and Drug Administration for its coronavirus vaccine after new data confirmed the vaccine is more than 94% effective in preventing COVID-19 and was safe. “We believe that our vaccine will provide a new and powerful tool that may change the course of this pandemic and help prevent severe disease, hospitalizations and death,” said Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel in a statement. Pfizer applied for the same authorization on November 20.

No surprise here. Merriam-Webster’s 2020 word of the year is “pandemic.” Peter Sokolowski, editor at large for Merriam-Webster, told The Associated Press that the chosen word “probably isn’t a big shock.” He added, “Often the big news story has a technical word that’s associated with it and in this case, the word pandemic is not just technical but has become general. It’s probably the word by which we’ll refer to this period in the future.” Runners up, based on lookup spikes around specific events, included the words coronavirus, quarantine, asymptomatic, mamba, kraken, defund, antebellum, irregardless, icon, schadenfreude and malarkey.

Southwest Airlines responds to mysterious monolith disappearance. The tall metal structure, discovered in Utah earlier this month, has now been removed by “an unknown party.” As social media users theorized about what could have happened to the structure, Southwest Airlines tweeted a cleverly edited picture revealing that the monolith is nothing more than an airport stanchion. “Sorry y’all, we needed it back,” the airline joked. The witty tweet has been liked 45,700 times.

What happened on Black Friday? Consumers spent roughly $9 billion online, a 22% jump from last year's previously record high, according to Adobe Analytics. Meanwhile, data from RetailNext and Sensormatic Solutions showed in-store traffic plunged by roughly 50% compared to last year's Black Friday. Adobe Analytics estimates that Cyber Monday sales will hit between $10.8 billion and $12.7 billion, representing growth of 15% to 35% from 2019.

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