Not that long ago, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos was responding to allegations by former Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders that Amazon’s working conditions were unfair to its employees and that Amazon was depending on US taxpayers to foot the bill for benefits that would not be necessary if Amazon paid a higher wage. When these statements went public, Bezos offered a stinging challenge in response, daring Sanders to come tour one of the company’s facilities, but his counterpunch this week is likely to be even more effective in creating positive PR for Amazon.
Bezos, with his wife MacKenzie, recently announced a $2 billion philanthropic initiative that aims to help homeless families and found preschools in low-income communities. Striking a very different tone than in his recent public tiff with Sanders, Bezos was excited when announcing the new charity work, a two-part program that will: “issue annual leadership awards to organizations and civic groups doing compassionate, needle-moving work to provide shelter and hunger support to address the immediate needs of young families.”
In addition, Day 1 Academies will “launch and operate a network of high-quality, full-scholarship Montessori-inspired preschools in underserved communities…” The name, Day 1, offered Bezos an opportunity to remind anyone listening about his personal, and Amazon’s driving, mantra: “It’s always Day 1, and I work hard to apply that mindset to everything I do. It was Day 1 outlook that made me reach out to ask for suggestions on approaches to philanthropy last year.”
This announcement also offered Bezos key opportunities to reset the messaging and counter the narrative started by Sanders, that Amazon is an irresponsible corporate citizen. In statements and articles about this latest philanthropic effort, previous charity work and nonprofit donations are mentioned, including donations to TheDream.us and his support for military veterans seeking public office.
Taken together, these donations, coupled with Bezos’ charisma and personal mantra, go a long way toward defining Amazon as an innovating, caring corporate partner. While no one is questioning the sincerity of Bezos’ efforts, the optics and messaging around these charity efforts works very well in pushing back against the narrative that Amazon is an irresponsible, greedy, and uncaring employer that doesn’t treat its people well.
At present, both Sanders’ and Bezos’ narratives are spreading like wildfire on social media, battling it out to create the prevailing message about Bezos personally, and about the company he founded that has, legitimately, changed the world and made him one of the richest, if not the richest, people in it.