January 2012 - Business Communication



Business Communication


Recent Posts


Business Communication with Cengage Learning


Twitter's Funny Viral Recruiting Video

01-31-2012 4:34 PM

During "Hack Week" at Twitter, employees work in teams to test new tools and make Twitter easier to use. The program encourages innovation and, this year, resulted in a parody of corporate recruiting videos that garnered almost 600,000 views within four days.


 Ian Padgham, a member of Twitter's design team, explains the inspiration for the video:

“Recruiting videos are the worst. Jeremy and I decided to make the worst possible video ever, since there was no way to make a good one. Knowing that #HackWeek was coming up, we wanted to have fun and embrace the awesome creative environment you find at Twitter.”

Padgham may have a point. Corporate recruiting videos try to lure candidates, but many end up hokey and fake.

Discussion Starters:

  • How similar is Twitter's joke video to the recruiting videos you've seen?
  • Have you seen any good recruiting videos? What do you like about them?
  • How can companies improve their recruiting videos? Or are they doomed?

Posted by Amy Newman

Super Bowl Ad Previews on Social Media

01-30-2012 2:17 PM

In case you can't wait until Sunday to see the Super Bowl ads, here are a few teasers. At an average of $3.5 million for a 30-second spot, companies need to get their money's worth, so we're seeing some pre-game, viral promotion.

According to Reuters, the Super Bowl is one of the few TV shows that still garner large audiences: about 100 million people are expected to watch the game on February 5. And yet companies will supplement views by promoting their ads on social media sites. Coca-Cola's commercial, for example, features computer-generated polar bears who will have their own Facebook page and Twitter hashtag (#GameDayPolarBears). Not to be outdone, Pepsi is encouraging fans to watch Melanie Amaro perform "Respect" and then download a video using the Shazam app.

As always, the Super Bowl ads, like this one from Priceline, target their audience.

Discussion Starters:

  • How successful do you think these companies' social media strategy will be? Will it achieve their objective of expanding viewers and air time?
  • Watch a few of the Super Bowl ad previews. What techniques do they use to target game watchers?

Posted by Amy Newman

Vassar Posts Acceptance Letter for Rejected Applicants

01-30-2012 7:03 AM

When 122 early-decision applicants logged onto Vassar's system to check their application status, they saw the good news: that they were accepted. But 76 were not. A test letter that a college spokesperson called a "system error" was mistakenly posted. Fortunately, even more of the 254 early-decision applicants hadn't seen the letter before the problem was caught.

On the website College Confidential, students posted their frustration:

  • "Is it possible to be admitted and then 2 hrs later have admission revoked???"
  • "It did the same for me: accepted at 4, reject at 5. I don't understand..."

Vassar sent an email to students to apologize for the error:

Catharine Hill, president of Vassar, also apologized:

“We are terribly sorry about the confusion and disappointment the erroneous information posted online caused the students. Our admissions process is a careful deliberation over several months, so it is so unfortunate to have this communication error happen at the end of that process for some of our early decision candidates.”

 Discussion Starters:

  • The mistake is far too common, with the University of Delaware and other schools making similar errors. How do you think this could happen, and how could it be avoided?
  • Assess Vassar's apology letter. If you were a student affected by the mistake, would the email reassure you, or would you find it "lame," as one student said?
  • Rewrite the apology email in your own words. How could you improve it?

Posted by Amy Newman

Filed under:

Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Reassure Customers

01-26-2012 12:03 PM

Following the Costa Concordia disaster, major cruise lines are emailing customers to reassure them of ship safety. The companies are trying to stave off what may be a large decline in cruising, according to analysts. The prediction is based on graphic videos and images circulating on social media sites and the unfortunate timing of the incident: during prime cruise-booking season and three months before the 100-year anniversary of the Titanic. To commemorate the sinking of the Titanic, which lost over 1500 passengers, the media will likely draw comparisons to Costa Concordia, keeping the tragedy alive in consumers' minds.

Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian have emailed customers over the past few days, and we see two main themes emerge from these communications: 

  • Safety standards, procedures, and records
  • Qualifications of the captains

In its email to customers, Royal Caribbean links to this video explaining the company's safety culture:

Download Celebrity Cruise email

Download Royal Caribbean email

Download Norwegian Cruise email

Discussion Starters:

  • What differences do you notice among the three emails, particularly whether they refer specifically to Costa Concordia?
  • Which email works best and why? 
  • How do you assess the Royal Caribbean safety video? Does it reassure you, as a potential passenger?

Posted by Amy Newman

#McDStories Turns Ugly

01-24-2012 3:30 PM

McDonald's started the Twitter hashtag #McDStories to encourage people to post their thoughts about the company. The campaign started well enough with @McDonald's initial tweets:

But the social media promotion quickly turned into a "hashtag horror show." The hashtag made it too tempting for people to tweet their worst views of the company, such as these:



Where did McDonald's go wrong? Rick Wion, the company's social media director, explained his perspective:

"Last Thursday, we planned to use two different hashtags during a promoted trend -- #meetthefarmers and #mcdstories.

"While #meetthefarmers was used for the majority of the day and successful in raising awareness of the Supplier Stories campaign, #mcdstories did not go as planned. We quickly pulled #mcdstories and it was promoted for less than two hours.

"Within an hour of pulling #McDStories the number of conversations about it fell off from a peak of 1600 to a few dozen. It is also important to keep those numbers in perspective. There were 72,788 mentions of McDonald's overall that day so the traction of #McDStories was a tiny percentage (2%) of that.

"With all social media campaigns, we include contingency plans should the conversation not go as planned. The ability to change midstream helped this small blip from becoming something larger."

Monitoring activity and recognizing failure are critical for social media campaigns. As Wion says, "As Twitter continues to evolve its platform and engagement opportunities, we're learning from our experiences." True enough: trending on Twitter can be a dangerous game.

Discussion Starters: 
  • Why do you think #meetthefarmers was successful but #McDStories was not?
  • Should McDonald's have anticipated this outcome and not introduced the hashtag, or was the reaction too hard to predict?
  • Wion talks about having a contingency plan. What do you think that entails? How should companies prepare for social media campaigns that fail?

Posted by Amy Newman

Survivors Find Costa Cruises' 30% Discount Offer "Insulting"

01-24-2012 2:33 PM

Costa Cruises and its parent, Carnival, have tried to make amends to survivors of the Costa Concordia ship that capsized. A spokesperson for Costa explains: Costa Concordia

"The company is trying to do everything they can for those passengers directly affected.

"The company is not only going to refund everybody, but they will offer a 30 per cent discount on future cruises if they want to stay loyal to the company."

The offer is one way for the company to try to repair its tarnished image—and perhaps to stave off lawsuits. But will passengers want to get on another boat?

Image source.

Discussion Starters:

  • How effective do you think Costa's promotion will be for future cruise goers?
  • What are the potential ethical consequences of Costa's offer?
  • What might be a better strategy for the company to rebuild its image?

Posted by Amy Newman

Brazil Addresses "Technological Slavery"

01-21-2012 7:21 AM

Brazil has passed a new law that makes employees eligible to request overtime pay for email and phone calls after work hours. The Brazilian government views emails to employees' smartphones as orders. The law addresses what a labor lawyer in this CNN video calls "technological slavery."

Discussion Starters:

  • What's your view of the new law? 
  • Is this a good idea for United States? Would it work? The video mentions difficulty in enforcement. What other challenges could you see?
  • How else could we avoid the 24/7 nature of work?

Posted by Amy Newman

Timothy's Coffee Apologizes for Facebook Promotion

01-21-2012 7:05 AM

Offering free coffee is a great way to increase Facebook "likes" but only if you can keep up with demand. Timothy's Coffee offered free 24-pack boxes of single-serving coffee, but ran out of supply for the number of people who requested the $17 CAD gift. The company underestimated how viral the promotion would become, and it took too long to sort out how to solve the problem.

In a video, a company spokesperson explained that they "received an overwhelming amount [sic] of entries" and "because of a technical glitch, confirmations were sent beyond the quantities available." 

The company apologized on a Facebook wall post:

Timothy's Coffee
Although 136 people "liked" this post, 291 commented, and many were negative, like this one: "fans being left in the dark from January 4th to Jany 13th, without A SINGLE comment regardless of the raging posts on the wall."

Responding to the disappointed fans, the company then offered a coupon for free coffee for those who didn't receive the promotional gift.

Discussion Starters: 

  • How could Timothy's Coffee have avoided the failed social media promotion?
  • How do you assess the spokesperson's video? What is effective and ineffective about the apology?
  • In the post above, you see "[sic]" within the company's quote. What does this mean, and why is it there?

Posted by Amy Newman

Company Communications about the Costa Concordia Cruise Disaster

01-18-2012 12:47 AM

Here's a compilation of communications about the Costa Concordia cruise disaster so far:

Discussion Starters:

  • How do you assess the timeline of the Costa and Carnival statements? What could have caused the delay in Carnival's statement? 
  • Analyze each communication after January 13. What is most and least effective about each?
  • What else, if anything, do you believe Costa or Carnival should communicate at this point? What should the companies prepare to communicate next?

Posted by Amy Newman

Filed under:

NY Philharmonic Stops When Cell Phone Won't Stop Ringing

01-14-2012 8:32 AM

The incessant "marimba" alarm clock so frustrated the New York Philharmonic orchestra conductor that he stopped the performance this week. Albert Gilbert and the rest of the audience heard the phone in the front row, which, according to one audience member continued for "5 minutes or so." This video is a mock-up of how the ringing may have interrupted Mahler's Symphony No. 9:

Gilbert stopped the orchestra and said, “We’ll wait” and stared at the potential culprits in the front row. He then said, "Turn off the phone." But the phone didn't stop ringing, despite yells from the otherwise cultured audience: "Get out!" "Turn it off" "Throw them out!" Lincoln Center is investigating why its ushers didn't follow protocol and address the audience member.

So how did this happen, and why didn't the audience member turn off the phone?

"Patron X" didn't want to be identified but told the New York Times that his company just swapped his BlackBerry for an iPhone, and he didn't realize that an alarm was set. Although he thought he turned off his cell phone, the alarm went off anyway.

Gilbert accepted an apology, which Patron X explained to the New York Times:

“It was just awful to have any role in something like that, that is so disturbing and disrespectful not only to the conductor but to all the musicians and not least to the audience, which was so into this concert."

“I hope the people at that performance and members of the orchestra can certainly forgive me for this whole event. I apologize to the whole audience.”

Discussion Starters:

  • The Washington Post Style Blog offers these cell-phone etiquette suggestions for performances. Do you agree with these? What other steps would you recommend to audience members?
  • Do you buy Patron X's explanation? Could this happen to any of us?
  • What's your view of texting during a movie?

Posted by Amy Newman

NYU Student's Emails

01-12-2012 7:21 AM

Upset with a class assignment to write an ethnography about the Occupy Wall Street protestors in Zuccotti Park, NYU senior Sara Ackerman wrote several emails to her professors and university administrators. The emails show frustration on both sides—a student wanting a different assignment and a college struggling with how to respond to complaints.Besides the drama and voyeuristic appeal of the situation, the story is rather sad. Ackerman follows through on her threat to publicize the controversy, but does she get what she needs? And university officials are embarrassed and can't satisfy the student.


Sara Ackerman Emails: “An Open Letter to John Sexton regarding Professor Caitlin Zaloom”

One of Ackerman's goals is to get her professor fired. She claims that she was offered an A in the course to be quiet about the situation, but university officials deny this. Instead, the VP of public affairs said, "We looked into the complaint and found the accusations were unwarranted."

A look at NYU's Student Email Policy is no help, of course, particularly with a 2003 "effective date," and the Guidelines for Student Email Use offers little guidance other than how to forward email and expectations for regular email-checking—another throw-back to 2003. The confidentiality statement is getting closer, but students needs more help to determine effective use of university email.

Then again, what would help in this situation?

Discussion Starters:

  • What is the student trying to achieve with her emails? To what extent is she successful?
  • What alternative communication channels and avenues might be helpful to a student in a similar situation?
  • If you were the head of communications for NYU, what, if anything, would you say to the press?

Posted by Amy Newman

Auschwitz to Sell Fitness?

01-12-2012 7:19 AM

The Circuit Factory, a gym in Dubai, used an Auschwitz photo to sell membership.

Auschwitz Gym Ad

No surprise, the company heard a strong reaction to the campaign on sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The Circuit Factory responded by firing its "creative guy," pledging a donation to an undetermined charity, and apologizing:

Auschwitz Gym Ad Apology

The Anti-Defamation League issued this statement about the incident:

"We are increasingly troubled by both the ignorance and mindset of a generation that appears to be so distant from a basic understanding of the Holocaust that it seems acceptable to use this horrific tragedy as a gimmick to bring attention to promoting losing weight."

Despite the public reaction, the campaign may have worked, as Circuit Factory founder Phil Parkinson told Arabian Business News:

“A huge number people have researched or Googled… our YouTube channel has shot up, our [Facebook] group page has got an hundred extra members in minutes and we have had about five times as many enquiries as before,” he said. “It has got to the point I am nervous that I can’t cater for demand.”

Discussion Starters:

  • What's your reaction to the ad? Do you find it funny, offensive, or something else?
  • What do you make of the increased interest in the gym? Did the campaign pay off, after all? 
  • How can a company avoid this type of campaign, which may offend people?

Posted by Amy Newman

Blackstone Buys blackstonesucks.com

01-10-2012 12:14 PM

In a preemptive social media move, private equity firm Blackstone has purchased several disparaging websites:

  • Blackstoneblackstonesucks.com
  • blackstonegroupsucks.com
  • theblackstonegroupsucks.com
  • schwarzmansucks.com
  • stephenschwarzmansucks.com
  • stevenschwarzmansucks.com
  • steveschwarzmansucks.com

Blackstone follows the lead of Bank of America, which secured hundreds of domains last month, including BrianMoynihanBlows.com.

In September, Etsy, the online market for handmade art, filed suit against the owners of EtsySucks.com, .net, .org, .biz, and .info. Etsy won the case. But what about Freedom of Speech? The difference seems to be in how the domains are used; if they're used to post about a company, then fine, but these Etsy domains were empty, parked websites, indicating that the sites weren't "registered in good faith," according to Domain Name Wire.

Maybe I should register bizcominthenewssucks.com, just in case.

Discussion Starters:

  • You can't blame these companies for trying to stem the tide of negative online comments, but will these domain protections work?
  • What avenues would you most likely use to complain about a company's product or service? 
  • Research the "sucks" domain for a company that interests you. Is it taken and populated with negative comments? What, if anything, can the company do about it?

Posted by Amy Newman

Campaign Against Child Obesity Called “Harsh”

01-06-2012 10:03 AM

How would you feel if your child or brother or sister were profiled in one of these anti-obesity ads? 

The Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has taken emotional appeal to a new level to tackle the problem of childhood obesity in Georgia. Focusing on illness and social isolation, five videos show children who are obese and in distress. With this approach, the organization is trying to encourage families to take the issue seriously.

Critics say the organization's Strong4Life campaign has gone too far by stigmatizing the profiled children. Also, the ads give little guidance to how parents can help their overweight children.

Others say the ads attract attention, as they should, and that they are part of a five-year campaign that has just started. An executive at Children's Healthcare defends the campaign: "The whole goal of this is to get the discussion going,” she said. “I love that it sparks dialogue, and a great dialogue has two sides.” The organization also posted several comments on Facebook:

Discussion Starters:

  • What is your reaction to these ads? Do you find them offensive, effective, or something else?
  • How could the next phase of the campaign address the critics' concerns? What tactics would you recommend to the writers of the ads?

Posted by Amy Newman

Rupert Murdoch Joins Twitter and Inserts Foot in Mouth

01-04-2012 12:21 PM

Murdoch tweetAfter just four days on Twitter and 27 tweets, Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corporation, has amassed over 104,000 followers. Why the sudden interest? Some say Murdoch is considering an investment in Twitter, while others see the move as part of an image restoration campaign.

He did manage, within his first 20 tweets, to "slag off" the British. The reply tweet is from a fake account with Murdoch's wife's name, but he still complied by deleting the tweet.

Discussion Starters:

  • Read a few of Murdoch's recent tweets. How would you summarize his goals in using Twitter so far?
  • Looking at more of his tweets over time, how would you assess his participation in Twitter? Do you think it was a good move for him to join?

Posted by Amy Newman

More Posts Next page »