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Business Communication with Cengage Learning

 

  • Snapchat's FTC Settlement and Admission

    Snapchat has entered into an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission, which accused the app of violating its own privacy policies, but critics say that agreement will have little impact. The FTC found Snapchat guilty of claiming that "snaps" would disappear when they are actually quite easy to store forever and of transmitting users' locations when its policy claims that user information is not tracked. Although the settlement does put restrictions on Snapchat, ZDNet , for example, questions the effectiveness: "With this settlement agreement, the FTC is sending a message — just not one that makes us feel any better about Snapchat, and all the other Snapchats out there. "And that message is: Party on with your bad self, Snapchat. "It's not like anyone's going to stop you." On its blog , Snapchat interpreted the agreement: Our Agreement with the FTC When we started building Snapchat, we were focused on developing a unique, fast, and fun way to communicate with photos. We learned a lot during those early days. One of the ways we learned was by making mistakes, acknowledging them, and fixing them. While we were focused on building, some things didn’t get the attention they could have. One of those was being more precise with how we communicated with the Snapchat community. This morning we entered into a consent decree with the FTC that addresses concerns raised by the commission. Even before today’s consent decree was announced, we had resolved most of those concerns over the past year by improving the wording of our privacy policy, app description, and in-app just-in-time notifications. And we continue to invest heavily in security and countermeasures to prevent abuse. We are devoted to promoting user privacy and giving Snapchatters control over how and with whom they communicate. That’s something we’ve always taken seriously, and always will. Image source. Discussion Starters: What's your experience with Snapchat? Does this news change your opinion of the company? Will you stop using the service? Assess Snapchat's blog post. On Twitter, @PatrickVitalone called it a "non-apology." What do you think?
  • PayPal Executive Sends Rude Tweets

    Rakesh Agrawal, former PayPal director of strategy, has left the company after less than two months. Apparently, Agrawal wasn't happy with some of his colleagues and told all of us about it on Twitter: Agrawal was at Jazz Fest in New Orleans, perhaps having too much fun, when he started tweeting at around 1 a.m. AOL responded with a "zero-tolerance" tweet: Agrawal said that he was using a new phone and had intended to send private, direct messages to his colleague. He also claims that he wasn't fired but that he quit. He provided convincing evidence to Business Insider , including a resignation email before his Twitter rant. I say, who cares? He still behaved badly. Besides, AOL didn't say he was fired—just that he's no longer at the company. Discussion Starters: Should Agrawal have offered the evidence that he quit , rather than was fired? What are the pros and cons of his strategy? What other strategies could Agrawal have taken in response to the incident? How does a mistake like this happen? In other words, what advice do you have for people trying to prevent the same problem?
  • NYPD Hashtag Failure

    It's been at least a few months since we had a Twitter hashtag failure. This time, the New York Police Department started a campaign: #MyNYPD . Unfortunately, the results weren't what the police force expected. Jokes about the police supporting the "1%," criticisms about race discrimination, and photos of officers frisking dogs and wrestling people to the ground dominated the hashtag for hours. Gawker describes the campaign in an article titled, " NYPD's Twitter Outreach Backfires in Most Predictable Way Possible ." Discussion Starters: Why does Gawker call the results predictable? What other hashtag failures have we seen that compare to this situation? Should the NYPD have known better? Why or why not? Should organizations just stop these hashtag campaigns, or can you identify certain situations where they may get the desired results?
  • FTC Admonishes Cole Haan's Pinterest Promotion

    Cole Haan devised a contest encouraging Pinterest users to create boards called "Wandering Sole." As a creative pun, people were instructed to pin five pictures of Cole Haan products and five places. It was a cute idea, but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) expressed concern about people getting rewarded—$1,000 for winning the contest—without admitting the connection between their posts and the potential monetary award. In a letter to Cole Haan , the FTC admonished Cole Haan: The FTC is concerned about deceptive social media practices. An easy solution, according to a MediaPost article , is for Cole Haan to have people indicate that their posts were part of a contest. An advertising lawyer suggests, "A hastag that included a word like 'sweeps,' or 'contest,' or 'giveaway,' would have satisfied the FTC's concerns." Discussion Starters: What's the rationale for the FTC rule? What situations can you think of where this may be a significant issue? Or, do you think this rule is just silly? How, if at all, do you think adding the word "contest" would have affected this promotion?
  • "Like" This Page and Give Up Your Right to Sue?

    General Mills is the latest company to try to restrict customers' right to legal action based on their interaction with the company on social media. The company's new legal terms define these conditions broadly, including being "a subscriber to any of our emails, or a participant in any sweepstakes, contest..." According to The New York Times , "anyone who has received anything that could be construed as a benefit and who then has a dispute with the company over its products will have to use informal negotiation via email or go through arbitration to seek relief, according to the new terms posted on its site." Although the move may be understandable considering the increasing number of class-action lawsuits, the director of a trial attorneys' organization explains the potential consequence: '“It’s essentially trying to protect the company from all accountability, even when it lies, or say, an employee deliberately adds broken glass to a product.” Could merely visiting General Mills' website prevent a lawsuit? One attorney say it's unclear, but "You can bet there will be some subpoenas for computer hard drives in the future.” This story reminds me of KlearGear, the company that charged a customer $3,500 for a bad review . Discussion Starters: What's your view of the ethics of General Mills' new legal restriction? How do you see the new restriction playing out? Consider one or two situations where this restriction might apply. Does this story affect how you might approach social media contact with General Mills in the future?
  • ABC's Video for Facebook Likes

    ABC celebrates 1 million Facebook likes with a video. Deadline put the video in context: "The Facebook milestone is fun news for the ABC newscast, in contrast to the nicking it suffered last week in the press when it dropped mention of that day’s landmark ruling from the Supreme Court striking down cumulative caps on individual political donations in order to make room for breaking news about that day’s shootings at Fort Hood, while hanging on to reports about why zebras have stripes, Kraft’s Philadelphia Cream Cheese formula change, and the stray dog adopted by the Milwaukee Brewers." It's funny that this excerpt mentions Kraft. The other Facebook-like video I remember is for Kraft Mac 'n Cheese— much more fun than ABC's . Discussion Starters: Compare ABC's video to Kraft's. What are the purpose and audience for each? Does ABC have to include the Nationwide Insurance ad before we watch its promotional ad?
  • GM's Cobalt Recall Site

    For the unfortunate customers who own a Chevy Cobalt, GM has created a dedicated recall website. The site includes a series of Q&A and links to a "gallery" of videos between 23 and 48 seconds long. The site als0 includes this graphic and a video that repeats this "3-Point Check Plan." Discussion Starters: Assess the short videos on the website: what works well, and what could be improved? The "3-Point Check Plan" tells customers what to do with their key chain, that they should talk to the dealer, and how to reach the company. Do we need a graphic and a video for that? Are GM's communications too simple? Or am I underestimating what customers need?
  • Malaysia Airlines and PM Announce Demise of Flight MH370

    The Malaysia Prime Minister announced that Flight MH370 most likely ended in the Indian Ocean . Malaysia Airlines posted this statement on its website : This message also was texted to the families : In a posting five hours earlier , the airline gave updates and responded to questions. The statement included a section about working with the families: "Yesterday, the high-level team met with families in Beijing for more than eight hours. "The families asked many questions, and made detailed requests for radar readings and other data. Some of these questions could not be answered, and some of the data they requested was still being held by the investigation, as is standard procedure in investigations of this sort. "After meeting with the families for a total of more than twelve hours, and taking hundreds of questions, the high-level team has returned to Kuala Lumpur to discuss the matters raised at the meetings. They will return to Beijing tomorrow to continue. "The briefings in Kuala Lumpur over the last two days went smoothly, and the families responded as positively as could be expected, with the families engaging with representatives from the relevant authorities. "It has always been our intention to keep the families as fully informed as possible. We continue to do so." The Guardian reports tragic scenes of families hearing the news. Their reaction is understandable and was expected: paramedics were sent to the Beijing Hotel where families were called to an "emergency briefing." Discussion Starters: Assess the prime minister's statement to the press. How well does he deliver the bad news? What is the organizational plan? Assess Malaysia Airlines' statement: what works well, and what could be improved? What's your view of the text message? Typically, texting isn't the best way to deliver bad news. Could this be an exception? Why?
  • New York Times Opinions About GM

    A New York Times opinion piece accused Toyota and GM of " Willfully Endangering Drivers " by delaying automobile recalls. The author partly blames the government for succumbing to pressure from the car industry and from lawmakers who opposed a 2010 Motor Vehicle Safety Act . The Act would have provided more funding to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to investigate safety issues and improve consumers' access to safety information. Another New York Times story this weekend comments on GM's social media activity. On the surface, it looks like "business as usual" at GM. Recent posts describe an employee recruiting campaign, a "Fan Friday" contest, and a new FB cover photo. But a deeper look into posts shows individual responses to complaints. Recall issues dominate customers' comments, and GM is engaged in the conversation as in this example: How is GM's reputation faring online? According to the article, pretty well: "So far, the damage to the company’s brand appears to have been minimal online. "Despite the barrage of headlines about federal investigations into G.M.'s decade-long failure to issue the recall, overall sentiment about G.M. and its brands on Twitter has remained the same since the crisis began. According to an analysis by Crimson Hexagon, a social media analytics firm in Boston, about 26 percent of Twitter messages mentioning the company were positive, 71 percent were neutral and 3 percent were negative." Discussion Starters: What's your view of the first article? In what ways do you agree and disagree with the writer's assessment of GM? Assess GM's responses on its Facebook page. What principles from Chapter 7, Responding to Negative Feedback, does the company demonstrate in this and other examples online?
  • No More @GSElevator Book Deal

    The publishing deal for @GSElevator tweets is off the table . With 652,000 followers, the author had garnered an impressive following by tweeting what could be said in the Goldman Sachs elevator. He never claimed that the tweets were actually said—or that he worked for Goldman. When the book deal was first announced, it was unclear whether either mattered to Touchstone, a division of Simon and Schuster. But now that John LeFevre's identify has been revealed, the offer has been withdrawn. According to a Business Insider article , the decision surprised LeFevre: "It's just a comical mystery to me. As of Friday afternoon, after all of the noise — during which Simon & Schuster prohibited me from responding and defending myself — they have continued to support me and stand by our project. Well, until today apparently." Simon and Schuster gave this statement: "In light of information that has recently come to our attention since acquiring John Lefevre's STRAIGHT TO HELL, Touchstone has decided to cancel its publication of this work." LeFevre also wrote a piece in Business Insider explaining the history of @GSElevator and defending himself. Here are a few excerpts, and you can read the full version here : "For the avoidance of any doubt, any person who actually thought my Twitter feed was literally about verbatim conversations overhead in the elevators of Goldman Sachs is an idiot. "Newsflash: GSElevator has never been about elevators. And, it's never been specifically about Goldman Sachs; it's about illuminating Wall Street culture in a fun and entertaining way. Without highlighting the obvious evolution of the tweets into more generally-appealing observations, let’s start with the simple fact that each of my tweets says 'Sent from Twitter for Mac,' hardly the work of someone pretending to be hiding in the walls of 200 West. "Being called a 'fake' or a 'hoax' by the same people who embraced me as 'satire' is simply laughable – and it really speaks to the silly and opportunistic attempts at cheap headlines. "I have been completely transparent in saying that my tweets are edited, curated, and crafted, in a way that I think will best resonate and still embody the soul and mentality of Wall Street. My focus has been to entertain and enlighten, without being completely devoid of substance and insight." Discussion Starters: Why do you think Touchstone withdrew the book deal? Do you think this was the right decision? Read LeFevre's response . Which parts do you find most and least convincing to convey his perspective?
  • Sands Casino Struggles to Recapture Website

    Sands Casino's email and websites were hacked on Monday , and they're still down four days later. Sites in the U.S. and Asia, including Venetian Las Vegas and Palazzo, were affected by the invasion, which the FBI and Secret Service are investigating. In place of the company websites, hackers posted employees' names, email addresses, and social security numbers; however, officials say that no customer information was compromised. The hacking may be in response to Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson's support of Israel. One posted image shows Adelson pictured with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—and flames instead of hotel pictures around the world. In a statement, a Sands spokesperson said, "While we have been able to confirm that certain core operating systems were not impacted by the hacking, the company remains focused on working through a step-by-step process to ascertain what, if any, additional systems may have been impacted." In the meantime, the company has this image posted on its home page : Image source . Discussion Starters: Assess Sands' communications: how well is the company keeping people informed in its statement , on its website, and through other communications you find online? What could account for the long time the website has been under someone else's control? How does this happen to an organization?
  • Email Still Preferred for Pitching Stories

    In a landslide vote, email won as the way media professionals want stories pitched. In a survey, Vocus: State of the Media 2014 , 256 representatives from TV, newspapers, magazines, and online media chose email over social media, phone calls, and instant messaging. Slides summarizing the findings show that, although respondents rely on social media for their reporting, they prefer not to receive stories through social media. Discussion Starters: In what ways, if at all, do the survey results surprise you? Why do you think media professionals prefer email? For those who do prefer social media for story ideas, why do you think they prefer Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn and Google+?
  • Goldman Parody Turns Into a Book

    Here's the first parody Twitter feed turned into a book : @GSElevator, quips presumably heard on an elevator at Goldman Sachs. Under the title "Straight to Hell: True Tales of Deviance and Excess in the World of Investment Banking," the anonymous author, according to the publisher, "will offer stories from his career in banking that capture the true character and nature of Wall Street culture today—a world far more abhorrent and way more entertaining than people can imagine." In emails to the New York Times , the author ("Mr. Stone") described his interest in writing a book: "These are stories that I have been collecting over the course of my experiences in banking—events that have been so outrageous and funny, that I thought that one day they might be worth sharing. "Unlike other books that may be viewed similarly, this is not a whistle-blower scenario or an indictment or assault on a specific firm. "My aim is to showcase and illuminate the true culture of Wall Street as I have experienced it, and write a book that is not only very funny and entertaining, but also, insightful and substantive." Although the author has revealed his identify to his publisher, he has not identified himself publicly. People wonder whether he currently works at Goldman. Discussion Starters: If the author does work at Goldman and this became known, how do you think his employer would react? Read more of his tweets to get a better idea of what he's writing. Should he be fired? Read about Greg Smith , who wrote an op-ed about his experience at Goldman. How are these situations similar—and different?
  • Big Brands Use Few @Replies

    A new Simply Measured study shows that top brands are still reluctant to engage customers on Twitter. In the fourth quarter of 2013, 98 of the 100 largest global brands tweeted every day, with the average company tweeting 12 times each day. However, @replies trailed. Only 46% of these companies sent one or more @replies each day. Although companies may interact one-on-one with people via direct messages on Twitter, which Simply Measured has no way of tracking, the low percentage makes us wonder how well companies are engaging customers online. Pizza Hut leads the way, representing almost half of the 68,000 @replies sent from the entire top 100. Of course, this is only one metric of an engaged brand on Twitter. Discussion Starters: How would you explain the high level of activity on Twitter but relatively few @replies? Do individual (one-on-one) interactions matter? Is it worth the time spent? What is your own experience interacting one-on-one with brands on Twitter? What examples can you share of @replies or direct messages?
  • Are We More Social Today?

    Studies of people in public spaces show that we may be more social today , despite hypotheses about technology pulling us apart. The Street Life Project in the 1960s and 70s photographed and filmed people in places, such as Bryant Park in New York City, to track how they sat, stood, and interacted with others. At the time, the goal was part of a city planning effort to improve public spaces. Between 2008 and 2010, a University of Pennsylvania research team continued this work by filming people outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They coded 38 hours of footage based on sex, group size, loitering behavior, and phone use. The team found only 3% of adults on cell phones. As lead researcher Keith Hampton says, "In the busiest public spaces, where there are a lot of groups, like this kind of public space, it’s like 3 percent. Three percent. I can’t even see someone on a cellphone right now, but yet how many times have you seen a story that says,'People on cellphones in public spaces is rude, it’s creating all sorts of problems, people are walking into traffic.' I mean, we really have a strong sense that it’s everywhere." Hampton's research also found that people weren't talking to avoid contact with people but rather to kill time waiting for someone; the people on phones were alone. Twenty-four percent of people were alone on the steps, compared to 32% in the 1970s studies of the same spot. These findings support Hampton's other work about whether technology has made us more alone. A New York Times Magazine piece provides a still of the work: Discussion Starters: What's your view of these findings? In what ways do they surprise you—or not? What are some possible limitations of the study in drawing conclusions about how technology has affected us? The research also found that women are out in public today more than they were 40 years ago. What could explain this shift? In what ways has technology made you either more social or more alone?
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