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  • Polite Negative Reviews Can Boost Sales

    How politely someone writes a review can affect how customers react. A new study, "We’ll Be Honest, This Won’t Be the Best Article You’ll Ever Read: The Use of Dispreferred Markers in Word-of-Mouth Communication," published in the Journal of Consumer Research, gave subjects five versions of online reviews. Reviews that included nice phrases, such as, "I’ll be honest," and "I don’t want to be mean, but…" influenced people to possibly pay more for a product, even though the review was negative. A University of Chicago Press article further described the results: "The study also asked participants to complete a survey evaluating the 'personality' of the brand. Results showed that the review using the marker of politeness caused the brand to be seen as more honest, cheerful, down-to-earth, and wholesome than the same review without the polite customer complaint." Discussion Starters: How might you explain the study results? In what ways do they make sense to you—or not? Read the entire study and assess the methodology using principles in Chapter 9 of the book. How does this study align with principles for conveying bad news in Chapter 8?
  • Communications About California Bus Tragedy

    A terrible bus accident left ten people dead, including five high school students on a Preview Plus tour of Humboldt State College. This was a special trip for first-generation and low-income students see the college where they were accepted and might attend the following year. More than 30 people were injured . A FedEx truck jumped the median and crashed into the bus, creating a horrible scene of students and their chaperones trying to escape. So far, a FedEx spokesperson has made this statement: "Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved in the tragic accident on I-5 in California. We are cooperating fully with authorities as they investigate." Humboldt posted this message on its website: Here are two excerpts from a news conference. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/12/us/orland-california-bus-crash.html?hp&_r=0 Discussion Starters: Assess Homboldt's website post. In what ways is it what you would expect, and how, if it all, is it different? Assess FedEx's statement. Given the recency, is the statement appropriate? Should the company say anything else? Assess the comments in both videos for emotional appeal and handling questions. What works well, and what could be improved?
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  • Transit Authority's Response to the "Spectacular Crash"

    The Chicago Transit Authority isn't saying much about what the Chicago Tribune called a "spectacular crash," and video -watchers are comparing to a disaster movie. More than 30 people were injured in the accident, but the CTA's communications, as PR Daily points out , just stick to the facts: As I theorized during the recent MTA Metro-North accident , as a government-funded organization, CTA is probably following old, conservative rules about showing remorse. Although the CTA says it's investigating all possible causes, Robert Kelly, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308, confirmed that the operator was tired: "Indications are she might have dozed off." Discussion Starters: What advice is CTA likely following in deciding how and what to communicate? What advice would you give the agency if you were the director of communication? Or, another way to think about this is, what's the right thing to do? Prepare a statement that the CTA could send to show that it's run by actual people.
  • Communications About GM's Ignition Trouble

    GM is in a tough spot, apparently having caused 31 accidents and 13 deaths and saying little about them. The Justice Department and Congress are investigating what sounds like a history of ignition problems that weren't fixed. The New York Times published a timeline, " The Deadly History of a Faulty Ignition Switch ," showing accidents dating back to 2003. In addition to the criminal investigation led by the U.S. Attorney's Office, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce announced its investigation plans: Letter to GM CEO Mary Barra Letter to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) Both letters mention a bunch of documentation to be submitted by March 25: Meanwhile, Barra is keeping GM employees updated. On March 4, she posted this message on GM's intranet : Dear GM Employee: As employees of General Motors, many of us have been asked about our recently announced recall. I would like to make sure you know where we stand and what we are doing about it. First and foremost, everything we are doing is guided by one unwavering principle: do what is best for our customer. Customer safety and satisfaction are at the heart of every decision we make. Our process for determining whether and when to recall a vehicle is decided by experienced technical experts. They do their work independent of managers with responsibilities for other aspects of the business, so that their decisions are made solely on technical facts and engineering analysis. When this was brought to my team a few weeks ago, we acted without hesitation to go well beyond the decision by the technical experts. Specifically, we: Created a working group of senior executives, which I lead, to direct our response, monitor our progress and make adjustments as necessary. Empowered our dealers with resources to provide affected customers with the peace of mind they deserve. Coordinated with our supplier to ramp up development and validation of replacement parts to get them into the field as fast as possible. Provided federal regulators with comprehensive information on this issue. Launched an internal review to give us an unvarnished report on what happened. We will hold ourselves accountable and improve our processes so our customers do not experience this again. We sincerely apologized to our customers and others who have a stake in GM’s success. Of course, recalls of this size and scope always take time to play out. Various other parties will naturally be involved, and GM will cooperate fully. You can expect additional developments in the near term. That has led some to ask if the recall of these out-of-production vehicles might affect our company’s reputation or sales of our current models. My answer is simple: that’s not the issue. The vehicles we make today are the best in memory and I’m confident that they will do fine, on their own merits. And our company’s reputation won’t be determined by the recall itself, but by how we address the problem going forward. What is important is taking great care of our customers and showing that it really is a new day at GM. While I deeply regret the circumstances that brought us to this point, I appreciate how today’s GM has responded so far. We have much more work ahead of us and I’m confident we will do the right thing for our customers. Mary When GM publishes documents to answer the committee's request, particularly for points 8 and 9, customer and internal communications also will be interesting to read. Discussion Starters: How can GM gather all of the required information? Which groups within GM do you think are involved in pulling this together? Analyze the House Committee's letters. What differences and similarities do you notice? How are they organized? What's interesting (or not) about the tone and word choice? Analyze Barra's communication to employees. How might you react if you were an employee? What works well about the message, and what could you improve?
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  • Is Malaysia Airlines Doing Enough?

    It's been two days since a Malaysia Airlines flight with 227 passengers and 12 crew members has been lost, and relatives are angry. The flight is now assumed to have crashed, with some signs of wreckage. But the real fallout now is the airline's lack of communication. Quotations in a Reuters article show family members' distress: "There's no one from the company here; we can't find a single person. They've just shut us in this room and told us to wait." "We want someone to show their face. They haven't even given us the passenger list." "They're treating us worse than dogs." On its website, the company revealed its " dark site ," a page that companies create in anticipation of a crisis. Oddly, the airline kept the name in the URL, shown here. The page gave information about what happened and what actions the airline is taking currently: Monday, March 10, 05:30 PM MYT +0800 Malaysia Airlines MH370 Flight Incident - 10th Media Statement The purpose of this statement is to update on emergency response activities at Malaysia Airlines. On notification of the incident the following steps have been taken:- The EOC:- 1. Activation of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in the early morning of 8 March 2014. The EOC is the central command and control facility responsible for carrying out emergency management functions at the strategic level during a disaster. 2. In addition to the EOC, various departments of Malaysia Airlines are also addressing to all the different needs during this crisis. Family Management 1. Malaysia Airlines is working closely with the government of China to expedite the issuance of passports for the families intending to travel to Malaysia, as well as with the immigration of Malaysia on the issuance of their visas into Malaysia. 2. Malaysia Airlines is deploying an additional aircraft to bring the families from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur on 11 March 2014. 3. When the aircraft is located, a Response Coordination Centre (RCC) will be established within the vicinity to support the needs of the families. This has been communicated specifically to the families. 4. Once the Response Coordination Centre is operational, we will provide transport and accommodation to the designated areas for the family members. 5. Our one world partners have been engaged to help bring family members in other countries aside from China into Kuala Lumpur. Search and Rescue 1. Malaysia Airlines has been actively cooperating with the search and rescue authorities coordinated by the Department of Civil Aviation Malaysia (DCA) and the Ministry of Transport 2. DCA has confirmed that search and rescue teams from Australia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines, New Zealand and the United States of America have come forward to assist. We are grateful for these efforts. We also want to address a few common queries from the media. We are receiving many queries about how the passengers with the stolen passports purchased their tickets. We are unable to comment on this matter as this is a security issue. We can however confirm that we have given all the flight details to the authorities for further investigation. We also confirm that we are making necessary arrangements for MH370 passengers' families from Beijing to travel to Kuala Lumpur. However, flight details of the families’ arrival are highly confidential. This is to protect the privacy and well-being of the families during this difficult time and to respect their space. Our position is not to reveal any information on the flight or movements of the families. Malaysia Airlines' primary focus at this point in time is to care for the families of the passengers and crew of MH370. This means providing them with timely information, travel facilities, accommodation, meals, medical and emotional support. The costs for these are all borne by Malaysia Airlines. All other Malaysia Airlines’ flights are as per schedule. The safety of our passengers and crew has always been and will continue to be of utmost importance to us. The airline continues to work with the authorities and we appreciate the help we are receiving from all local and international parties and agencies during this critical and difficult time. Malaysia Airlines reiterates that it will continue to be transparent in communicating with the general public via the media on all matters affecting MH370. Discussion Starters: Assess Malaysia Airlines' statement. What works well, and what could be improved? What's missing from the statement that you might see in similar posts about a tragedy? What could account for this omission? Timing? Culture? Language? Something else?
  • Cornell President Announces Plans to Leave

    Cornell President David Skorton will leave the university in July 2015 to become the secretary of the Smithsonian. In a Smithsonian announcement , Skorton gave this statement: "Becoming a part of the Smithsonian is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead an institution that is at the heart of the country’s cultural, artistic, historical and scientific life. I am honored by the Board of Regents’ decision. I look forward with great enthusiasm to partnering with the excellent staff and volunteers, and engaging with the Regents, Congress and the Smithsonian’s many friends, supporters and affiliates to further extend our reach. I am eager to work with the leaders of Washington’s art, science and cultural centers to emphasize the critical importance of these disciplines." Skorton's email to the Cornell community echoed his enthusiasm for the Smithsonian and focused on continuing his work with Cornell through the sesquicentennial. Dear Colleagues and Friends, This morning, Robin and I are in Washington, D.C. for the announcement that I will become the next Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution on July 1, 2015. The Smithsonian is one of our true national treasures, and I am honored to have the opportunity to help shape its cultural, artistic, historic, scientific and public engagement endeavors. Although the transition is in the news today, our work on behalf of Cornell is not done. I will continue all the duties and activities of my Cornell office through this and the next entire academic year, advancing the full array of university initiatives, celebrating our sesquicentennial and ensuring a successful transition to the next president. Robin will continue her work in the College of Veterinary Medicine on the Ithaca campus and at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City through June 30, 2015, along with continuing her role as a Cornell ambassador for the sesquicentennial events yet to come. After we all celebrate Cornell’s sesquicentennial, we will carry with us the enduring spirit of Cornell and its remarkably talented community of scholars, students, staff and alumni with whom we have had the privilege to collaborate during these past eight years. From our very first Cornell Reunion in June 2006, a few weeks before we were officially on board, Robin and I were knit into the fabric of a remarkable community. We have learned so much as part of the Cornell family, from our periodic stays in Mary Donlon Hall during Orientation, to our day-to-day activities on the campuses, to our interactions with our wonderful alumni. We continue to cherish your support, guidance and friendship. We will be back in Ithaca this evening. We look forward to seeing and talking with many of you in person as our transition unfolds. We also look forward to seeing you at the many events being planned to celebrate Cornell’s sesquicentennial, beginning this fall. Warm regards, David -- David J. Skorton President Cornell University Image source . Discussion Starters: Analyze President Skorton's message to the Cornell community. How do the organization, audience focus, and content work well, and what could be improved? What differences, if any, do you notice in message and tone between Skorton's Smithsonian announcement and the email announcement?
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  • RadioShack Closes 1,100 Stores

    RadioShack is closing 1,100 stores , representing almost 20% of its total number. Blaming decreased traffic and weak cell phone sales, company executives presented the company's plan in a fourth quarter call for investors . (Access the call: (888) 286-8010, replay pass code 13147362.) On the call, CEO Joe Magnacca discusses reasons for declining sales and strategic plans. He also praises the company's successful Super Bowl's ad. In a news release , the company maintains a positive outlook, quoting Magnacca: "Even in this environment, we're continuing to make progress on the five pillars of our turnaround plan: repositioning the brand, revamping the product assortment, reinvigorating the stores, operational efficiency and financial flexibility." A video on the website, "Do It Together Campaign," promotes part of the company's new direction. In 2006, RadioShack was criticized for communicating layoffs in an email that read, "The work force reduction notification is currently in progress. Unfortunately your position is one that has been eliminated." We have no word yet on these layoffs are communicated internally. Discussion Starters: What are the key messages of RadioShack's four communications presented here: the ad, the DIT video, the press release, and the investor call? What works well about the ad and DIT video, and what could be improved in each?
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  • PIMCO CEO Resigns in "Long" and "Thoughtful" Email to Employees

    PIMCO CEO and Co-CIO Mohamed El-Erian resigned suddenly, and Business Insider obtained a copy of his internal communication to employees . Some speculate about "fatigue" and "tension" among the leadership team. Business Insider provided this excerpt from the email: I was so fortunate back in April 1999 to join such an exceptional firm. I vividly remember how I immediately felt at home in a culture that always puts the client first, that is determined to excel, and that values thought leadership as a foundation for continued success. During my wonderful time at PIMCO, I worked with amazing colleagues who taught and inspired me. I grew professionally and personally. I made lasting friendships. And I had great fun. But the significance of the “I” pales when compared to the “we” and “you.” Collectively as a firm, we have achieved amazing things for our clients around the world. It is hard to believe when you see today’s PIMCO but, back then, I joined in 1999 a firm that had some $150 billion in assets under management, serving essentially US clients. We offered primarily core fixed income U.S. products. And we were around 500 colleagues working in 4 offices. Today we are around 2,500 in 13 offices around the world. Our truly global client base has entrusted us with some $2 trillion in assets to manage. And we provide them with a much more diversified set of investment products whose performance continues to excel – once again, over 90 percent of our assets under management are out-performing their benchmarks for the last 5-year period (as of December 31, 2013, before fees). Yes, collectively, we have been on a meaningful and amazing journey – of serving well more clients, in more places, and with an expanding set of investment solutions to help them meet their objectives. As you can imagine, the last six years have been particularly exciting and significant as we have helped our clients navigate a global financial crisis and its aftermath. Together, we have worked very hard to safeguard and grow their retirement funds, pensions, investments and savings . And because PIMCO delivered, they have rewarded the firm’s hard and effective work by almost tripling our assets under management during this six year period. Or, from another perspective, it took PIMCO 39 years to reach the first $1 trillion mark and just over 3 years to reach the $2 trillion mark. It has been a period of amazing growth in other meaningful ways too. We are a much stronger and more diversified firm. Our increasing revenues achieved yet another new record in 2013, as did the level of PIMCO’s profits. Our assets under management are more diversified with the share of non-traditional (non-core fixed income) assets, which stood at 56 percent of our business in December 2007 when I rejoined as CEO and co-CIO, now at 66 percent – and this is despite that fact that PIMCO’s traditional business continued to grow strongly over this period. We are also a much more global firm, and getting more so by the day. In the last six years alone, the share of our non-US business has risen to over 30 percent, and again notwithstanding solid growth in our U.S.-based business. Together, we have done more than successfully expand and diversify PIMCO – we have also successfully grown and made significant strides in diversifying our people. Our expanding Inclusion and Diversity programs have become an integral part of our talent management and, already, are an important contributor to our success. That, together with our closely-related collective emphasis on promoting and engendering cognitive diversity, puts PIMCO in an even better position to deliver more for our clients in the future. Because of the way we have done all this – namely, by never losing sight of our mission to deliver to clients superior long-term investment performance, world class client servicing, innovative products, and the right mix of business resilience and agility – PIMCO’s success has been recognized worldwide; and not just by the multiple awards (including last week’s Morningstar award for Alfred Murata and Dan Ivascyn, joining Bill Gross and Mark Kiesel as past winners) but also, most importantly, by the very high level of client satisfaction. You are extremely talented, dedicated, and hard working in serving clients. You provide a level of investment excellence, intellectual stimulation and operational efficiency that also allow others to grow and shine. You interact in a way that make the whole much bigger than the sum of the parts. You find a way to maintain your composure and effectiveness regardless of the volatility of markets. And, somehow, you do all this again and again! What is really impressive about you is not limited to what you consistently deliver to our clients and how you do so; it is also about how you find the time and energy to also give back to...
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  • Target's Latest Communication with Customers

    Target had to take some responsibility for the security breach that affected millions of customers . A New York Times investigation reported that, "cybersecurity and credit experts and consumers shows that Target’s system was particularly vulnerable to attack. It was remarkably open, experts say, which enabled hackers to wander from system to system, scooping up batches of information." This is the latest email to customers. Download the email . See previous messages . Discussion Starters: Assess Target's email in terms of audience perspective, organization, content, word choice, and so on. What works well, and what could be improved? Write another communication for Target—one that would have been sent in December when the breach was first discovered.
  • No Apology About the Metro-North Derailment?

    Metro-North is communicating little since a railroad from Poughkeepsie, NY, to Grand Central Station, NYC, derailed , leaving 67 people injured and 4 dead—and an apology doesn't seem forthcoming. No where online does the organization seem to show remorse or any emotion for the impact on people. Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) communications have been paltry, focusing on service issues alone. I suspect the organization is operating under old-school rules, with lawyers cautioning against an apology for fear of admitting guilt. If this is the case, it's a strange mindset: it's unlikely the passengers are responsible in some way , and we know that the train was traveling 82 m.p.h. on a curve with a 30 m.p.h. limit. Signs are pointing towards a sleeping conductor, and lawsuits have already been filed. Why doesn't the MTA do the right thing and show some remorse? The Metropolitan Transportation Authority(MTA) website is a curious mix of Christmas tidings, service announcements, coupons, and hidden messages. Under the "Transparency" tab on site, under the title " Current News ," we see the latest articles, including December 2, when the accident occured: Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - 18:43 MTA Metro-North Railroad Announces Full Hudson Line Service Thursday Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - 15:12 See A Christmas Story,The Musical with LIRR Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - 15:06 LIRR Gets You to Radio City's Christmas Spectacular Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - 14:53 Our Gift to You – Coupon Savings! Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - 13:52 Metro-North Crews Rebuild Spuyten Duyvil Tracks Tuesday, December 3, 2013 - 15:03 Six Lanes For Holiday Travelers At Bronx-Whitestone Monday, December 2, 2013 - 10:21 Metro-North Hudson Line Service Alert The article on December 2, " Metro-North Hudson Line Service Alert " is where we find the news. But the bad news is assumed (never previously announced) in the first paragraph and then introduced, oddly, in the ninth paragraph. No mention is made of the 11 critical injuries and four deaths caused by the accident: Following Sunday's derailment of a Hudson Line train in the Bronx, MTA Metro-North Railroad is operating limited service on the Hudson Line between Poughkeepsie and Yonkers. For travel to Manhattan, customers can catch a shuttle bus at the Yonkers Station to connect with the 242nd Street terminus of the Broadway 1 Subway Line Icon local subway. New York City Subways will operate two additional 1 Subway Line Icon local trains per hour during the peak periods. Hudson Line will continue to be cross-honored on the subway. Many of the 26,000 people who use the Hudson Line on an average weekday are encouraged to ride the Harlem Line as an alternative. People who do not have to travel are urged to telecommute. People should expect crowded trains. In cooperation with Westchester and Putnam counties and local municipalities, special parking is being arranged to accommodate additional drivers at the Southeast Station at the northern terminus of the Harlem line and at KensicoDam, which is in walking distance to the Valhalla station. Riders should consult mta.info for additional information on the continuing repair effort and service restoration. Metro-North Customer Service representatives will be on hand to assist customers in making the transfers. Cranes and other special heavy equipment are being positioned to remove the rail cars from the area so that repairs can begin. The equipment will arrive this evening begin work following clearance from the NTSB and work will continue through the night. The accident occurred just before 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, a southbound, Hudson Line train with about 120 passengers on board derailed just north of the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx. All cars derailed. The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team of investigators who arrived on Sunday and immediately began documenting the scene. Metro-North is cooperating fully with that investigation. With NTSB approval, Metro-North workers will begin clearing the cars, using cranes and heavy equipment. Customers are advised to check the website for the latest service updates. A Twitter search for an apology revealed nothing. Metro-North tweeted a flurry of apologies about service failures before the accident, and one rider posted an MTA text message apologizing for service back in August. A NY Daily News article from November 11 tells us we should expect nothing like an apology: "The MTA doesn’t issue an apology when someone is hit by a subway train — and it doesn’t whip out the checkbook, either. "About 90% of the 92 “man-under” lawsuits that were resolved in the last five years ended in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s favor, according to a breakdown by the MTA. "The MTA didn’t pay a dime in 73 of those cases. It dispensed with another nine cases with paltry go-away...
  • Yale Communicates During "Lockdown"

    Yale University had a communication challenge after a threatening phone call caused a campus lockdown. A student reported that his roommate was planning to go to campus with a gun. Later, the police interviewed a witness who saw someone with a "long gun." The call turned out to be a hoax, and reports of someone with a gun could have been a police officer, who were making their way to the scene. Still, the university sprung into action, possibly with concerns about another Virginia Tech or Sandy Hook shooting. The university policy department provided updates on its Facebook Page. Appropriate for crisis communications, these bad-news messages use the direct style: the main point is right up front. Now, on Yale's Emergency Management site, we see no mention of a potential gunman. Likely the university would like to see the entire incident go away. Discussion Starters: Look for other university communications about the incident. What else can you find? Although I can't find the email on the web, the articles reference one sent from the university to students and parents. What do you think was included in the message? Draft a possible outline of the email.
  • AOL CEO Fires Employee During a Conference Call

    Tim Armstrong, AOL CEO, may have acted impulsively during a conference call when he terminated an employee on the spot. Frustrated with Patch , a division of AOL that hosts websites with local news and information, Armstrong was explaining the future of Patch to about 1,000 employees . Part of the plan is to reduce the number of sites from 900 to 600. At about 2:00 into this clip, Armstrong tells Abel Lenz, Patch's creative director, to "put that camera down." Apparently, Lenz regularly recorded meetings and posted pictures on AOL's intranet. Then Armstrong said, "Abel, you're fired. Out." After a few seconds of silence, Armstrong continued, "If you guys think that AOL has not been committed to Patch, and won’t stay committed to Patch, you’re wrong. The company has spent hundreds of millions of dollars, the board of directors is committed, I’m committed. . . ." According to sources, the call lasted one hour and forty minutes; it's unclear at what point during the call this segment took place. SFGate explains Armstrong's position: "A few minutes later, Armstrong complained about leaks to the media. He said the leaks were making Patch seem like 'loser-ville' in the press. "He said, 'That's why Abel was fired. We can't have people that are in the locker room giving the game plan away.'" Lenz has been quiet about the incident. He gave a "No comment" response to PR Daily and told Jim Romenesko, "I appreciate the interest, Jim, but I have nothing to share. Go Patch!" Two days later, Armstrong sent this email to all AOL staff : AOLers - I am writing you to acknowledge the mistake I made last Friday during the Patch all-hands meeting when I publicly fired Abel Lenz. It was an emotional response at the start of a difficult discussion dealing with many people’s careers and livelihoods. I am the CEO and leader of the organization, and I take that responsibility seriously. We talk a lot about accountability and I am accountable for the way I handled the situation, and at a human level it was unfair to Abel. I’ve communicated to him directly and apologized for the way the matter was handled at the meeting. My action was driven by the desire to openly communicate with over a thousand Patch employees across the US. The meeting on Friday was the second all-hands we had run that week and people came to Friday’s meeting knowing we would be openly discussing some of the potential changes needed at Patch. As you know, I am a firm believer in open meetings, open Q&A, and this level of transparency requires trust across AOL. Internal meetings of a confidential nature should not be filmed or recorded so that our employees can feel free to discuss all topics openly. Abel had been told previously not to record a confidential meeting, and he repeated that behavior on Friday, which drove my actions. We have been through many difficult situations in turning around AOL and I have done my best to make the best decisions in the long-term interest of the employees and the company. On Friday I acted too quickly and I learned a tremendous lesson and I wanted you to hear that directly from me. We have tough decisions and work to do on Patch, but we’re doing them thoughtfully and as openly as we can. At AOL, we had strong earnings last week and we’re adding one of the best companies in the world to the team. AOL is in a great position, and we’ll keep moving forward. Discussion Starters: Defend Armstrong's actions. What else could be happening at the company to justify the firing? What are the potential dangers of an employee intranet site, where news and other company information is shared among employees? How do you asssess Armstrong's email to staff? What works well, and what could be improved?
  • Set Up for Disappointment at the Daily Voice

    At the Daily Voice, a group of local-news websites, we see another example of how the indirect style is ill conceived in bad-news messages . Based on this Friday email, would employees expect layoffs on Monday? Carll Tucker is the company chairman, and Zohar Yardeni was the CEO, who recently resigned. On Monday, the good news came: all 11 of the company's Massachusetts sites would be closed, and major layoffs would take place in Connecticut and New York. Sounds like bad news to me. Gawker offered this advice: "...we would not advise applying for one of the Town Reporter positions currently posted on the Daily Voice's site. If the phone interview goes well, they'll bring you in the next day to punch you in the face." Discussion Starters: What is a better approach for the news of layoffs? When is it appropriate to use the indirect style for bad-new messages?
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  • Fired Groupon CEO's "Just Kidding" Email

    It's not every day that a terminated CEO writes "just kidding" in his final email to employees. Fired after annoucing more disappointing quarterly results, Groupon founder and CEO Andrew Mason tweeted a link to the full email on Jottit himself, noting, "(This is for Groupon employees, but I'm posting it publicly since it will leak anyway)." In the memo to employees , Mason explains how he feels leaving he company he started: People of Groupon, After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I've decided that I'd like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding - I was fired today. If you're wondering why... you haven't been paying attention. From controversial metrics in our S1 to our material weakness to two quarters of missing our own expectations and a stock price that's hovering around one quarter of our listing price, the events of the last year and a half speak for themselves. As CEO, I am accountable. You are doing amazing things at Groupon, and you deserve the outside world to give you a second chance. I'm getting in the way of that. A fresh CEO earns you that chance. The board is aligned behind the strategy we've shared over the last few months, and I've never seen you working together more effectively as a global company - it's time to give Groupon a relief valve from the public noise. For those who are concerned about me, please don't be - I love Groupon, and I'm terribly proud of what we've created. I'm OK with having failed at this part of the journey. If Groupon was Battletoads, it would be like I made it all the way to the Terra Tubes without dying on my first ever play through. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to take the company this far with all of you. I'll now take some time to decompress (FYI I'm looking for a good fat camp to lose my Groupon 40, if anyone has a suggestion), and then maybe I'll figure out how to channel this experience into something productive. If there's one piece of wisdom that this simple pilgrim would like to impart upon you: have the courage to start with the customer. My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what's best for our customers. This leadership change gives you some breathing room to break bad habits and deliver sustainable customer happiness - don't waste the opportunity! I will miss you terribly. Love, Andrew A New York Times blog entry noted a "trend toward bluntness": "It was inevitable that this trend toward bluntness would arise in the tech world, where failure is seen above all as an opportunity for spiritual growth." Discussion Starters: What's your view of a CEO's posting internal bad-news messages online? Consider another recent examples: RealNetwork's layoff memo . What are the arguments for and against the decision? Assess Mason's email to employees. If you worked for Groupon from the early days, how do you think you might react? How would you feel about continuing to work for the company?
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  • Yahoo! Email: No More Working from Home

    New Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer is making her mark, but she's ruffling a few feathers. In an email to employees , HR head Jackie Reses asks "all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo! offices." As expected, remote employees aren't too happy about the change. YAHOO! PROPRIETARY AND CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION — DO NOT FORWARD Yahoos, Over the past few months, we have introduced a number of great benefits and tools to make us more productiv e, efficient and f un. With the introduction of initiatives like FYI, Goals and PB&J, we want everyone to participate in our culture and contribute to the positive momentum. From Sunnyvale to Santa Monica, Bangalore to Beijing — I think we can all feel the energy and buzz in our offices. To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo !, and that starts with physically being together. Beginning in June, we’re asking all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo! offices. If this impacts you, your management has already been in touch with next steps. And, for the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration. Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices. Thanks to all of you, we’ve already made remarkable progress as a company — and the best is yet to come. Jackie Hundreds of Yahoo! employees currently are working remotely, including customer service representatives and workers who don't have a Yahoo! office close by. After a series of layoffs, Yahoo! may be taking a different approach to reducing headcount and increasing productivity. Some speculate that employees who can't or won't make the change will quit, making reductions easy. Yahoo! responded to the controversy with only these statements: "This isn't a broad industry view on working from home. This is about what is right for Yahoo right now." "We don't discuss internal matters." The email inspired a wave of articles, include a Wall Street Journal cover story covering the number of people, benefits, and possible career derailment from working remotely. Discussion Starters: How would you describe the tone and approach of the Yahoo! email? Yahoo! management clearly didn't want the email to be released. What, if anything, could have prevented this? What's your reaction to employees' forwarding the message: are they justified, acting inappropriately, or something else? Why would an employee forward an email that's marked "proprietary and confidential"?
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