Business Communication


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Business Communication with Cengage Learning


  • Joy Behar Roasts Chris Christie

    The video is rough , but we can watch comedian Joy Behar roast New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at an event to celebrate a former governor's 90th birthday. Behar poked fun at Christie's weight and the bridge scandal: "When I first heard that he was accused of blocking off three lanes on the bridge, I said, ‘What the hell is he doing, standing in the middle of the bridge?" A story in The New Yorker described the scene in the video above: "After another barb, Christie interrupted her. 'This is a Byrne roast,' he said. He stood up and tried to grab her notes. The audience laughed awkwardly. 'Stop bullying me,' Behar said as he sat down. Christie said something out of earshot and Behar responded, 'Why don’t you get up here at the microphone instead of being such a coward?' Christie stood up again and moved in front of the lectern as Behar retreated. 'At least I don’t get paid for this,' he said. "Christie sat down and Behar continued, though she was noticeably rattled. 'I really don’t know about the Presidency,” she said. 'Let me put it to you this way, in a way that you’d appreciate: You’re toast.'" Discussion Starters: After watching the video clip, I wouldn't have described the scene as The New Yorker author did. How about you? What could explain the difference? What's a roast? Research the history and purpose. Why are insults accepted—even expected—while they would be shunned in most business settings?
  • Barra Answers Tough Questions at the Hearing

    GM CEO Mary Barra faced a panel of angry senators at the hearing investigating the company's failure to fix faulty ignition switches. Barra began by reading her testimony: The New York Times describes the scene: "As family members of victims looked on, senators repeatedly cut off Ms. Barra, scolded her over failing to have answers and zeroed in on G.M.’s potential criminal liability for failing to fix defective ignition switches in millions of small cars for more than a decade." The Times blog identified a few highlights from the questioning, including this reaction from a victim's father: "She’s not doing anything except stonewalling and saying she’s a mother and has children and is sorry and is communicating with the families." Discussion Starters: Assess Barra's initial testimony . What works well in convincing the senators, and what could be improved? One of Barra's strategies is to try to distinguish herself from the "old GM." How well is this strategy working? Watch more of the hearings on YouTube or news sites. How well is Barra handling the senators' questions?
  • Mayalsia Airlines and PM Announce Demise of Flight MH370

    The Mayalsia 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?
  • Malaysia Prime Minister's News Conference About Missing Flight

    The prime minister of Malaysia spoke about missing flight MH370 at a news conference. He begins by showing respect for the families, which is appropriate, and then provides what little information he knows. Most of the conference focuses on the search process. His English is difficult to understand, but couldn't someone do a better job of captioning his speech on YouTube? Surely, he had a script that could be shared with the press and other organizations. Are these "Automatic Captions" worth posting? Discussion Starters: Assess the prime minister's news conference. What works well about the content, organization, and delivery, and what could be improved? What are the main messages you take away from his presentation?
  • Mary Barra's Video Message to GM Employees

    As communication experts question GM's "no comment" strategy with the press, CEO Mary Barra continues her communication with employees. In a four-minute video , Barra addresses what a New York Times article calls "a decade-long failure to fix a defect tied to 12 deaths." While people and companies are increasingly criticized for false apologies , Barra tries to go beyond a simple apology: "We have apologized, but that is only one step in the journey to resolve this." Of course, the company has little choice considering the federal investigations; it must take more action. The video complements an intranet post for employees on March 4 that outlined GM's investigation plans and expressed confidence in the future. Discussion Starters: Assess Barra's video. What works well, and what could be improved in the organization, content, and delivery? What key messages do you take from the video? How do they compare to Barra's message to employees on March 4 ? Why is Barra choosing employee messages as her primary communication vehicle? She has declined interviews with the press. On the other hand, the video is public on GM's website and YouTube. What's her strategy?
  • Funny: Academic Gestures

    A " Glossary of Gestures for Critical Discussion " pokes fun at us academics, who merely try to spice up a lecture and keep students engaged. My favorite is the "Italian waiter: Use when making a cultural observation." If you're inclined, you can order rulers or coasters with the gestures. At least the gestures answer Will Farrell's question in the movie Talledega Nights: "What do I do with my hands?" Discussion Starters: Watch you professors during the next class: how many can you identify? What other gestures do your professors use? Do you notice a difference in how business and other faculty use gestures?
  • Ellen Page Comes Out

    In a speech hosted by the Human Rights Campaign, Actress Ellen Page came out as gay. Her voice is shaking, and she's doing this bouncing thing with her arm. She's clearly nervous. So what? To me, this is a good example of someone who's understandably uncomfortable. Does it detract from her message or endear her to the audience? Discussion Starters: What's your view of Page's nervousness? In what ways did it help and hurt her speech? Why was Page so nervous? Is it a big deal to be gay today?
  • CVS Announces No More Cigarette Sales

    CVS will stop selling tobacco products in its stores. Under the heading, "This is the right thing to do," the company explained the plan on its website . Business Insider calls the move "a clear victory for public health" and "a shrewd tactic to bolster the public image of the pharmacy chain, which is increasingly positioning itself as a health care provider, not just a one-stop shop for greeting cards and cosmetics." Management expects to more than make up the expected $2 billion revenue loss with other services. Without tobacco sales, CVS can boost its in-store MinuteClinics, which operate like health clinics, offering flu-shots and services for minor ailments. Discussion Starters: Assess the CEO's video message. What works well, and what could be improved? Assess video messages by other CVS executives on the company website .
  • President Obama's State of the Union

    Yesterday, President Obama delivered the State of the Union address. A Wall Street Journal graphic summarizes the 86 times the President's speech was interrupted by applause. The winning comments were about a military officer who almost lost his life in Afghanistan and about equal pay for women. Although the graphic headline reads, "How the President's Speech Was Received," the reaction represents only those listening to the address in person. Discussion Starters: How do you think the general population might have reacted differently than the in-person audience did? What specific parts of the speech might have received less applause? A former student emailed me: "Don't these speeches seem to lack any structure?" Do you agree? If so, what can politicans do differently? What are the strongest and weakest parts of the President's speech?
  • Christie's Timely Annual Address

    Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey, already had a scheduled annual address, so he took the opportunity to discuss the bridge controversy . Admitting that "our citizens deserve better, much better," Christie took responsibility for "what happens on my watch" and promised to cooperate with investigations. Christie also tried to reinstall confidence by saying that what happened "does not define us or our state." To a standing ovation, Christie said he "will not allow the work that needs to be done to improve the people's lives of New Jersey to be delayed for any reason." Discussion Starters: Analyze this section of Christie's speech in terms of delivery style, content, and organization. Watch the entire address. What's your assessment of this section of the speech? Is the placement appropriate? Is it in keeping with the rest of the speech? What other observations do you have after seeing this section in context?
  • Marissa Mayer Gives CES Keynote

    Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer gave the keynote speech at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. CES is a gathering of gadget geeks and tech enthusiasts, and Mayer's presence was a nod to Yahoo's place in the future of the Internet. Mayer emphasized the shift to mobile technology and announced Yahoo News Digest, news delivered to users twice a day. At some point, Katie Couric joined Mayer on stage. Couric , former TV talk-show host, was recently hired as global news anchor for Yahoo News. Watch CNBC's analysis of Mayer's keynote. Discussion Starters: Assess the excerpt of Mayer's speech: what do you notice about the delivery style, content, and organization? What's your reaction to CNBC's analysis of the speech?
  • Virgin America's Safety Video Tops 7.8 Million Views

    A flight safety video that people want to watch? Virgin America has surpassed Delta's and other creative in-flight videos by producing a fun, catchy musical. What strikes me about this and all flight safety videos is the requirement to show us how to put on a seat belt. The video pokes fun ("For the .001 percent of you who have never operated a seat belt before..."), but apparently the FAA or whatever agency regulates these issues won't relent. Discussion Starters: Look at Delta's and other airlines' safety videos. Which are best and why? What, if any, downsides do you see of showing Virgin's video on a flight?
  • Newspaper Regrets Referring to Gettysburg Address as "Silly Remarks"

    Imagine a newspaper dismissing Lincoln's Gettysburg Address as insignificant. This week, a Harriburg, Pennsylvania paper retracted a 1863 editorial : "We pass over the silly remarks of the President. For the credit of the nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them, and that they shall be no more repeated or thought of." Patriot & Union Editorial, 1863: On the Gettysburg Address It's a little late, but the timing is appropriate: on Tuesday, we'll celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. Image source . Discussion Starters: Why wait 150 years? Why not 100? Or 50? Why publish a retraction at all? What justification do you see for the initial review? What other reactions were prevalent at the time?
  • WSJ Article on Narratives

    A Wall Street Journal article reminds us to tell stories to engage our audiences. The article isn't new for business communication students, but the advice is sound: "Move beyond facts and figures, which aren't as memorable as narratives, says Cliff Atkinson, a communications consultant from Kensington, Calif., and author of 'Beyond Bullet Points.' "Many people in business think raw data is persuasive. But when you're dealing with people from other departments and in different fields who don't understand how you got that data, you can lose them pretty quickly. "'You have to step back and put yourself into their shoes and take them through the process of understanding,' says Mr. Atkinson. 'That requires you to distill the most important facts and wrap them in an engaging story.' " Discussion Starters: Think about a presentation you delivered recently. Where could you have included a story? In that same presentation, how could you have expressed data in a more meaningful way?
  • Should Jamie Dimon Resign? CNBC Says No.

    CNBC is accused of being less than objective in assessing whether JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon should resign. In a pointed blog post , Reuters reporter Felix Salmon refers to CNBC producers and hosts as Dimon's "biggest cheerleaders" and criticizes them of not considering the whole story. Titled, "The JP Morgan apologists of CNBC," the post includes a clip from CNBC showing hosts asking leading questions. Readers may recall that JP Morgan Chase lost a risky trading hedge that could amount to to $20 billion in fines. Salmon highlights this excerpt from the video as an example of CNBC's tone: Maria Bartiromo : Alex, to you first. Legal problems aside, JP Morgan remains one of the best, if not the best performing major bank in the world today. You believe the leader of that bank should step down? Alex Pareene : I think that any time you’re looking at the greatest fine in the history of Wall Street regulation, it’s really worth asking should this guy stay in his job. In any other industry — I can’t think of another industry. If you managed a restaurant, and it got the biggest health department fine in the history of restaurants, no one would say “Yeah, but the restaurant’s making a lot of money. There’s only a little bit of poison in the food.” The arguments on both sides use several reasoning types we discuss in class: criteria, analogy, dissocation, and others. Discussion Starters: How do you assess the interview? Is CNBC biased in its view? How are principles of persuasion used in the arguments? What examples do you see of reasoning types, fallacies, and evidence?
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