Business Communication


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Business Communication with Cengage Learning


  • Apologies for Racist Jokes, Homophobic Slur

    Justin Bieber and Jonah Hill have more than their celebrity in common this week. Both have apologized for making offensive comments. Two six-year-old videos of Bieber telling racist jokes surfaced, and he has apologized. TMZ published his statement : Justin tells TMZ, "As a kid, I didn't understand the power of certain words and how they can hurt. I thought it was ok to repeat hurtful words and jokes, but didn't realize at the time that it wasn't funny and that in fact my actions were continuing the ignorance." Justin goes on, "Thanks to friends and family I learned from my mistakes and grew up and apologized for those wrongs. Now that these mistakes from the past have become public I need to apologize again to all those I have offended." Justin continues, "I'm very sorry. I take my friendships with people of all cultures very seriously and I apologize for offending or hurting anyone with my childish and inexcusable mistake. I was a kid then and I am a man now who knows my responsibility to the world and to not make that mistake again." And Justin says, "Ignorance has no place in our society and I hope the sharing of my faults can prevent others from making the same mistake in the future. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to say but telling the truth is always what's right." Justin ends with this: "Five years ago I made a reckless and immature mistake and I'm grateful to those close to me who helped me learn those lessons as a young man. Once again....I'm sorry." But an LA Times article called this apology and another that quoted scripture "unacceptable." The videos are disturbing: in one he asks, "Why are black people afraid of chainsaws?" and then imitates the sound of a chainsaw and repeats "n..." several times. Another apology this week came from Jonah Hill. In this (albeit very different) situation, Hill yelled a homophobic slur to a paparazzo . We see his apology here on the Jimmy Fallon show: Discussion Starters: What's your assessment of Beiber's comments and apology? Do you agree with the LA Times article that his apology was insufficient? Should he have done something different? How do you interpret Hill's remark, given his vocal support of LGBTQ equality? What's your assessment of his apology?
  • American Girl Discontinues Only Asian Doll and One of Two Black Dolls

    As the United States becomes more diverse, American Girl dolls become less so. The company has updated its line to exclude Ivy, its only Asian doll, and Cecile, one of its two Black dolls. Customer backlash was intense. On the American Girl Facebook page, one critic wrote, "Seriously AG… You are getting rid of the ONLY Asian girl in your historical line-up. It was disappointing enough that she was only a 'side-kick' doll to Julie, but she was better than nothing….. which is what we have now. How can the historical line represent American if there are no Asians?" The company says it is moving away from dolls sold in pairs to focus on dolls sold individually. The four shown here are part of the historical line. American Girl issued a statement, which ABC News posted , in part: " At nearly one million strong, we’re proud of the relationships we’ve built with our dedicated Facebook community. Our fans are very passionate and many of our posts generate a high level of engagement, including comments, likes and shares. Certainly we know that whenever we announce that a character is archiving, it will cause some level of disappointment, especially among our most ardent fans… While demand for characters certainly plays a part in our overall decision making, the main reason for this year’s approach is based on the decision to move away from our friend-character strategy within the historical line. This decision affected Marie-Grace, Ruthie, as well as Ivy and Cecile—the first two racially diverse characters to be archived by American Girl. In comparison, American Girl will be archiving a total of nine Caucasian characters since 2008." Discussion Starters: Should American Girl have anticipated the backlash? Should that have changed the company's decision to "archive" these characters? How do you assess the American Girl statement? What works well, and what could be improved?
  • U.S. Languages and Immigrants

    Microsoft announced that Skype will now offer translation for people using the video-chat tool. This is good news for people who want to connect in different languages. The map, below, shows languages spoken within the United States after English and Spanish . You may find some surprises here. In related news, a recent Business Insider article includes a 2010 U.S. map compared to a 1910 map, showing where immigrants come from, mostly commonly Mexico today. The map, based on Pew research, gives us an interesting perspective on cultural diversity within the United States. Discussion Starters: What, if anything, surprises you about the data? How does this information affect business communication? What effect does it have on your own thinking about how you communicate with people?
  • Companies Adapt to Latin American Markets

    Mashable describes several good examples of how companies adapt their marketing approach to different Latin American countries. In Chapter 2 of the book, we saw McDonald's website examples in different countries. The Mashable article, "For Marketers, 'One-Size-Fits-All' Doesn’t Fit in Latin America," features McDonald's along with Coca-Cola and PUMA and highlights a "tip to learn from" for each company: McDonald’s: Showcasing local values Tip to learn from : Taking a regional approach and then localizing it even further, through content, is a powerful way to be impactful in overseas markets. Coca-Cola: Giving consumers in Argentina (and beyond) what they want Tip to learn from : Research and deeply understand local customer demand to create locally tailored products, particularly in emerging markets. PUMA: Understanding Unique Cultural Histories Tip to learn from : Insight into deep-rooted cultural and historical nuances is key to resonant and relevant marketing in emerging markets. Discussion Starters: Read the Mashable article , and discuss how principles in Chapter 2, such as individualism and context sensitivity, play a role in the examples. What potential dangers do you see in tailoring marketing approaches in this way?
  • NBA and Sponsors Respond to Clippers Owner's Offensive Comments

    An audio recording of LA Clippers owner Don Sterling shocked the league with comments that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called "truly offensive and disturbing." The nine-minute recording, released by TMZ , included these statements made to Sterling's girlfriend, who happens to be black and Mexican: "It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?" (3:30) "You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that ... and not to bring them to my games." (5:15) "I’m just saying, in your lousy ******* Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with black people." (7:45) "...Don't put him [Magic] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don't bring him to my games." (9:13) Commissioner Silver made a short statement and then answered questions during a news conference: Head Coach and Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations Doc Rivers made this statement, posted on the NBA website : "I would like to reiterate how disappointed I am in the comments attributed to [Donald Sterling] and I can’t even begin to tell you how upset I am and our players are. Today, I had a meeting with the members of our organization. When you are around all these people, you realize they are just as upset and embarrassed by the situation and it does not reflect who they really are. That was what I got from all of them. They are now a part of this and they are upset at this. But, they are all going to hang in there and so are we - I can tell you that as a group and as a team. From our fans’ standpoint, I want to say that they have been amazing, I can tell you that. We need unbelievable support right now from other people and I’m hoping we get that. My hope is that whatever the fans do, it is as one. I think that is what we all should do. "We want to make the right decisions here. We’re doing our very best to try and do that. We know that fans are in a dilemma as well. We want them to cheer for their players and their team. It will always be their players and their team. From the fans that I have heard from, that’s how they feel. ‘This is my team. These are my players that I’m cheering for and that’s not going to change.’ I hope STAPLES Center is packed and people are cheering for the players. The players are now in the middle of this, and they have to deal with it. "We are all trying to figure out everything as it goes and just do our best and we hope that it is the right answer. I’m still going to do my best and do what I think is best for the team and for everybody in this case. It is very difficult because there are so many emotions in this. This is a very emotional subject, this is personal. "My belief is that the longer we keep winning, the more we talk about this. I believe that is good. If we want to make a statement - I believe that is how we have to do it. I think that is the right way to do it, but that doesn’t mean we still don’t wrestle with it every day and every moment. That is the difficult part. "We are all doing our best here. Our players are doing their best. There are a lot of people involved in this. From one man’s comments, a lot of people have been affected and the conversations that we’re all having do need to be had." As the NBA addresses inquiries, sponsors are pulling out . Mercedes-Benz, CarMax, Virgin America, State Farm, the Chumash Casino Resorts, Red Bull, Kia Motors America, Lumber Liquidators, and Yokohama Tire have all announced an end to or suspension of their advertising agreements. UPDATE: Adam Silver announces that Sterling will be fined the maximum $2.5 million and banned from the NBA for life. Discussion Starters: Although the NBA has been responding to questions, the league has made no comment about the declining sponsorships. What, if anything, should be said at this point? What is suspiciously missing from these communications?
  • New Mozilla CEO Resigns

    Firefox maker Mozilla is in the news because its new CEO was criticized for opposing same-sex marriage. In 2008, he gave $1000 to support Proposition 8, California's ban on gay marriage. Within two weeks of Brendan Eich's appointment, he resigned because of the controversy . On the Mozilla blog , board chair Mitchell Baker wrote this explanation: Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves. We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better. Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO. He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community. Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard. Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness. We welcome contributions from everyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views. Mozilla supports equality for all. We have employees with a wide diversity of views. Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions in public. This is meant to distinguish Mozilla from most organizations and hold us to a higher standard. But this time we failed to listen, to engage, and to be guided by our community. While painful, the events of the last week show exactly why we need the web. So all of us can engage freely in the tough conversations we need to make the world better. We need to put our focus back on protecting that Web. And doing so in a way that will make you proud to support Mozilla. What’s next for Mozilla’s leadership is still being discussed. We want to be open about where we are in deciding the future of the organization and will have more information next week. However, our mission will always be to make the Web more open so that humanity is stronger, more inclusive and more just: that’s what it means to protect the open Web. We will emerge from this with a renewed understanding and humility — our large, global, and diverse community is what makes Mozilla special, and what will help us fulfill our mission. We are stronger with you involved. Thank you for sticking with us. Mitchell Baker, Executive Chairwoman But the situation isn't so clear-cut. A New York Times article discussed the controversy: "The public campaign against Mr. Eich was unseemly and disturbing." The article also quoted The Dish editor : "If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us." Mozilla published an FAQ , denying that Eich was fired or resigned under pressure from the board or employees. For his part, Eich wrote a blog post, "The Next Mission," to announce his resignation and present questions for the company's future. Discussion Starters: Was it the right decision for Eich to resign? Assess the board chair's statement. What works well, and what doesn't seem to work? Read Mozilla's FAQ about the situation. What questions may be missing?
  • American Airlines' "Deaf and Dumb" Note

    American Airlines has apologized for writing a note about a "deaf and dumb" couple. The couple vacationed in Hawaii but had their luggage lost. When they received their baggage, they saw the note shown here. The man's mother called the note "outrageous and cruel and unnecessary." She also said , "The public hopefully has been educated a little more to know that the term 'deaf and dumb' has no place in our society, like other derogatory labeling of other good people." In response, the airline sent this apology : "There was no malicious intent on the part of the baggage handler. He was trying to warn the driver delivering the couple’s lost bag to text them (not call them) for they are both deaf and 'mute.' But he isn’t a native English speaker and a common substitute word in many cultures (obviously, going out of practice in English) is 'dumb.' AA has reached out to the family to apologize & convey there was no insult intended. The handler, along with many other employees, will undergo sensitivity training." Video source: ABC News. Discussion Starters: What's your view of American Airlines' response? Does it adequately explain the situation? We haven't seen the airlines' apology to the couple. What would be an appropriate approach and message? In other words, what media should be used, who should initiate the communication, and what should be said?
  • Facebook's New Gender Options

    Facebook is joining the twenty-first century, offering multiple options when users select "Gender" in their profile. Recognizing that not everyone self-defines as strictly "male" or "female," Facebook now provides more than 50 labels in its drop down menu: On its diversity page , Facebook explains the change: When you come to Facebook to connect with the people, causes, and organizations you care about, we want you to feel comfortable being your true, authentic self. An important part of this is the expression of gender, especially when it extends beyond the definitions of just “male” or female.” So today, we’re proud to offer a new custom gender option to help you better express your own identity on Facebook. ( Read more .) Users also can select the pronoun by which they would be referred on the site: he, she, or they. Students of business communication know that "they" isn't standard as a singular pronoun, although "one" is dated, "she/he" and "she or he" are clunky, and other variations haven't stuck. But considering the large number of gender labels, I wonder why more pronoun options aren't available. Both the Human Rights Commission and GLAAD , which worked with Facebook on the change, applaud the move. Discussion Starters: What's your view of Facebook's new options? What could opponents of the move say? What would be their rationale for limiting gender options? Why don't we have a common, neutral singular pronoun. If you were to invent one, what would it be?
  • McDonald's Vietnamese Communications

    McDonald's has entered the Vietnamese market, opening its first restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City . McDonald's also has a fledgling Vietnamese Facebook page with a mere 143 likes as of this writing. Looking at the photos, McDonald's seems to be marketing to a collectivist society, which defines Vietnam . Although we see a few product images, most of the photos are of happy people, some singles, but mostly in small and large groups. Graphics around the restaurant also may be tailored for the Vietnamese people. Big plastic forms surround the store, an usual image for Americans. In a time-lapsed video, McDonald's shows the construction of its new restaurant. Discussion Starters: Compare McDonald's Vietnamese communications to those tailored to other countries. Use examples from Chapter 2 of the textbook, or find your own examples online. Other than the obvious difference in language, what other examples in the videos seem to be targeted to the Vietnamese people? How does the new Facebook page compare to McDonald's restaurant pages in other parts of the world? Choose a few examples of individualist societies to draw some conclusions about intercultural communication.
  • Coca-Cola Boycotts After "It's Beautiful" Ad

    People are boycotting Coca-Cola because of a Super Bowl ad showing "America the Beautiful" sung in different languages. Tweets reflected the sentiment of people angry about the commercial, with some calling it unpatriotic and un-American. Discussion Starters: What's your view? Do you find the ad offensive? Mediaite refers to the reaction as a "Racist Twitter Backlash." Do you agree that the comments are racist?
  • Customers' Bill of Rights Addresses Profiling

    Accusations of Macy's, Barneys, Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, and other department stores have led them to post a Customers' Bill of Rights . Created by the retailers, Reverend Al Sharpton, and others, the document begins by defining profiling: CUSTOMER S’ BILL OF RIGHTS [Store name] prohibits profiling in our stores. “Profiling” is defined generally as the practice of judging and addressing people based on their race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, disability, ancestry, appearance, or any personal or physical characteristics. Profiling is an unacceptable practice and will not be tolerated. The Bill of Rights continues to define responsibilities of security guards and others involved in loss prevention and is a clear response to lawsuits by customers who say they were treated differently because they're black. Discussion Starters: Read the Customers' Bill of Rights . Assess the content, organization, and writing style. To what extent does the Bill of Rights address customer complaints ? What, if anything, is missing?
  • Fake Signer at Nelson Mandela Memorial Service

    The man providing sign language interpretation at Nelson Mandela's Memorial Service makes no sense, according to signing experts . Sources say the interpreter was "gesticulating gibberish." How the man got security clearance is a big question considering that he stood next to President Obama and other leaders from around the world. The South African government is looking for the man, who seemingly has no connections to the deaf community. It's an odd mystery and not a new one: records show the same man "signing" next to President Jacob Zuma a year ago.
  • Gap Responds Swiftly to Racist Comments

    When Gap heard one of its ads was graffitied with racist comments, the company responded quickly . Gap created an ad featuring Waris Ahluwalia, an Indian-American designer and actor, and Quentin Jones, a model and filmmaker.. Much of the reaction was positive, but not everyone was happy with the portrayal. This version of the ad made the rounds on Twitter: When Gap learned of the graffitied ad, the company asked for more information, which is appropriate before deciding how to respond. Soon after, Gap changed its Twitter banner to the original image: Support for Gap's response traveled throughout Twitter, with people thanking Gap and promising to shop the store for the holidays. Still, Gap's other ads as part of the "Make Love" campaign are getting mixed reviews. An ad featuring two men was defaced with homophobic comments. That one was ordered removed by the mayor of Chicago. Image source . Discussion Starters: What's your assessment of Gap's response? What worked well? I don't see any Gap comments or tweets about the situation. Should the company have done anything else?
  • Hallmark's "Gay Apparel" Is Now "Fun Apparel"

    Accused of taking the "gay" out of Christmas, Hallmark has changed traditional song lyrics on a sweater ornament . The "Holiday Sweater" reads, "Don we now our fun apparel." Comments, like this one, have been harsh on the company's Facebook page : "Your ugly sweater ornament is offensive and just another reason why I will look for another company to use for greeting cards!" The company posted a statement and an update in response to the controversy: Holiday Sweater Ornament Update UPDATE 10/31/2013: We've been surprised at the wide range of reactions expressed about the change of lyrics on this ornament, and we're sorry to have caused so much concern. We never intend to offend or make political statements with our products and in hindsight, we realize we shouldn't have changed the lyrics on the ornament. Statement originally posted 10/30/2013 Hallmark created this year's Holiday Sweater ornament in the spirit of fun. When the lyrics to "Deck the Halls" were translated from Gaelic and published in English back in the 1800s, the word "gay" meant festive or merry. Today it has multiple meanings, which we thought could leave our intent open to misinterpretation. The trend of wearing festively decorated Christmas sweaters to parties is all about fun, and this ornament is intended to play into that, so the planning team decided to say what we meant: "fun." That's the spirit we intended and the spirit in which we hope ornament buyers will take it. Discussion Starters: To what extent do you agree with the strong reactions? Do you think the anger is justificated, or did people overreact? Assess Hallmark's first statement and the update. What works well, and what would you suggest changing?
  • Ryanair CEO "Ruffles Feathers" (Again)

    No stranger to controversy, Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary angered people during a recent Twitter chat. You may recall that O'Leary called a customer "stupid" and other insults when she complained about being charged €300 for not printing boarding passes ahead of time. Ryanair is a discount airline and charges fees for extra services. Now, a PR Daily article says O'Leary invited criticism as part of a "PR stunt." Although some tweets were deleted, Skift captured a few choice examples : Discussion Starters: What do you think of Michael O'Leary's approach on Twitter? Take a look at the Google Image search of Michael O'Leary. What's your reaction? Does he overdo the stunts, is he being who he wants to be, or something else? Do you find his tweets and other communications offensive or not?
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