Business Communication


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Business Communication with Cengage Learning


  • 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, a Sikh model. 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?
  • Twitter CEO Responds to Criticism About Lack of Women Execs

    As Twitter's IPO approaches, the company is being criticized for having an all-white board and only one woman on its executive team (an attorney who was hired five weeks ago). Also, although Twitter has females in VP business roles, none are in technical roles. Twitter management has acknowledged the problem. Back in March, chief technology officer Adam Messinger told The New York Times : "Half our customers, more or less, are women, and we want to have empathy for our customers, and part of that is having a wide variety of opinions in-house. It’s also something a lot of people here think is the right thing to do." He also said, "There is definitely a supply-side problem." A New York Times writer has since suggested 25 women from a variety of industries who would "bring value beyond a checked box." In response to the criticism, CEO *** Costolo attacked Vivek Wadhwa , who was quoted in the NY Times article: In a blog post for the Wall Street Journal , "Silicon Valley Has a Code Name for Sexism & Racism," Wadhwa asked for an apology—and flung an insult of his own: "Yes, Costolo’s comments were inappropriate and he owes me a formal apology. But I don’t for a moment think that he is overtly sexist or that he deliberately discriminates. I think that he is reflecting a common behavior in Silicon Valley, where power brokers proudly tout their 'pattern recognition' capabilities. They believe they know a successful entrepreneur, engineer, or business executive when they see one. Sadly, the pattern is always a Mark Zuckerberg, Marc Andreessen, Jeff Bezos—or themselves. Nerdy white males." And the missives continue: Discussion Starters: Some people have expressed disappointment in what they consider Costolo's defensiveness. What's your view? What could have been a better response? How, if at all, do you think this controversy will affect Twitter's pending IPO? Should the issue of female management be a consideration as the comany goes public?
  • Bertolli Capitalizes on Barilla's Anti-Gay Comments

    Competitor Bertolli is taking full advantage of the CEO of Barilla pasta's anti-gay comments . After saying that he'll never make ads featuring gay people, CEO Guido Barilla is facing a new foe: Bertolli. Promising "Love and pasta for all!" the company posted this image to its Facebook timeline : Given its history, Bertolli seems to be a supporter from way back. AdWeek discovered this commercial from a "couple of years" ago: Discussion Starters: What are the potential risks of Bertolli's advertising strategy? If you were Guido Barilla, what, if anything, would you do in response?
  • Hobby Lobby Apologizes for Potential Anti-Semitic Comments

    Hobby Lobby is on the defense for an alleged comment by an employee and for not stocking Jewish holiday items. Someone relayed this story in a blog post titled, "Why I Will Never Ever Patronize at Hobby Lobby": One of our friends entered the store, asked where the Chanukah goods were, was told there wouldn't be any, and asked why. According to her, the answer was: "We don't cater to you people." Understandably irate, she called the home office, and was told, indifferently, that hobby lobby doesn't have Chanukah on its list of holidays. Since I did not hear this ugly exchange with my own ears, I was not personally certain it was the case. And that's not good enough for this blog. So I just called the Marlboro hobby lobby and asked whether it would be stocking any Chanukah merchandise. I was told it would not. When I asked why, the answer - verbatim - was: "Because Mr. Green is the owner of the company, he's a Christian, and those are his values." The company's mission is connected to religious beliefs. Here are two references on the " Our Company " page of its website: At Hobby Lobby, we value our customers and employees and are committed to: Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with biblical principles. Offering our customers exceptional selection and value in the crafts and home decor market. Serving our employees and their families by establishing a work environment and company policies that build character, strengthen individuals and nurture families. Providing a return on the owner's investment, sharing the Lord's blessings with our employees, and investing in our community. ------ We believe that it is by God's grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured. He has been faithful in the past, and we trust Him for our future. Hobby Lobby responded first in a Facebook post: Then, Hobby Lobby gave a fuller response in a statement: We sincerely apologize for any employee comments that may have offended anyone, especially our Jewish customers and friends. Comments like these do not reflect the feelings of our family or Hobby Lobby. Our family has a deep respect for the Jewish faith and those who hold its traditions dear. We're proud contributors to Yad Vashem, as well as to other museums and synagogues in Israel and the United States. We are investigating this matter and absolutely do not tolerate discrimination at our company or our stores. We do not have any policies that discriminate; in fact, we have policies that specifically prohibit discrimination. We have previously carried merchandise in our stores related to Jewish holidays. We select the items we sell in our stores based on customer demand. We are working with our buyers to re-evaluate our holiday items and what we will carry in the future. Discussion Starters: Assess Hobby Lobby's two responses. How do they differ? Which do you find more effective, and why? A Hobby Lobby is opening in Ithaca this year (no joke!). If one were opening near you, and you wanted what they sell, would you shop there? Why or why not?
  • Barilla Won't Use Gays in Advertising

    The CEO of Barilla Italian pasta company sounded anti-gay on a radio show . Although the interview was in Italian, blogger John Aravosis translated Guido Barillo's comments into English : "We won’t include gays in our ads, because we like the traditional family. If gays don’t like it, they can always eat another brand of pasta. Everyone is free to do what they want, provided it doesn’t bother anyone else." Re-thinking his comments the next day, Barillo said, "With reference to statements made yesterday, I apologize if my words have generated controversy or misunderstanding, or if they have hurt the sensibilities of some people. In the interview, I simply wanted to highlight the central role of the woman in the family." Here's the audio , which is useful if you speak Italian. Image source . Discussion Starters: Some are calling for a boycott of Barilla products. Would you follow along if you typically bought the pasta? Why or why not? Assess the CEO's follow-up message. How, if at all, does it affect your view of the company?
  • Restaurant Owner Terminates Employees but Fumbles the Explanation

    Two employees of Famous Dave's barbecue restaurant in North Dakota were fired for a Facebook post implying that Native Americans are bad tippers. The photo was posted during United Tribes International Pow Wow , a festival attended by more 20,000 people, according to event organizers. According to The Huffington Post , the employee shown in the poto "denies creating the cardboard sign, but she doesn't deny posing for the picture." Good move! Thinking the photo would disappear, the employee's friend shared the photo via Snapchat. Snapchat describes the app on its website, but in this case, the image was shared on Facebook: "Snapchat is a new way to share moments with friends. Snap an ugly selfie or a video, add a caption, and send it to a friend (or maybe a few). They'll receive it, laugh, and then the snap disappears. "The image might be a little grainy, and you may not look your best, but that's the point. It's about the moment, a connection between friends, and not just a pretty picture. "The allure of fleeting messages reminds us about the beauty of friendship - we don't need a reason to stay in touch. "Give it a try, share a moment, and enjoy the lightness of being!" Snapchat has been criticized as an unsafe "sexting" app . Although the owner of Famous Dave's may have done the right thing by terminating the employees, his Facebook post needs editing: Discussion Starters: Assess Mike Wright's Facebook post. What works well, and what could be improved? Edit the post for accuracy. What's your view of Snapchat's claims? Can the site ensure that photos "disappear"? Is the company responsible for images that are shared in the interim, or do users hold this responsibility?
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