Business Communication


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Business Communication with Cengage Learning


  • General Mills Changes Its Tune

    Following criticism of its new legal restrictions , General Mills has reversed its policy. The change warned customers who interacted with its brands, for example, by downloading a coupon, that they would give up their rights to sue and would be forced into an abritration process instead. In an email, a company spokesperson conveyed what The New York Times calls a "stunning about-face": "Because our concerns and intentions were widely misunderstood, causing concerns among our consumers, we’ve decided to change them back to what they were. As a result, the recently updated legal terms are being removed from our websites, and we are announcing today that we have reverted back to our prior legal terms, which contain no mention of arbitration." The decision was further announced on the General Mills blog : Here's the company's tweet about the change: Discussion Starters: Was this the right decision for General Mills? What are the consequences either way? Assess the company's blog post. What works well, and what could be improved?
  • Captain of Korean Ferry Is Arrested and Apologizes

    The captain and two crew members of the South Korean Ferry that capsized with hundreds of people on board were arrested. As of today, about 75 people were rescued, 29 bodies were recovered, and 236 are still missing, mostly high schools students taking a trip. In this video, the captain and a crew member apologize. Additional questions by the press are below. Q: Was there any place to turn? You evacuated the crew but why not to passengers? Capt: I gave the evacuation order. Q: Did you? Capt: Yes, I gave the evacuation order to passengers too. Q: Why did the announcement ask the passengers to stay in their cabin? Capt: At that time, none of the rescue ships had arrived at the scene . Q: Nothing there? Capt: Yes, at that time. Q: But you evacuated first? Capt: No. Q: Do you accept the charges of the prosecutor's office? Capt: Yes, I understand there are some parts that are my fault. Anyway, I am sorry I caused the trouble. I apologise to all Koreans and especially I bow my head in apology to the family of the victims. There are some parts I do not understand. There is no such (mumbles). Q: Did you give evacuation orders? Capt: Yes, I did. Q: But there were many announcements asking passengers to stay in the cabin. Why? Capt: That's before the rescue boats arrived. Q: At that time, is it true the ship was tilting seriously? Capt: The boat was in an area of very strong current, the temperature of the ocean water was cold and I thought if people left the ferry without proper judgement, if they not were wearing a life jacket, and even if they were, they would drift away and face many other difficulties. The rescue boats had not arrived yet, nor were there any civilian fishing ships or other boats around at that time. Q: When did you notify the coastguard? When was the first sign of a problem? Capt: I remember it was probably around 9.50am. Q: 9.50am? Wasn't it 8.50? Capt: Yes, 8.50. Q: Did you feel anything strange before that? Capt: No. Q: Was there any place you can turn? Capt: It is not that there was no place to turn the boat. I asked the crew to stay on the route. I briefly went to my bedroom and I was on my way back when it happened. Q: You went to your bedroom? Capt: Yes. Q: There were rumours that you were drunk? Capt: No. Q: Are you sure? Capt: Yes. To add more tragedy to this situation, the students' deputy headmaster committed suicide . Reports show he did "everything by the book" but apparently was overcome with grief. He left a note that said, "Surviving alone is too painful while 200 remain unaccounted for. I take full responsibility. I pushed ahead with the school trip," and "I will once again become a teacher in the afterlife for my students whose bodies have not been discovered." Discussion Starters: The captain and crew are criticized for leaving the boat and for telling people to remain in the ship rather than evacuate. What could explain their actions? From watching the video, what cultural differences can you identify? In other words, how might this situation differ if it happened in the United States?
  • ABC's Video for Facebook Likes

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

    The National Security Agency (NSA) published a shiny, new press kit to try to change its image. Damaged by reports of spying , the NSA's reputation could use some freshening up. With self-aggrandizing phrases, such as, "Saving Lives," "Cybersecurity: A Team Sport," "Operating as a Responsible Citizen," and "The Mission that Never Sleeps," the NSA is trying to combat negative perceptions. The kit also addresses "Myths" about the NSA, such as, "The NSA has agents who can arrest hackers or other cyber bad guys," and "NSA monitors the world’s communications systems at all times." Discussion Starters: Read the entire press kit. What are the NSA's main messages? Assess the text and graphics. How well do they work together? What images are most prevalent in the kit? Which themes or points do you find most and least convincing?
  • GM's Cobalt Recall Site

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

    Last month, CVS announced the decision to stop selling tobacco products in its stores. In the past week, this ad has been running on Ithaca radio stations. On the Tobacco Free New York website, we see communications for other campaigns since 2010: Tobacco Marketing Works What's in Store for Our Kids Sponsorship and Promotion Discussion Starters: Take a look at the video about how tobacco companies sponsor community events . Do you consider their approach ethical? Use the ethical decision-making guidelines in Chapter 1 to formulate your argument. The ad, above, mentions that some drugstores have stopped selling tobacco products, but it doesn't name CVS. Why? What's the punctuation error in "Tobacco Free New York"? Is this a good choice for the organization's name?
  • 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?
  • Meetup Communicates About Outage

    Meetup's website was down for a while, frustrating users. CEO Scott Heiferman communicated well during the outage with two emails. In both, he emphasizes that user information was not compromised—a likely question that users might have.     Meetup Organizers around the world, You may have had trouble accessing Meetup’s site or apps over the past few days, and you may have heard that Meetup has suffered a massive attack on our servers — a DDoS attack , which is a barrage of traffic intended to make services unavailable. Organizer and member data is secure, including credit card information. No data has been accessed or stolen. (See our blog for all the details on the attack and our response.) This has been a tough few days for Meetup, and I know it’s been a real struggle for many of you to manage your Meetups while our site and apps were down. You should know that we’re listening to your questions and concerns and that you can count on meetup to be stable and reliable soon, to bring back all features, and to minimize the effects of the service outages. Thanks for everything you do to create community, Scott Heiferman, Co-Founder and CEO, Meetup Follow us on Twitter , Facebook , or our blog for continuous updates. Meetup Inc., POB 4668 #37895 New York, NY, USA 10163 Hello Meetup Members, You may have had trouble accessing Meetup in the past week, and you may have heard that we were hit by a massive attack on our servers — a DDoS attack , which is a barrage of traffic intended to make services unavailable. I'm happy to report that Meetup is up and running! And no personal data was accessed or stolen. (For more info, here are details on the attack and answers to your FAQs .) It was amazing to see how many people were rooting for Meetup. We're excited to see you discover what's going on, find your people, and create community like never before. Here's what you may have missed: Upcoming Meetups Recommended Meetup Groups You can also download our iOS app or Android app for a super easy way to see local Meetups! Scott Heiferman, Co-Founder and CEO, Meetup Discussion Starters: Analyze Heiferman's two emails: the organization, content, writing style, and mechanics. What works well, and what would you suggest he change? Why might users worry about their personal information? Did Heiferman overstate the concern or address it well? In both emails, Heiferman includes the difficulty this has caused Meetup as an organization. What do you think of his including the organization's perspective in this way? Does it enhance his
  • SeaWorld PR in Full Swing (Spin)

    At least one reporter thinks the SeaWorld PR machine should take a rest . SeaWorld took a big reputation hit when more than 21 million people watched Blackfish, a documentary claiming that orca whales suffer in captivity, in some cases causing injury and death to trainers who work at the park. Now, five months after the movie aired, SeaWorld submitted a complaint to the Labor Department, questioning the ethics of an investigator cited in the film. Calling the move "bizarre PR," Yahoo writer Jeff Macke said, "The complaint put SeaWorld and the documentary on the front page of the N.Y. Times business section; exactly where the company doesn’t want it to be." SeaWorld's strategy seems to be a continuation of its approach from last July, which a New York Times writer described : "SeaWorld, advised by the communications firm 42West, which is better known for promoting films than punching back at them, is taking the opposite approach. By midweek, the company was providing top executives and animal caretakers for interviews about the movie and its purported flaws. "It was also deliberating possible further moves, which might conceivably include informational advertising, a Web-based countercampaign or perhaps a request for some sort of access to CNN, which picked up television rights to 'Blackfish' through its CNN Films unit and plans to broadcast the movie on Oct. 24." On its website, SeaWorld writes the " Truth About Blackfish ," which the company calls "propaganda, not a documentary": "We object to Blackfish because its two central premises are wrong: (1) that life at SeaWorld is harmful for killer whales and for trainers working with these animals, and (2) that SeaWorld has attempted to cover up the facts surrounding the tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, as well the history of Tilikum, the killer whale involved in that accident. Nothing could be further from the truth. "To make these ultimately false and misleading points, the film conveys falsehoods, manipulates viewers emotionally, and relies on questionable filmmaking techniques to create 'facts' that support its point of view." ( continue reading ) The post then describes several areas the company considers false or misleading. Discussion Starters: What's your view? Do you agree with the Yahoo writer's assessment of SeaWorld's PR approach? Assess SeaWorld's criticism of the movie . Which are the strongest points, and which are the weakest? How, if at all, does this article affect your perception of Blackfish ?
  • Viral Ad Winner: "Would You Help a Freezing Child?"

    A hidden camera filming people helping a freezing child in Oslo, Norway, topped the Viral Video Chart this week . The ad raises awareness of the suffering of Syrian children. Discussion Starters: What makes these ads so compelling, particularly the one about people helping the freezing child? Which on this list is your favorite?
  • Head of Job Bank Apologizes for Nasty Emails

    The winner of the IABC (International Association for Business Communication) "Communicator of the Year" award in 2013 may want to give back the prize. Kelly Blazek runs a Cleveland-based job bank and was tired of people asking for access to her connections. But her emails are too harsh . When her emails became public on Reddit and other sites, Blazek deleted her Twitter account, LinkedIn recommendations, and blog posts. She also apologized for her approach. I am very sorry to the people I have hurt. Creating and updating the Cleveland Job Bank listings has been my hobby for more than ten years. It started as a labor of love for the marketing industry, but somehow it also became a labor, and I vented my frustrations on the very people I set out to help. Hundreds of people contact me every month looking for help, and as the bottom fell out of the job market, their outreach and requests demanded more of my time. I became shortsighted and impatient, and that was wrong. My Job Bank listings were supposed to be about hope, and I failed that. In my harsh reply notes, I lost my perspective about how to help, and I also lost sight of kindness, which is why I started the Job Bank listings in the first place. The note I sent to Diana was rude, unwelcoming, unprofessional and wrong. I am reaching out to her to apologize. Diana and her generation are the future of this city. I wish her all the best in landing a job in this great town. Discussion Starters: IABC is getting pressure to rescind the award. Should the organization do so? Why or why not? Try to see Blazek's perspective. Why would she send such emails to job seekers? What's your reaction to Blazek's apology? Is it sincere? Is it enough?
  • "Milk Life" Replaces "Got Milk?"

    After 21 years of success, the "Got Milk?" slogan is being replaced by "Milk Life." The original campaign started in 2013 and was best known for its celebrities sporting a milk mustache. Now, the Milk Processor Education Program is updating the slogan and producing new ads to address declining milk sales. On a new website , the campaign features images of active people and milk-based products. A theme seems to be "8 grams of protein," and a new video, below, shows people being powered by milk as a windmill and parachute. The campaign emphasizes drinking milk in the morning to get the "power of protein." Earlier phrases, such as "it does the body good," have fallen out of favor. According to one of the advertising executives who worked on the campaign, "It reminds them of why they didn't want to drink it in the first place." Discussion Starters: Who do you think is the target market for this campaign? Assess the current campaign: look at the website photos, text, and images. What works well, and what could be improved? The AdAge article discusses non-dairy products, such as soy and almond milk. How does this campaign stack up to the competitors' messaging?
  •'s Obvious Sales Letter

    Do people fall for the free "consultation" companies offer? sent an email to me with the subject, "Account Notice: Schedule Your Consultation." With a thinly veiled sales strategy, the email promised a "Complimentary Business Consultation and Evaluation" in a graphical invitation: The body of the message futher explained the "offer": Dear Amy, You've been selected for a free 30-Minute Business Consultation with one of our Web Experts. This consultation is your chance to get tips and recommendations on how to improve any aspect of your businesses' online presence from one of our top Web Consultants. Your Consultant will work with you to ensure your business is optimized for success utilizing their extensive experience and knowledge in website development, search engine marketing, social media, mobile advertising and more. Call 844-282-2290 for your complimentary consultation. When you click on the invitation within the email, you get a page on that explains Register's services beyond hosting: customizing a website, improving search engine optimization, and increasing "Facebook presence." Discussion Starters: What makes's message so obviously a sales tactic? What types of people would respond to Register's "offer"? What do you think they expect when they do respond? Am I over-reacting? So what if it's a sales tactic? Maybe it's obvious to people, and the services are useful.
  • Ad Campaign: "I Wish I Had Breast Cancer"

    A new advertising campaign from the Pancreatic Cancer Action , a British organization, has caused an uproar. The marketers knew what they were doing: planning for outrage, Founder Ali Stunt introduced the campaign in a website post " No Cancer Advert That Saves a Single Life Can Be Accused of Going Too Far ": "I want to remind all those that read this blog post that today 160 women will find out they have breast cancer, eight women will find out they have cervical cancer and seven men will be diagnosed with testicular cancer. It is vital that everyone finds out about the signs and symptoms of these cancers too. Please find the relevant charity details below. "Today sees the launch of the UK’s very first awareness advertising campaign for pancreatic cancer, which is being shown on the London Underground stations and tube cars as well as in London and Manchester newspapers such as the Metro and Evening Standard." ( Read more .) This post includes survival rates for cancers, with pancreatic at a sad 3%: Criticism of the campaign has been harsh, including this retort on the site : "Oh boy. Because obviously the best way to call attention to one disease is at the expense of another. "There’s just one problem. Breast cancer is a like a fat man wearing a Hawaiian shirt: It covers a lot of ground. If you’re going to wish for breast cancer, make sure you put in a special request for the non-metastatic kind. Because in 2014, there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer. The median survival rate is surely not as good as the Pancreatic Action Network seems to think it is. In general, breast cancer survival figures don’t necessarily represent significant gains, as they are distorted by the over diagnosis of Stage I breast cancers, which have increased five-fold since the advent of mammography in the 1980s. "Also, our research situation is much like yours: it sucks. Metastatic breast cancer is responsible for 90 percent of the morbidity and mortality, but gets less than 5 percent of the research budget." Pancreatic Cancer Action stands by its campaign. On its website, it posted a video with interviews about the approach." Discussion Starters: What's your view of the ad campaign: appropriate for the cause, insulting, or something else? Watch the Pancreatic Cancer Action organization's video about its approach. Do you find this response convincing ?
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