Business Communication


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Business Communication with Cengage Learning


  • Microsoft's Communications About Its New CEO

    Microsoft hit the news with its appointment of a new CEO. Born in Hyderabad, India, in 1967, Satya Nadella will be the company's third CEO. He worked at Microsoft for 22 years, most recently as the head of the Cloud and Enterprise group. On a splashy web page , Microsoft announces the news, provides videos and photos fit for a magazine, and includes links to: Traditional press release Steve Ballmar's email to employees An asset pack of material (zipped files) Nadella's email to employees Webcast for customers and partners This web page is good example of a new media release. Nardella looks very cool in this picture—kind-of like the Apple guy. You can learn more from Nadella himself on the web page and from his interview with The New York Times . Discussion Starters: In what ways is the web page like and unlike the company's traditional press release ? After reading the web page announcement, press release and two emails, what message themes emerge? Do you also find inconsistencies or contradictions? Watch the webcast . How is the video tailored to the defined audiences: customers and partners? What is done well, and what could be improved?
  • 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 .
  • Microsoft Emails Employees About Ranking System

    In an email to employees, Microsoft management announced the elimination of an employee performance ranking system. (Probably coincidentally, Yahoo just announced the implementation of a similar system.) Ranking systems force managers to place their employees' performance on a bell curve, comparing each within a department or division. In the strictest systems, employees who are in, for example, the bottom 5%, are terminated. According to The Institute of Corporate Productivity, cited in a BusinessWeek article , these systems are falling out of favor, with only 5% of high-performing companies using the process in 2011. At best, ranking employees encourages managers to differentiate performance, rewarding top performers and paying attention to underperformers. At worst, ranking may focus too much on data and fails to acknowledge that some departments simply perform better than others. Managers argue that they lose control with such rigid systems. Here's the beginning of the Microsoft email to employees: To Global Employees, I am pleased to announce that we are changing our performance review program to better align with the goals of our One Microsoft strategy. The changes we are making are important and necessary as we work to deliver innovation and value to customers through more connected engagement across the company. This is a fundamentally new approach to performance and development designed to promote new levels of teamwork and agility for breakthrough business impact. We have taken feedback from thousands of employees over the past few years, we have reviewed numerous external programs and practices, and have sought to determine the best way to make sure our feedback mechanisms support our company goals and objectives. This change is an important step in continuing to create the best possible environment for our world-class talent to take on the toughest challenges and do world-changing work. Discussion Starters: What's your view of performance ranking sytems? Have you experienced a similar process at work? Assess the full Microsoft email . How is it organized? How does it consider the audience? What are the main points? Overall, what works well, and what could be improved?
  • Mashable Email to Staff Announces New Exec

    Pete Cashmore, founder of technology news website Mashable , announced a new executive. In his email to staff , Cashmore used the direct organization plan (as we would expect) and put the news up front: Team Mashable, Today we are announcing an important and exciting addition to our family – Jim Roberts. Jim joins our team as Executive Editor and Chief Content Officer. Many of you may know Jim from Twitter as @nycjim , from his work as Executive Editor of Reuters Digital, and from his years at The New York Times where he was most recently Assistant Managing Editor, overseeing the digital newsroom including video, social media and breaking news. Read the entire email . To complement the internal annoucement, Jim Roberts, the new hire, wrote an article on LinkedIn about joining the company. Here are the first two paragraphs: Today is an exciting day for me. I’m joining a new family, as executive editor and chief content officer at Mashable. To some it might seem a bit of a departure. You might imagine a headline like: "Longtime New York Times and Reuters veteran forsakes legacy media for digital upstart." Read the full article . (Side note: Although the story on LinkedIn refers to the communication as a "Memo to Staff," it is highly unlikely that Mashable is sending printed memos rather than email. [In his introduction, Cashman refers to it as a "message."] Using "memo" as a generic term was part of my presentation topic at ABC 2013 in New Orleans: "The Memo Is Dead.") Discussion Starters: In what ways does this email follow principles described in Chapter 6 about positive and neutral messages? Where does it fall short? In addition to the direct style, what other organizational strategies does Cashman use in his email? In what ways are they effective or ineffective? If Cashman asked for your feedback on his email before he sent it, what would you advise?
  • KitKat 4.4: "Confectionery Perfectionery"

    Google's new operating system for the Android will be called KitKat, and the chocolate company is having fun with the partnership. On a new website , KitKat touts benefits of the chocolate bar. Here are a few examples: Hardware: As famous for its inside as its outside. Adjustable orientation. Works perfectly in portrait or landscape for a panoramic taste experience. Mobile: With global coverage, you can take it literally anywhere. Even to work. Google is also promoting the partnership: "Yep, our upcoming release will be named Android KitKat! "KitKat has been a favorite candy on the team for some time, so for the K release, we asked if they’d be willing to lend their iconic candy bar to its name. Be on the lookout for limited edition Android KitKat bars coming soon to a candy aisle near you. For a lucky few, your KitKat bar might contain a winning ticket for a new Nexus 7 tablet or Google Play credits. Check it out. " Discussion Starters: What are the potential risks of the Google/KitKat partnership and how the companies are promoting it? What other examples do you recall of companies using humor in similar ways?
  • Yahoo's New Logo

    For the first time in 18 years, Yahoo has a new logo—still purple and still sporting that question mark I never know whether I should include in writing. (I recently dropped it, following The New York Times ' practice.) In this video, you'll see many logo variations that the company considered. In a blog post , CEO Marissa Mayer described the redesign process: "So, one weekend this summer, I rolled up my sleeves and dove into the trenches with our logo design team: Bob Stohrer, Marc DeBartolomeis, Russ Khaydarov, and our intern Max Ma. We spent the majority of Saturday and Sunday designing the logo from start to finish, and we had a ton of fun weighing every minute detail. "We knew we wanted a logo that reflected Yahoo - whimsical, yet sophisticated. Modern and fresh, with a nod to our history. Having a human touch, personal. Proud." Sounds like fun. But the changes are subtle, rather than dramatic. Discussion Starters: Compare the new logo to the old one. What differences do you notice, and what significance do they hold? Read Mayer's summary of the decisions made . Did you catch all of the changes and see the significance of each?
  • Mercedes Removes Weird "Service Song" Video

    AdWeek called Mercedes-Benz's "Service Song" video "Weird, Cheesy, Suggestive, and Embarrassing." The video here is a bootleg copy; the company has removed the official version after enough ridicule. ( Download Mercedes Service Song .) The beginning lyrics follow: "I like them to be strong, that they can catch me when I skid/Like them to turn me on, I thought that some of them did/But just as I needed a helping hand, so many men were 'out of service,' not like you … You only give your best, won't stop until I smile." AdWeek argues that the video is "downmarket" for the luxury brand. It does seem kitschy: the hokey images, 1980s-style song (although catchy!)... The AdWeek writer's prediction came to pass: "I give it a week before it's gone from YouTube." Discussion Starters: What's your assessment of the Service Song video? Do you agree with AdWeek's perspective? Did the company do the right thing by taking down the video? What are the arguments for and against this move?
  • A Personal Touch: Hotel Wake-Up Calls

    Automated wake-up calls at hotels have become the norm, but now some brands want to differentiate themselves with a more personal touch. According to a USA Today article , the following examples show this move to personalization: At the Westin Resort and Casino, Aruba, once you respond to the first telephone wake-up call, an employee goes to your room and knocks on your door to make sure you actually get up. At Las Ventanas al Paraiso, A Rosewood Resort in Los Cabos, a butler shows up at your room to wake you up with complimentary tea, coffee and breakfast breads. At the Mandarin Oriental and The Four Seasons, a person rather than an automated system will call to wake you up. If you don't answer, you'll get a wake-up knock. You don't want to oversleep at The Adolphus in Dallas. If you miss your wake-up call three times, a security guard will show up at your door. Although most people have Smartphones, according to one study, 53% of guests still want a hotel wake-up call. Discussion Starters: What's your preferred method for alarms at hotels? What value do you see in a hotel's personalized wake-up call? What are the potential downsides of the hotels' approaches, listed above?
  • Restaurant Offers Help During Boston Marathon Explosions

    Where companies failed during Hurricane Sandy , at least one business got "goodwill" right during the Boston Marathon explosions. El Pelon Taqueria offered runners and others affected a place to relax, eat, and charge a phone—whether or not they can pay. The message was retweeted 1244 times. The owner's Twitter feed compliments the restaurant staff, working hard to serve people in need—and perhaps others who just want a good meal and to support a business that offers genuine help. Discussion Starters: Compare El Pelon's approach to that of American Apparel's during Hurricane Sandy . If you were a consultant for companies, what guidelines would you suggest they follow during similar tragedies? Overall, how do you think El Pelon's sales will be affected this week? Make a prediction, and let's see whether we fnd articles written about the business in the next few days.
  • Doctor's Handwritten Note Makes the Internet Rounds

    A doctor hand wrote a lovely message to the husband of a woman who died. Within two weeks, the note had more than 2 million views on image-hosting site Imgur and countless views on other social media sites. The emergency-room doctor wrote that it's the first time in 20 years that he's been moved to write to a family. This is a classic "goodwill" message, which requires nothing in return but spreads warmth and good wishes. Discussions Starters: Why would the note generate so much interest? What's special about it? Consider the medium, writer, audience, and so on. When in your own life could it be appropriate to write a note by hand?
  • News Corp's Reorganization Announcement

    News Corp will split into two separate, public companies: one focused on entertainment and the other on publishing. The company also announced the closing of its tablet newspaper because of low readership. In a press release , the company announced leadership changes of the publishing company (News Corporation), additional organization changes in the New York office, organizational changes in the London office, and plans for the separation of the publishing company from the entertainment company (Fox Group). In an internal email , Chairman Rupert Murdoch explained the changes, complimented the employees' work, and shared his personal mission for the company: "Many of you know that a belief in the power of the written word has been in my bones for my entire life. It began as I listened to my father’s stories from his days as a war correspondent and, later, a successful publisher. It deepened when, starting in grammar school, I rolled up my sleeves and worked alongside fellow students to publish school journals. I witnessed the hunger people had for well-written, thoroughly observed stories ... stories that provide not just information, but insight. That hunger is alive and well today; my personal mission is to serve and satisfy the human need for insight as well as I possibly can." Image source . Discussion Starters: Read the company's press release in detail. How is it organized? What works well about the structure, and what could be improved? What is your reaction to Murdoch's email to employees? What are his most important messages, and how do you think employees might react?
  • New NYT CEO Emails Staff

    Mark Thompson, new CEO of The New York Times Company, emailed staff after his first week at work. This is a great example for business communication students to study: Content: What are Thompson's main points? What does he want NYT employees to know, and how does he want them to feel? Organization: What structure does Thompson use for his message? How does he sequence paragraphs? How does he convey the main point of each paragraph? Tone: How would you describe Thompson's tone? What changes, if any, do you see throughout the email? How does he balance positive messages with a sense of urgency? Sentence variety: How does Thompson vary sentence structure throughout his email? How many different types of sentences (simple, compound, complex) does he use? Punctuation: As we might expect, Thompson uses impeccable puntuation. How does he use m-dashes and semi-colons effectively? As I finish my first week at The New York Times Company, I would like to thank the many people I’ve already met. As you’d expect, Times employees come across as super-smart and totally committed to maintaining the values and quality that the company and its newspapers have always stood for. But I’ve also been struck by how friendly and welcoming you’ve been to me. I’ve been impressed by the work that’s already in motion to tackle the structural trends that our industry faces and the products and services we’re developing that will drive new growth and profitability, all while securing the brilliant journalism on which everything else depends. The digital subscription story continues to be an exciting one, and we can build on it further. With Invest in the Times and similar projects at the Globe and IHT, our company is already focusing on other growth opportunities. We are looking in the right places for future success: understanding and engaging with our readers and consumers better; developing compelling propositions in video, mobile and social; and figuring out how to drive more revenue from international audiences. The work done so far is really valuable. But I don’t want to underestimate the challenges we face. As our third-quarter results showed, the company is experiencing the same advertising and economic pressures as the rest of our industry. Figuring out how best to respond to these pressures — especially the long-term downward trajectory of print advertising — is also going to be an important part of our work in the coming months. Thank you for a productive and inspiring first week. To help us get to know each other better, we have scheduled Town Hall meetings with me for Monday, Dec. 17, and Tuesday, Dec. 18, in The Times Center and Wednesday, Dec. 19, at College Point. More details will follow soon. I plan to have Town Hall meetings in Boston and at the IHT as soon as possible.
  • New Yahoo CEO Starts Hunting

    Now that Marissa Mayer, Yahoo's new CEO , is back from maternity leave, she is building her new management team. On her first day back, she has hired Henrique de Castro from Google to be the company's chief operating officer. According to Yahoo's press release , "de Castro will be responsible for strategic and operational management of Yahoo!’s sales, operations, media and business development worldwide." Yahoo published the usual feel-good statements from both parties: "'Henrique is an incredibly accomplished and rigorous business leader, and I’m personally excited to have him join Yahoo!’s strong leadership team,' said Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!. 'His operational experience in Internet advertising and his proven success in structuring and scaling global organizations make him the perfect fit for Yahoo! as we propel the business to its next phase of growth.' "'The combination of Yahoo!’s unique properties with high quality content, its renewed focus on outstanding user experience and its massive reach bring tremendous value to users, advertisers and partners,' said de Castro. 'This is a pivotal point in Yahoo!’s history, and I believe strongly in the opportunity ahead. I can’t wait to join Marissa and the team and get started.'" De Castro could earn $60 million: a $600,000 base salary plus Yahoo stock and millions to compensate for lost Google stock. Image source with credit to YouTube . Discussion Starters and Assignment Idea: Read Yahoo's press release . How is the statement organized? Do you find it well written? Write an email to employees announcing de Castro's appointment. How would you modify the company's press release to an internal audience?
  • "Worldulike": EU's Spin on Climate Change

    "A world you like. With a climate you like." This is the European Union's attempt to rebrand climate change, hoping people will choose a " Worldulike ." The website presents case studies of organizations that have taken saved energy expenses and, in some cases, redirected funds to better use, such as education. In a press release , Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action, explains the new approach: "We have a choice: We can ACT on our knowledge about climate change. Or we can sit idly by and watch as things get worse. Both options come with a price tag. So why not create a world we like, with a climate we like, while we still have time? With this campaign we want to focus the debate on the solutions and find out what is holding us back from applying them." The name is already getting some ribbing from, for example, Roger Harrabin of BBC: "The campaign title ‘Worldulike’ will doubtless raise eyebrows. The name is uncomfortably reminiscent of the British baked potato restaurant chain Spudulike." Discussion Starters: Do you think the EU's campaign will be successful in getting people to make better decisions about energy use—and in meeting the EU's goal of reducing greenhouse gases by by 80 to 95 percent by 2050? Why or why not? Choose one of the case studies on the website . What makes the example effective, and how could it be improved?
  • Yahoo Selects (Another) New CEO

    Let's hope this one sticks around. Marissa Mayer, former Google VP, will be Yahoo's sixth leader in just five years. Mayer follows Scott Thompson, fired for misleading academic information on his resume , and Carol-" I've-just-been-fired-over-the-phone "-Bartz (and two interim CEOs in between). At 37, Mayer is a relatively young CEO—and she's pregnant. Due to deliver a baby boy in October, Mayer said of the board's decision to hire her, "They showed their evolved thinking." The company's press release emphasized Mayer's technology and product experience, which analysts say indicates Yahoo's " going back to its Silicon Valley Internet roots ." Yahoo Co-Founder David Filo said, "Marissa is a well-known, visionary leader in user experience and product design and one of Silicon Valley's most exciting strategists in technology development. I look forward to working with her to enhance Yahoo's product offerings for our over 700 million unique monthly visitors." Not everyone is optimistic that Mayer can make the changes required for Yahoo to succeed, and some dread another round of restructuring and layoffs. Discussion Starters: Read Yahoo's press release about Mayer. Considering the leadership history, did Yahoo do a good job in writing the release? What's your view of Yahoo's board hiring a pregnant woman?