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Business Communication with Cengage Learning

 

  • NY Times' Leaked Report About Innovation

    Lucky us! Someone leaked an internal report from The New York Times about the company's digital strategy. With logical organization, wonderful supporting visuals, and a precise writing style, the authors outline where the company is missing readership and how to get their "journalism to readers." The report was written by the newroom's innovation team, which spent six months analyzing the company's position and identifying new strategies. The Full New York Times Innovation Report The executive summary begins with the good news as well as a clear goal: "The New York Times is winning at journalism. Of all the challenges facing a media company in the digital age, producing great journalism is the hardest. Our daily report is deep, broad, smart and engaging — and we’ve got a huge lead over the competition. "At the same time, we are falling behind in a second critical area: the art and science of getting our journalism to readers. We have always cared about the reach and impact of our work, but we haven’t done enough to crack that code in the digital era." Discussion Starters: Who is the intended audience for the report? Now that it's been leaked, how might this group react? What might concern them—and make them proud? Analyze the report against guidelines in Chapter 10. What do you notice about the executive summary, organization, writing style, graphics, evidence, and so on?
  • White House Climate Change Report

    The U.S. Global Change Research Program just published a draft report, "Climate Change Impacts in the United States," which has gotten a lot of attention. The report blames human activity on climate change and warns of increasing erratic weather, damage to food supplies, and more warming conditions. To help people understand the main points of the 829-page, 174 MG document, the authors provide a "Highlights" page on the Global Change website . But the highlights are still more than the average person will read. The website also offers an online version of the full report , organized around the following topics: Our Changing Climate Sectors Regions Response Strategies The report is referred to as a draft version. Will the final be even longer? Discussion Starters: Does the length of the report matter? Who are the audiences, and how do you think each constituency would, if at all, read the report? What principles from Chapter 10, Writing the Report, does this report follow? Consider the organization, visuals, writing style, and so on.
  • "Strictly Confidential" Memo About Greece's Debt Is Leaked

    As a new restructuring plan and bailout package for Greece are announced today, a memo about the plans marked "Strictly Confidential" was leaked. (View the memo on Scribd.) Based on the memo, Slate describes the situation as follows: "Greece can't pay its bills. But even if Greece was relieved from the obligation to service its outstanding stock of debt, it still couldn't pay its remaining expenses. It can't devalue to try to boost its tourist sector. Instead, the rest of the Eurozone is heading into recession which hurts Greece's main shot at export earnings. Draconian as the austerity that Germany, the Netherlands, and Finland are insisting on as a condition of their charity accepting the charity is the only way to avoid an even more draconian round of austerity. This austerity will, however, only further crush the Greek economy and make it less likely that debts will be paid." For instructors and students of communication, the memo is interesting to analyze in terms of business writing principles: audience analysis, content, visuals, organization, writing style, and editing. Discussion Starters: Audience analysis: Who is the original, intended audience? How did the leak affect how the memo was interpreted? Content: Are the main points clear? What evidence is provided to support the major arguments? Visuals: How are charts used to support the main points? Are they clear and easy to understand? Organization: How is the memo organized, and is this effective? How is skim-value achieved? Writing Style: How do you assess the writing style? Is it clear and concise? How could it be improved? Editing: How are the attention to detail and writing mechanics?
  • EPA Report Links Water Contamination to Hydrofracking

    The Environmental Protection Agency has published a " bombshell " report identifying hydraulic fracturing as the likely cause of water pollution in central Wyoming. The report adds fuel to the growing controversy about "hydrofracking"—the process of gas drilling that involves injecting large amounts of water, sand, and hundreds of chemicals into shale rock. The EPA's findings come shortly after a November report that fracking caused two minor earthquakes. Discussion Starters: Review the EPA report . What principles of report writing does the draft follow? How is the report organized? Do you find this organization effective? Why or why not? How could the report be improved for easier reading? Research the fracking issue further. Based on your findings, what is the significance of this report?
  • Bank of America Tries to Repair Its Image

    As the target of some "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrations, Bank of America is fighting back . The company's image has suffered in part because of many foreclosed homes (and " robo-signers "), a recent announcement of $5 monthly fees for debit cards, 30,000 layoffs , and a poorly timed website outage. Now Bank of America is running ads in major cities to focus on its good work: charitable donations, small business loans, and loan modifications to help homeowners prevent foreclosure. Bank spokesperson T.J. Crawford explains, "The campaign aims to deliver the facts about Bank of America's local impact. Sharing the significant work we do at the local level and critical role we play is more important than ever." An ad that ran in Charlotte, NC, the bank's headquarters, had the tagline, "We're working to help keep the North Carolina economy moving forward." In July 2011, Bank of America published its first Corporate Responsibility Report . On its website, the bank reaffirms its "commitment to shareholders, customers, and clients." In a video on the site , the company gives several examples of how it has served local communities. ( View video transcript. ) Discussion Starters and Assignment Ideas: The "Executive Summary" of Bank of America's Corporate Social Responsibility report is 16 pages (download). How does this differ from a typical executive summary? Why do you believe Bank of America took this approach? Convert the executive summary to a more typical one-page executive summary. What is most important to include, and how can you present this information? For variety, write two versions: one as paragraph text and another in presentation software format (e.g., PowerPoint). How do you assess Bank of America's messages? Do you buy its image as a socially responsible company? Which messages in the CSR video do you find most and least convincing?
  • Law Students Put Their Education to Work and Sue Their Schools

    Law school graduates are seeking class-action status in a suit against their alma maters Thomas Cooley Law School and New York Law School. The plaintiffs claim that the schools defraud applicants by overstating job placement rates. Apparently, included in some schools' employment rates are people in part-time jobs, temporary jobs, jobs that don't require a J.D., and fellowships sponsored by the school. The plaintiffs are seeking tuition refunds and changes in how employment numbers are reported. To defend its data, Cooley issued a report (download) claiming, "Study Shows Lawyers Have One of the Highest Employment Rates of All Professional Occupations." Cooley has also responded with a lawsuit of its own against the plaintiffs' attorneys claiming defamation because of ads such as this: Discussion Starters: Read more about the debate over statistics here . How do you assess the law schools' communication to students? Based on this information, do the plaintiffs have a case? Read the employment report issued by Cooley. What parts of the report do you find most and least convincing? After reading the Cooley report, are you more or less sympathetic to the plaintiffs? In other words, how effective is the report in making the school's argument about employment? Beyond the legal questions, and based on what you know from reading, do you believe these law schools are communicating ethically to applicants? Why or why not?