Business Communication


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Business Communication with Cengage Learning


  • 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?
  • 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?
  • Mayalsia Airlines and PM Announce Demise of Flight MH370

    The Mayalsia Prime Minister announced that Flight MH370 most likely ended in the Indian Ocean . Malaysia Airlines posted this statement on its website : This message also was texted to the families : In a posting five hours earlier , the airline gave updates and responded to questions. The statement included a section about working with the families: "Yesterday, the high-level team met with families in Beijing for more than eight hours. "The families asked many questions, and made detailed requests for radar readings and other data. Some of these questions could not be answered, and some of the data they requested was still being held by the investigation, as is standard procedure in investigations of this sort. "After meeting with the families for a total of more than twelve hours, and taking hundreds of questions, the high-level team has returned to Kuala Lumpur to discuss the matters raised at the meetings. They will return to Beijing tomorrow to continue. "The briefings in Kuala Lumpur over the last two days went smoothly, and the families responded as positively as could be expected, with the families engaging with representatives from the relevant authorities. "It has always been our intention to keep the families as fully informed as possible. We continue to do so." The Guardian reports tragic scenes of families hearing the news. Their reaction is understandable and was expected: paramedics were sent to the Beijing Hotel where families were called to an "emergency briefing." Discussion Starters: Assess the prime minister's statement to the press. How well does he deliver the bad news? What is the organizational plan? Assess Malaysia Airlines' statement: what works well, and what could be improved? What's your view of the text message? Typically, texting isn't the best way to deliver bad news. Could this be an exception? Why?
  • New York Times Opinions About GM

    A New York Times opinion piece accused Toyota and GM of " Willfully Endangering Drivers " by delaying automobile recalls. The author partly blames the government for succumbing to pressure from the car industry and from lawmakers who opposed a 2010 Motor Vehicle Safety Act . The Act would have provided more funding to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to investigate safety issues and improve consumers' access to safety information. Another New York Times story this weekend comments on GM's social media activity. On the surface, it looks like "business as usual" at GM. Recent posts describe an employee recruiting campaign, a "Fan Friday" contest, and a new FB cover photo. But a deeper look into posts shows individual responses to complaints. Recall issues dominate customers' comments, and GM is engaged in the conversation as in this example: How is GM's reputation faring online? According to the article, pretty well: "So far, the damage to the company’s brand appears to have been minimal online. "Despite the barrage of headlines about federal investigations into G.M.'s decade-long failure to issue the recall, overall sentiment about G.M. and its brands on Twitter has remained the same since the crisis began. According to an analysis by Crimson Hexagon, a social media analytics firm in Boston, about 26 percent of Twitter messages mentioning the company were positive, 71 percent were neutral and 3 percent were negative." Discussion Starters: What's your view of the first article? In what ways do you agree and disagree with the writer's assessment of GM? Assess GM's responses on its Facebook page. What principles from Chapter 7, Responding to Negative Feedback, does the company demonstrate in this and other examples online?
  • No More @GSElevator Book Deal

    The publishing deal for @GSElevator tweets is off the table . With 652,000 followers, the author had garnered an impressive following by tweeting what could be said in the Goldman Sachs elevator. He never claimed that the tweets were actually said—or that he worked for Goldman. When the book deal was first announced, it was unclear whether either mattered to Touchstone, a division of Simon and Schuster. But now that John LeFevre's identify has been revealed, the offer has been withdrawn. According to a Business Insider article , the decision surprised LeFevre: "It's just a comical mystery to me. As of Friday afternoon, after all of the noise — during which Simon & Schuster prohibited me from responding and defending myself — they have continued to support me and stand by our project. Well, until today apparently." Simon and Schuster gave this statement: "In light of information that has recently come to our attention since acquiring John Lefevre's STRAIGHT TO HELL, Touchstone has decided to cancel its publication of this work." LeFevre also wrote a piece in Business Insider explaining the history of @GSElevator and defending himself. Here are a few excerpts, and you can read the full version here : "For the avoidance of any doubt, any person who actually thought my Twitter feed was literally about verbatim conversations overhead in the elevators of Goldman Sachs is an idiot. "Newsflash: GSElevator has never been about elevators. And, it's never been specifically about Goldman Sachs; it's about illuminating Wall Street culture in a fun and entertaining way. Without highlighting the obvious evolution of the tweets into more generally-appealing observations, let’s start with the simple fact that each of my tweets says 'Sent from Twitter for Mac,' hardly the work of someone pretending to be hiding in the walls of 200 West. "Being called a 'fake' or a 'hoax' by the same people who embraced me as 'satire' is simply laughable – and it really speaks to the silly and opportunistic attempts at cheap headlines. "I have been completely transparent in saying that my tweets are edited, curated, and crafted, in a way that I think will best resonate and still embody the soul and mentality of Wall Street. My focus has been to entertain and enlighten, without being completely devoid of substance and insight." Discussion Starters: Why do you think Touchstone withdrew the book deal? Do you think this was the right decision? Read LeFevre's response . Which parts do you find most and least convincing to convey his perspective?
  • Sands Casino Struggles to Recapture Website

    Sands Casino's email and websites were hacked on Monday , and they're still down four days later. Sites in the U.S. and Asia, including Venetian Las Vegas and Palazzo, were affected by the invasion, which the FBI and Secret Service are investigating. In place of the company websites, hackers posted employees' names, email addresses, and social security numbers; however, officials say that no customer information was compromised. The hacking may be in response to Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson's support of Israel. One posted image shows Adelson pictured with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—and flames instead of hotel pictures around the world. In a statement, a Sands spokesperson said, "While we have been able to confirm that certain core operating systems were not impacted by the hacking, the company remains focused on working through a step-by-step process to ascertain what, if any, additional systems may have been impacted." In the meantime, the company has this image posted on its home page : Image source . Discussion Starters: Assess Sands' communications: how well is the company keeping people informed in its statement , on its website, and through other communications you find online? What could account for the long time the website has been under someone else's control? How does this happen to an organization?
  • Email Still Preferred for Pitching Stories

    In a landslide vote, email won as the way media professionals want stories pitched. In a survey, Vocus: State of the Media 2014 , 256 representatives from TV, newspapers, magazines, and online media chose email over social media, phone calls, and instant messaging. Slides summarizing the findings show that, although respondents rely on social media for their reporting, they prefer not to receive stories through social media. Discussion Starters: In what ways, if at all, do the survey results surprise you? Why do you think media professionals prefer email? For those who do prefer social media for story ideas, why do you think they prefer Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn and Google+?
  • Goldman Parody Turns Into a Book

    Here's the first parody Twitter feed turned into a book : @GSElevator, quips presumably heard on an elevator at Goldman Sachs. Under the title "Straight to Hell: True Tales of Deviance and Excess in the World of Investment Banking," the anonymous author, according to the publisher, "will offer stories from his career in banking that capture the true character and nature of Wall Street culture today—a world far more abhorrent and way more entertaining than people can imagine." In emails to the New York Times , the author ("Mr. Stone") described his interest in writing a book: "These are stories that I have been collecting over the course of my experiences in banking—events that have been so outrageous and funny, that I thought that one day they might be worth sharing. "Unlike other books that may be viewed similarly, this is not a whistle-blower scenario or an indictment or assault on a specific firm. "My aim is to showcase and illuminate the true culture of Wall Street as I have experienced it, and write a book that is not only very funny and entertaining, but also, insightful and substantive." Although the author has revealed his identify to his publisher, he has not identified himself publicly. People wonder whether he currently works at Goldman. Discussion Starters: If the author does work at Goldman and this became known, how do you think his employer would react? Read more of his tweets to get a better idea of what he's writing. Should he be fired? Read about Greg Smith , who wrote an op-ed about his experience at Goldman. How are these situations similar—and different?
  • Big Brands Use Few @Replies

    A new Simply Measured study shows that top brands are still reluctant to engage customers on Twitter. In the fourth quarter of 2013, 98 of the 100 largest global brands tweeted every day, with the average company tweeting 12 times each day. However, @replies trailed. Only 46% of these companies sent one or more @replies each day. Although companies may interact one-on-one with people via direct messages on Twitter, which Simply Measured has no way of tracking, the low percentage makes us wonder how well companies are engaging customers online. Pizza Hut leads the way, representing almost half of the 68,000 @replies sent from the entire top 100. Of course, this is only one metric of an engaged brand on Twitter. Discussion Starters: How would you explain the high level of activity on Twitter but relatively few @replies? Do individual (one-on-one) interactions matter? Is it worth the time spent? What is your own experience interacting one-on-one with brands on Twitter? What examples can you share of @replies or direct messages?
  • Are We More Social Today?

    Studies of people in public spaces show that we may be more social today , despite hypotheses about technology pulling us apart. The Street Life Project in the 1960s and 70s photographed and filmed people in places, such as Bryant Park in New York City, to track how they sat, stood, and interacted with others. At the time, the goal was part of a city planning effort to improve public spaces. Between 2008 and 2010, a University of Pennsylvania research team continued this work by filming people outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They coded 38 hours of footage based on sex, group size, loitering behavior, and phone use. The team found only 3% of adults on cell phones. As lead researcher Keith Hampton says, "In the busiest public spaces, where there are a lot of groups, like this kind of public space, it’s like 3 percent. Three percent. I can’t even see someone on a cellphone right now, but yet how many times have you seen a story that says,'People on cellphones in public spaces is rude, it’s creating all sorts of problems, people are walking into traffic.' I mean, we really have a strong sense that it’s everywhere." Hampton's research also found that people weren't talking to avoid contact with people but rather to kill time waiting for someone; the people on phones were alone. Twenty-four percent of people were alone on the steps, compared to 32% in the 1970s studies of the same spot. These findings support Hampton's other work about whether technology has made us more alone. A New York Times Magazine piece provides a still of the work: Discussion Starters: What's your view of these findings? In what ways do they surprise you—or not? What are some possible limitations of the study in drawing conclusions about how technology has affected us? The research also found that women are out in public today more than they were 40 years ago. What could explain this shift? In what ways has technology made you either more social or more alone?
  • New Twitter Terms

    New York Magazine has published new terms that emerged on Twitter in 2013. I did my best to summarize them here: Canoe: a Twitter conversation involving more than three people Close that tab: advice to close a browser tab quickly because of something terrible Darth: a wizard with a lot of fans Day-of-the-week jokes: blaming a day on something bad or tweeting "TGIF" on another day #deblasionew york: blaming everything on NY's new mayor, even before he took office Doge: a meme that I don't understand at all (!) First-name-only replies: calling someone out on Twitter Florida man: attributing strange happenings to someone in Florida ("the weirdest state") Hatefave: favoriting a tweet to "ruffle the recipient's feathers" Hateread: encouraging people to read something distasteful @Horse_ebooks: a poetic thread made up of short contributions Scoop, if true: encouraging retweets/reporting without regard to truth Smarm: performance without substance Subtweet: directed at one tweeter (back-talking) Teach the homeless code: based on an experiment considered in poor taste Whoa: emphasizing another's tweet "You won't believe what happened next": a way to encourage clicks And my two favorites of the bunch with examples: Because [noun/preposition]: "A new type of prepositional phrase, because character limits." Why waste words (I guess)? #Followateen: parents writing about their kids (until they discovered the hashtag and retaliated). Ouch. I wrote about "literally" recently. Discussion Starters: Do you find these interesting or, as one comment on the story says, "Twitter is dumb." Another comment on the story reads, "This must be what's popping on #WhiteTwitter. Because #BlackTwitter tells a different story." What does this mean, and do you agree with the comment?
  • Facebook Further Declines Among UK Teens

    A new study shows that British teenagers find Facebook embarrassing . The Social Media Global Impact Study tells a dramatic story of teenagers moving away from Facebook . A member of the research team and professor of anthropology in University College London, Daniel Miller describes the shift: "Parents have worked out how to use the site and see it as a way for the family to remain connected. In response, the young are moving on to cooler things. "What we’ve learned from working with 16-18 year olds in the UK is that Facebook is not just on the slide, it is basically dead and buried." Miller also describes the impact on family dynamics: "Where once parents worried about their children joining Facebook, the children now say it is their family that insists they stay there to post about their lives." According to the study, UK teens are using Snapchat, Whatsapp, and Twitter rather than their parents' social network. Discussion Starters: Do the study findings surprise you? Why or why not? What, if anything, can Facebook do to lure back teens? Respondents in this study admit that Facebook has better functionality than other sites, so that may not help.
  • The Internet Mob

    A New York Times article criticized reactions to Justine Sacco's AIDS tweet as harshly as the tweet itself. Sacco, the terminated communications director of an Internet company, fired off a jokey tweet ("Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!") and suffered harsh consequences. Response tweets threatened murder and rape : "Someone please borrow me a Gun, I need to shoot -->" "Someone (HIV+) must rape this b**** and we'll see if her skin colour can protect her from AIDS." Such tweets are painful to read and, of course, do nothing to teach a lesson, if that's the intent, of appropriate social media behavior. The New York Times article explains the power of an Internet mob, "’s riots are different in that it is the powerful, specifically those with the largest followings online, that could help quell these eruptions, yet instead douse them with more anger and hate." and continues: "In the eyes of the mob, there was justice. "Yet the people who threatened to rape and murder Ms. Sacco, who attacked her family and friends, aren’t held in contempt or fired from their jobs." As the social media cycle goes, people have come out in defense of Sacco: not to justify her tweet, which would be difficult, but to say that she's generally a nice person. Also, a friend relays a recent conversation in which Sacco said "people seemed to like the tweets that were just a little bit risqué or outrageous." Image source . Discussion Starters: What's your view of The New York Times article? Should people who criticize so harshly also suffer consequences? This story reminds me of when Adam Smith was fired from his company after "berating" a customer service employee at Chick-fil-A. What similarities and differences do you see in these situations?
  • Communication Director Gets Fired After "I'm White" Tweet

    Who knows what Justine Sacco, IAC executive, was thinking as she tweeted before boarding a plane to South Africa . As the senior director of corporate communications of a media and Internet company, Sacco should have known better. IAC owns sites such as,,, and Vimeo. As expected, people were furious and, using the hashtag, #HasJustineLandedYet, anticipated her arrival at Cape Town International Airport. Sporting sunglasses, she clearly knew she was getting her 15 minutes of fame. IAC responded via email to news sources : "The offensive comment does not reflect the views and values of IAC. We take this issue very seriously, and we have parted ways with the employee in question. "There is no excuse for the hateful statements that have been made, and we condemn them unequivocally. "We hope, however, that time and action, and the forgiving human spirit, will not result in the wholesale condemnation of an individual who we have otherwise known to be a decent person at core." CNN reports that Sacco issued this apology: "In a written statement. Sacco apologized 'for being insensitive to this crisis -- which does not discriminate by race, gender or sexual orientation, but which terrifies us all uniformly -- and to the millions of people living with the virus, I am ashamed.' "She added that she is a native of South Africa and was upset that she had hurt so many people there. "'I am very sorry for the pain I caused,' she wrote." The story could have ended there, but in-flight Wi-Fi provider Gogo used the incident for marketing purposes. This, too, turned out to be a bad decision, and the company apologized. Discussion Starters: Try to imagine Sacco's position. How would you describe what happened from her perspective? I don't see an apology from Sacco. Should she write one and, if so, what should it say? Not everyone agreed that Gogo's tweet was a poor choice. One tweeter wrote, "Most 'real-time marketing' is pretty weak and exploitive, but I do have to hand it to Gogo!" What's your view?
  • COO to Customer: "I am not sorry our employees were enjoying the holidays"

    The COO and co-founder of a metal water bottle company won points by pushing back on a customer's Facebook rant. The customer's all-caps post made Liberty Bottleworks sound unresponsive, but Ryan Clark tells a different story. Addressing the customers' "numerous voicemails and emails," Clark's response skillfully quotes one of her messages: "It is the holidays. You should be working." (Correct punctuation added!) Clark's post defends his employees: "Family first, product second." Since this exchange was posted on Reddit, Liberty Bottleworks wrote a Facebook message that the company has received record call volumes. Social media hopefuls correlate Clark's reaction and praise him for NOT following conventional wisdom of appeasing customers online. Image source . Discussion Starters: Assess the customer's post. What, if any, part of her message could be justified? Also assess Clark's Facebook response: what works well, and what could be improved? Help Clark improve his business writing skills. Rewrite his message with clearer organization and proper punctuation.
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