• Are People Tired of Email?

    Email open and click rates are on the decline, meaning people are less likely to open a marketing email. The latest study shows people opening marketing emails at a rate of 17% (compared to 26% in 2009).

    Email Open and Click Rates

    This continues a trend since 2007.

    Email Open Rates

    Discussion Starters:

    • Do these statistics surprise you? Why or why not?
    • What influences whether you open an email?
    • What can you learn from this for your own email messages -- both internal and external?

    Assignment Ideas:

    • Open your email inbox. Looking at the last 25 or so messages, which are you most likely to open and why? In small groups, discuss your reaction to the marketing emails. Did you open them initially?
    • Now look at your sent box. Rewrite the subject lines of five emails to make them more enticing for the receiver to open.
  • Following Complaint Letter, No "Mystery Shopper" Study of Doctors

    The Obama Administration had planned a survey to test how difficult it is for Medicaid and Medicare patients to get appointments with doctors. But following criticism about the cost of the study and the "proposed clandestine method of collecting information from physician offices," the study has been canceled.

    For data collection, the study called for mystery shoppers, who would pose as patients. In a letter, Senator Mark Kirk emphasized the "stealth" nature of the plan and his belief that the purpose of the study -- to prove a shortage of doctors -- has already been documented.

    Watch a related video: President Obama's discussion of Medicare.

    Video source.

     Discussion Starters:

    • What research was the Obama Administration trying to gather that they believed could only be obtained through mystery shoppers? In other words, what was the value of using mystery shoppers for this study?
    • From reading Senator Kirk's letter, do you consider the original study with mystery shoppers to be ethical for this purpose? Why or why not?
  • Santa Makes a Summer Appearance in Pepsi Commercial

    Pepsi has launched a new commercial featuring Santa Clause at a summer party. In a direct hit to Coke, which Pepsi now trails in sales (including Diet Coke), the ad shows Santa rejecting bottles of Coca-Cola. Critics say that Pepsi had lost focus on its flagship product; does this commercial signal a new direction?

     Discussion Starters:

    • Had you associated Santa Clause with Coke? Does your knowledge or lack of knowledge change your perception of the commercial?
    • How is Pepsi using logos, pathos, and ethos in this commercial to persuade viewers?
  • Former Skype Employees Lose Stock Options

    Following Microsoft's acquisition of Skype, former Skype employees are challenging the company's stance on stock options, including those they thought were "vested" or guaranteed. In a letter to one departing employee, the issue of stock options was explained:

    "Not withstanding the exercisability of your Options, Section 12 of your Stock Option Grant Agreement (the 'Grant Agreement') provides that any shares issuable upon the exercise of your Options would be issued on your behalf to the Partnership."

    Well that clears things up.

      Skype and Microsoft
    Read more here.

    Assignment Idea:

    • Read the letter about stock options. See how many nominalizations and prepositions you can identify.
    • If you have enough finance knowledge, try to rewrite the letter in plain language.
  • Delta Criticized for Saudi Partnership: Can Jews Fly?

    Delta Airlines has formed an alliance with Saudi Arabian Airlines that is causing people to question whether Delta discriminates against Jewish people. The Saudi government does not grant visas to Israelis. The Anti-Defamation League, an organization that fights anti-Semitism, has urged the airline not to "be a party" to discriminatory practices. Delta responded to the criticism in a statement: "Delta Air Lines does not discriminate nor do we condone discrimination against any of our customers in regards to age, race, nationality, religion, or gender." Read more of Delta's response on its blog.

     Discussion Starters:

    • Do you consider Delta's partnership discriminatory? Why or why not?
    • How do you react to Delta's response on its blog? Which arguments do you find most and least convincing?
  • Nike "Get High" T-Shirts Anger Boston Mayor

    Mayor of Boston Thomas Menino doesn't like Nike's new T-shirts. He believes that messages such as "Get High" and "Dope" promote drug use. In a letter to the general manager of Niketown Boston, Menino urges the company to remove the T-shirts.

    Nike T-Shirts

    Nike has responded to my tweet about the situation:

    Discussion Starters:

    • What is your opinion of Nike's new T-shirts: dangerous or just clever marketing?
    • Analyze the mayor's letter. What principles of persuasion does he use? Do you consider this an effective letter? Why or why not?
    • How do you think Nike should respond to the mayor's letter? What are the consequences of the company removing -- or keeping -- the T-shirts?
    • How do you assess Nike's tweets to BizCom in the News?
  • Will Graphic Images Encourage People to Quit Smoking?

    The U.S. government is using more visuals to help people get healthier. Shortly after revising the food pyramid, federal health officials have selected nine graphic images to appear on cigarette packs. If you're strong, you can see all of the new images here. As we might expect, the major tobacco companies are disputing the images, claiming, among other issues, infringement of their right to free speech. Read the government's news release.

    Cigarette pack images

    Discussion Starters:

    • Which, if any, of the images might convince someone to quit smoking? Do you find some images more effective than others? Why?
    • Why do you think the government is using pathos (emotional appeals) in this campaign rather than logical arguments, for example, providing data about life expectancy?
    • The Truth campaign has used graphic videos to encourage young people not to start or to quit smoking. How effective do you find this video, for example?
  • As "Sheriff" of Vancouver Riots, Social Media Nabs Several People

    Disappointed fans rioted after the Vancouver Canucks' Stanley Cup loss, and now some are paying the price. A University of British Columbia student, caught up in the action and caught on video, took two pair of pants from a store. She has since apologized on her blog

    Cacnio wasn't the only one identified in riot videos (she can be seen at 1:30 - 1:33 below). According to a Globe and Mail story, "Social media has become the sheriff of this unlawful event, in essence rounding up a number of rioters by posting their pictures on the Internet and encouraging people to identify the people in them. That has led to online shaming of those named, some of whom have since turned themselves into police and are lining up to publicly apologize online."


    Discussion Starters:

    • If a prospective employer Googled you, what would he or she find? (Try searching for yourself to make sure.)
    • How do you assess Cacnio's apology? She has quite an extensive list of people to whom she apologizes. Do you think this is appropriate given the situation, or did she do more than was necessary?
  • Customer Captures Anti-Gay Comments at Starbucks

    At a Long Island Starbucks, a customer apparently overheard a manager speaking with an employee (Jeffrey) and then making disrespectful comments about him to other employees. The customer's blog post about the incident got Starbucks' attention.

    Starbucks' response, "Our Dedication to Embrace Diversity,"  states, "We are disheartened by the allegations reported in an East Coast Starbucks store and are taking immediate measures to investigate and take any steps necessary to make this right. The actions reported do not correspond with our values, who we are as a company or the beliefs we try to instill in our partners."

    Starbucks LI

    Discussion Starters:

    • How, if at all, does the customer's alleged experience and Starbucks' response affect your perspective of Starbucks as an employer or as a company?
    • If you owned the Long Island Starbucks store, what, if anything, would you do in response to the customer's blog post?

    Assignment Idea:

    • The customer's blog post doesn't follow principles of business communication. Rewrite Missy's blog post to improve focus and organization.
  • "Facebook Fatigue" or a Poor Source of Data?

    One report indicates that Facebook lost millions of users in May: 6 million Americans, 1.5 million Canadians, and 100,000 Britons. Of course, Facebook still enjoys great success with almost 700 million users worldwide, but the company's goal is to reach 1 billion, and this is a step in the wrong direction.

    While critics say that people are tiring of the social networking service and have increasing concerns about privacy, Facebook has responded with optimism. The company has questioned the data (apparently pulled from the reach of Facebook ads) and maintains that it is "very pleased" with its overall growth, claiming that "50 percent of active users log on to Facebook on any given day."

    FB cartoon

    Image source.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Do you buy Facebook's argument about the data source? Why or why not? 
    • What is your personal view of Facebook? Have you ever felt "Facebook fatigue" or known others to quit?
  • 42% of Sarah Palin's Emails Are "Uninteresting"

    The buzz seems to be fading. According to the Guardian, 42% of over 6,000 pages of Sarah Palin's emails scanned so far are "uninteresting." Over 24,000 pages of the former governor of Alaska's emails have been released for public perusal. 

      Palin Emal Summary

    Here are a few mildly interesting ones for business communication students:

    Discussion Starters:

    • Why do you think Sarah Palin's email is of such interest to the press? Do you find her communications interesting? Why or why not?
    • Consider your own email communication. Have you written anything in the past year that you would regret if you saw it on Facebook?
  • USDA Replaces Food Pyramid Graphic

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture is trying a new graphic to help people understand healthy food choices. The pyramid graphic was thought to be confusing (well, yes, we see a person climbing a mountain with a pile of food at the bottom). The USDA's revised graphic is much simpler, showing just a plate with words to represent portions of food. To accompany the new communication, the USDA has a new website.

    Old Food Pyramid

    Choose My Plate
    Discussion Starters:

    • In what ways is the new graphic more effective than the old? How do you think people will react to the image?
    • Read the USDA's summary of messages about nutrition. How effective do you find this summary for combating obesity? What ideas do you have for improving these messages?