• Communications Around the "Pink Slime" Beef Additive

    Parties on both sides of the "pink slime" debate are weighing in. For business communication students, perhaps the most interesting communications (so far) are around how the term became popular and how companies—both consumer companies and the manufacturer—are responding.

    Blame Email 

    Oh, Email, you time-waster, career-destroyer, is there no end to the trouble you can start? In 2002, Gerald Zirnstein, a microbiologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, sent an email to colleagues saying "I do not consider the stuff to be ground beef, and I consider allowing it in ground beef to be a form of fraudulent labeling." Zirnstein is credited with coining the term "pink slime" in an email that he thought was private.

    Today, Zirnstein is considered a "reluctant whistleblower":

    "'The whole thing went viral ... Just blew the top off everything,' said Zirnstein. Zirnstein said he worried at first about being deemed a whistleblower, but now does not care. 'I am really an involuntary whistleblower,' he said. But he added, 'It looks like pink slime. That is what I said.' Asked if he and his family still eat hamburgers, Zirnstein sighed. 'The labels aren't clear, so we don't eat it. That's the thing,' he said. 'It isn't freaking labeled.'"

    Supermarkets and Fast-Food Restaurants Act

    Following Safeway and Supervalu, Kroger, the leading supermarket chain in the United States, announced on its Facebook page the decision to stop buying the product:

    “We have listened to your concerns that the use of lean finely textured beef—while fully approved by the USDA for safety and quality—is something you do not want in ground beef. You are our top priority and for that reason we have decided to stop purchasing ground beef that contains lean finely textured beef.”

    In its "Statement on Lean, Finely Textured Beef," Walmart explains its decision to offer customers meat with and without the additive:

    “As a result of customer and member feedback, Walmart and Sam’s Club will begin offering fresh ground beef that does not contain lean finely textured beef (LFTB). We are working aggressively with our suppliers to have new offerings in our stores and clubs as quickly as possible. As these products become available, associates in our meat department and at our customer service desks will share updates with customers who inquire.

    "While the USDA and experts agree that beef containing LFTB is safe and nutritious, we are committed to listening to our customers and providing the quality products they want at prices they can afford.”

    Wendy's took a different approach. The fast-food chain capitalized on the news and used a slogan from a 1980s campaign: "Where's The Pure Beef? At Wendy's, that's where!" Ads ran in USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, and other papers. Wendy's also used this image in rotation on its website home page.

    Beef Products Inc. Defends Its Product

    Dude, It's BeefFighting back, Beef Products Inc., manufacturer of the additive, has launched an aggressive campaign. The company offered a tour of its facility to a few governors and reporters and handed out "Dude, It's Beef" T-shirts.

    On a newly created website, "Beef Is Beef," the company dispels what it calls "The 8 Myths of 'Pink Slime.'" (The URL says "7 myths," and I'm curious which was added late.)

    Beef Products Inc. also took out a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal, including this letter from company founder Eldon Roth:

    “Pink Slime” Libel to Cost This Country Jobs

    Before last summer, we could not have imagined the personal, professional, financial and spiritual impact of the campaign of lies and deceit that have been waged against our company and the lean beef we produce.  But over the last several weeks, that campaign has been joined by entertainment media, tabloid journalists, so-called national news  -  and all to what end?  The clear goal expressed by the campaign organizer  -  put BPI out of business.

    It is simply amazing how this mis-information campaign can take a company and product that has long been recognized for its quality and safety and turn the public perception so negative that it now may result in the loss of over 3,000 jobs (direct employment and companies that rely upon our business) and affected their families and communities.

    Our record is unsurpassed.  NEVER has a foodborne illness been associated with our lean beef over 30 years. In nearly 300,000,000,000 meals, we have been a recognized leader in food safety by groups such as the International Association for Food Protection.  Look at the overwhelming support from food scientists, USDA officials, Consumer Advocate organizations academia and customers we have received reaffirming the wholesomeness, nutrition and safety of our lean beef.

    As the founder of the company, I can personally guarantee that in our 30 year history, we have never produced 'pink slime.'

    Eldon Roth

    President & CEO

    Beef Products Inc. also created this "Get the Facts" infographic to explain "lean beef trimmings."

    Discussion Starters:

    • After researching the "pink slime" topic further, with which of the arguments do you agree and disagree?
    • Assess the communications from Beef Products Inc.: the Beef Is Beef website, the founder's letter, and the infographic. What is most and least effective in each of these communications? 
  • JetBlue Responds to Incident with "Erratic" Captain

    Just three weeks after an American Airlines flight attendant displayed irrational behavior before take-off, a JetBlue captain displayed what some called "erratic" behavior during a flight from New York to Las Vegas.

    One passenger heard the captain yell, "They're going to take us down. They're taking us down. They're going to take us down. Say the Lord's prayer. Say the Lord's prayer." Others said he was yelling about Al Qaeda and a bomb on the plane.

    JetBlue responded with a statement and updates on its blog:

    "Flight 191 departed New York’s JFK airport at 7:28 am ET (was scheduled to depart 6:55 am ET).  At roughly 10 am CT/11 am ET, the pilot in command elected to divert to Amarillo, TX for a medical situation involving the Captain.  Another Captain, traveling off duty, entered the flight deck prior to landing at Amarillo, and took over the duties of the ill crewmember.  The aircraft arrived Amarillo at 10:11 am CT, and the crewmember was removed from the aircraft and taken to a local medical facility.

    "Customers have safely deplaned and we’re sending a new aircraft and crew to Amarillo to continue the flight to Las Vegas."

    Read a more detailed timeline of events.

    JetBlue faced another embarrassing incident recently, when one of its flight attendants exited the plane via the emergency chute. Maybe these airline jobs really are stressful!  

    Discussion Starters:

    • Read American Airlines' statement and updates. How well do you think the company is responding to the situation? 
    • Imagine that you're head of HR for American Airlines. What, if any, communication would you initiate for employees? What medium would you use, and what would you say? 
  • PR/Communications Study Shows More Focus on Social Media

    A study of senior-level communicators reveals priorities for communication in public and private companies, government agencies, and not-for-profit organizations. The Communication and Public Relations Generally Accepted Practices (GAP VII) study is the seventh by the USC Annenberg Strategic Communication and Public Relations Center.

    This year, the study shows that organizations are increasing their public relations budgets, measurements of success, and responsibilities for social media and SEO. Organizations also have given PR/Communications functions more responsibility for  internal communications and customer relations. Also encouraging, PR seems to have a so-called "seat at the table," according to the report findings:

    "In nearly 60% of responding companies PR/COM reports directly to the 'C-Suite' (chairman, CEO, COO, etc.), reflecting today’s increasingly transparent, communication-intensive environment."

    Additional changes are reported in the GAP VII executive summary, below, and in the full report.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Which results from the study surprise you? Which results do not surprise you?
    • The study reports little use of wikis and virtual worlds for communication. What do you think accounts for this lack of use?
    • Analyze how the full report is organized. Is it logical and easy to follow? What, if any, improvements would you suggest to the author?
  • Belvedere Vodka Apologizes for Ad

    Belvedere adBelvedere Vodka apologized for an ad that many believe mocks sexual assault, but the apology also drew criticism.

    As one of many who reacted negatively to the ad, @KateHarding tweeted about her feelings:

    "The @belvederevodka rape joke ad disappeared just as I was about to share it on FB. Hope someone got a screenshot. Appalling."

    Belvedere initially tweeted this short apology:

    Belvedere
    After more criticism, the company released a more formal statement:

    "My name is Charles Gibb and I am the President of Belvedere Vodka. I would like to personally apologize for the offensive post that recently appeared on our Facebook page.

    "It should never have happened. I am currently investigating the matter to determine how this happened and to be sure it never does so again. The content is contrary to our values and we deeply regret this lapse.

    "As an expression of our regret over this matter we have made a donation to RAINN (America's largest anti-sexual violence organization. www.rainn.org)"

    RAINN also posted a note on its Facebook page:

    "We got a call from Belvedere Vodka's president, who was profusely apologetic about an offensive Facebook post yesterday. He stressed how much it was contrary to his values and what Belvedere stands for, and that he feels awful about it. He offered to make a generous donation to RAINN to support our work to help victims of sexual violence and educate the public. Nice to see a company that not only undoes its mistake but looks for a way to do good afterwards."

    Discussion Starters:

    • Compare the two apologies. What are the main differences?
    • What are components of a effective apology? Do you find the second apology effective? Why or why not?
  • Emails in Facebook Dispute Revealed

    Paul Ceglia, of StreetFax, is claiming a 50% stake in Facebook (reduced from 84%). The claim is partly based on email interactions between Ceglia and Mark Zuckerberg, who was contracted to work on Ceglia's StreetFax site in 2003.

    Zuckerberg's attorneys take issue with the emails themselves, which are produced in Microsoft Word, rather than within a native-format email program. The attorney's motion to dismiss the case called the emails "an obvious indicator of fraud," stating that “Ceglia simply typed text into a Word document and declared it was the text of emails with Zuckerberg."

    An email dated February 4, 2004, refers to the launch of Facebook: “The site looks great." But the time stamp is 10:30 a.m., before Facebook went live that afternoon. According to the Facebook team's motion, "This exchange is a historical impossibility."

    The Wall Street Journal provides more information about the situation and doubts Ceglia's credibility:

    A ThomsonReuters article analyzes the situation and also agrees with Zuckerberg's defense. In the piece, the writer provides six rules for "What not to do if you're suing a Facebook billionaire," including Rule 1: "Don't leave a version of the contract between you and the billionaire on your parents' computer unless that version matches what you've presented to the court."

    Discussion Starters:

    • Read the ThomsonReuters analysis. With which of the writer's claims do you agree?
    • What other examples of emails becoming public have been in the news in the past year?
    • In this situation, Zuckerberg's emails may help him defend the case. But in other situations, public email is embarrassing and damaging. How can you avoid this happening to you?
  • Results from the "Etch A Sketch" Comment

    It was a good week for Ohio Art, toymaker of the red tablet that writes and erases with ease. According to an adviser to Mitt Romney, he has a lot in common with an Etch A Sketch.

    When Eric Fehrnstrom was asked how Romney will appeal to both moderates and conservatives, he made a fatal mistake: he told what sounds like the truth. CNN reports that Fehrnstrom said the campaign will press the "reset button":

    "Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again."

     Republican competitor Ron Paul grabbed onto the misstep and produced a new video, which asks "Tired of the games?" 

    Candidate Rick Santorum also latched onto the phrase:  "If we are going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk in what may be the Etch A Sketch candidate." A member of his staff distributed small versions of the toy to reporters during a trip to Maryland. 

    And candidate Newt Gingrich got into the act. Holding an Etch a Sketch, as Santorum also did, he said

    "So here's Gov. Romney's staff, they don't even have the decency to wait until they get the nomination to explain to us how they'll sell us out, and I think having an Etch A Sketch as your campaign model, raises every doubt about where we're going."

    Read a Time article for an analysis of how this comment may be a "disaster" for the Romney campaign. 

    As for Etch A Sketch, the share price has more than doubled, reaching $12.50 at one point, which was the biggest one-day increase the stock has seen in more than 30 years. 

    Discussion Starters: 

    • How could a comment like this have slipped from a candidate's representative? How could it have been avoided? 
    • How do you assess the consequences? Will Romney be able to recover? 
    • Evaluate Ron Paul's ad? What works well about his approach, and what you recommend changing?
  • Did an Email to Customers Save a Pizza Business?

    When Nick's Pizza & Pub was losing business, CEO Nick Sarillo did something against conventional wisdom: he sent an email to customers describing the situation and asking them to return. Sarillo engaged his customers in saving the two restaurants, which is just the result he got. 

    In his email, Sarillo makes several emotional appeals, such as this one: 

    "I realize that sending an e-mail like this is risky and unorthodox, but I don't care because I don't have anything to fear or hide.  We run our business with totally open books, and the core team that shows up to our weekly fiscal huddles will not be surprised by what I'm writing. I truly care about our team and each guest who has blessed us by choosing to eat at Nick's instead of any of the many other places available to them."

    His email ends with a clear, public appeal: 

    "I do have one last hope for me and the 200 team members of Nick's. If within these next four weeks we could see a large increase in sales at either of our restaurants, we could still pull through. So my final request is for each of you to come dine at Nick's Pizza & Pub and tell all your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors to come now, too. We want to continue on as a part of your commuity [sic] and aren't ready to tell you goodbye yet. If you wish to contact me with investor ideas or any ideas or questions at all, you can email me at office@nickspizzapub.com, call me at 815.356.5557, or simply stop by and talk in person. Thank you for reading."

    Nick's PizzaTo some—including Sarillo’s publicist and banker—the approach is perhaps too open. The business owner admits failing and runs the risk of turning off customers for good. But Sarillo explains his rationale:

    “I honestly woke up on Saturday morning, walked over to my computer and looked at reports as I typically do, and this time I didn't know what I was going to do anymore. . . . I surrendered to the fact that this could be it and I could lose my business. I decided that I had done my best and I needed to let go. . . .That is when I decided I needed to do what felt like the right thing to do, communicate openly, clearly and honestly. It felt very uncomfortable in the moment to be so vulnerable, and actually as I started to write, tears were also coming out. It was hard to let go of something I worked so hard for and built with my own two hands. Although I had surrendered (in the spiritual sense of the word) to what my life would be like without my business, by the time I got to the end of the email, I still had hope and was not totally giving up."


    Public support was strong following the email. Someone set up a Facebook page, Save Nick's Pizza, and according to Sarillo, "We doubled our sales in each restaurant for the first week and stayed at a 75 percent increase for a couple of weeks." It took a while, but Nick's remains a viable business today. 

    Sarillo and others credit the success to his transparency and authencity—two important qualities for a business leader. 

    Discussion Starters: 

    • What examples of emotional appeal, logical argument, and credibility do you see in Nick's email? Which approach do you think is most effective? 
    • Under what circumstances do you think a similar email may NOT have the same results in saving a business? In other words, for what types of businesses or business owners would you recommend this strategy, and for what types would you recommend avoiding it? 
  • Duchess of Cambridge Gives Her First Speech

    By some accounts, Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William's wife), is not a natural speaker. But she was put to the test on Monday and did fairly well.

    Speaking to the East Anglian Children's Hospices, one of Princess Diana's charitable causes, the Duchess was visibly nervous, according to sources on site. The audience could see her hands shaking and hear a subtle quaver in her voice. She seems to be compensating for her nervousness by reading slowly and deliberately. 

    e

    Discussion Starters:

    • If you were giving Duchess Kate feedback on her speech, what would you say? What are the strengths of the speech, and what areas would you suggest for her development? 
    • Now watch a CNN's correspondent's assessment of the speech. Do you agree with his assessment? 
  • Study Compares Honesty on LinkedIn Profiles and Resumes

    A new Cornell University study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking reveals that undergraduates are more accurate in describing work experience on their LinkedIn profile than on their resume. However, they are more deceptive in describing their hobbies.

    LinkedIn-LogoThe public nature of LinkedIn makes it easy to verify falsifications. Imagine connecting with your previous boss on the site, only for her to see a  job title that doesn't exist or responsibilities you didn't do. This is good news for employers wanting to check applicants' resumes and may be one reason that 48% of employers say they do so before making a hiring decision.

    But according to Jamie Guillory, the study's lead author, students on LinkedIn "still found ways to make themselves look better" and took more liberties when describing hobbies, which are harder to verify. About 92% of students exaggerated or omitted information at least once on LinkedIn or their resumes, with students making these decisions an average of three times.

    Discussion Starters and Assignment Ideas:

    • Are you more truthful on your LinkedIn profile than on your resume? In what ways?
    • Where you we cross the line between exaggerations and lies? What would you consider unethical? Give a few examples to explain your thinking.
    • Identify any potential exaggerations or omissions on either your LinkedIn profile or on your resume. What are the potential consequences if this information is discovered to be false? In retrospect, is it worth the risk?
    • Swap resumes with a partner. Choose a few items—work experience, activities, or interests—and interview each other. Ask specific, pointed questions to try to verify the information. Do you uncover any potential issues with how the information is described? What, if anything, will you change on your resume as a result of this process?
  • Three Dead Horses, One Cancelled Show

    HBO's "Luck" has run out. After three horses died, the HBO Show, starring Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, has been cancelled. 

    In a statement, HBO explained the decision:

    “Safety is always of paramount concern. We maintained the highest safety standards throughout production, higher in fact than any protocols existing in horseracing anywhere with many fewer incidents than occur in racing or than befall horses normally in barns at night or pastures. While we maintained the highest safety standards possible, accidents unfortunately happen, and it is impossible to guarantee they won’t in the future. Accordingly, we have reached this difficult decision."

    People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) disagrees with this assessment, claiming that the organization suggested ways to protect the horses even before filming began. PETA also criticizes the use of former race horses, who were out of practice and out of shape and should never have been raced twice in one day. 

    In a letter to the Los Angeles district attorney, PETA encourages an investigation and outlines circumstances, as it sees them, around the first two deaths.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Did HBO make the right decision to cancel "Luck" because of the horses' deaths?
    • How do you assess HBO's statement? Is this the best approach?
    • In PETA's letter to the LA district attorney, which do you believe are the strongest and weakest arguments?
  • Resigning Employee Says Goldman Is "Just About Making Money"

    In a stinging op-ed piece in The New York Times, a former Goldman Sachs manager calls the company's culture "toxic and destructive" and says the company has lost its focus on clients. Greg Smith, former head of Goldman's U.S. equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, resigned from the firm as of today—and went out with a bang.

    In some ways, the letter confirms the negative image of Goldman as too focused on profits:

    "What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm’s 'axes,' which is Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit. b) 'Hunt Elephants.' In English: get your clients — some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to trade whatever will bring the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym."

    Smith also tallies recent image-damaging transgressions, with helpful links from The New York Times to related stories:

    "It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C., Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire Squids? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact."

    Goldman was quick to respond to the letter:

    “We disagree with the views expressed, which we don’t think reflect the way we run our business. In our view, we will only be successful if our clients are successful. This fundamental truth lies at the heart of how we conduct ourselves.”

    CEO Lloyd Blankfein and COO Gary Cohn also responded in an open letter to employees

    "In a company of our size, it is not shocking that some people could feel disgruntled.  But that does not and should not represent our firm of more than 30,000 people. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion.  But, it is unfortunate that an individual opinion about Goldman Sachs is amplified in a newspaper and speaks louder than the regular, detailed and intensive feedback you have provided the firm and independent, public surveys of workplace environments.

    "While I expect you find the words you read today foreign from your own day-to-day experiences, we wanted to remind you what we, as a firm – individually and collectively – think about Goldman Sachs and our client-driven culture."

    For another perspective, Jim Cramer, of  MSNBC, says the letter is "devastating" and "shocking." (Video: forward to 1:10.)

    Update: Goldman Sachs lost $2.15 billion in market value following Smith's letter; the stock dropped 3.4%, the third largest decline in the company's history, according to Bloomberg.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Read the entire op-ed letter by Greg Smith. What do you consider to be his strongest and weakest arguments?
    • Read Goldman Sachs' response. Same question: What do you consider to be the company's strongest and weakest arguments?
    • How, if at all, do you think the letter will affect Goldman's image?
    • Do you think that Goldman Sachs will change its business practices as a result of this letter?
  • Controversy About "Homeless Hotspots" at SXSW

    Homeless HotspotAt South by Southwest (SXSW), a music, film, and technology conference, a marketing agency had an idea to help attendees get online. BBH Labs gave 13 people from a homeless shelter devices and T-shirts that give people Internet access, a hot commodity at the high-tech conference.

    The program, "Homeless Hotspots," has been criticized by the New York Times and others. A writer for the New York Times SXSW blog asks, "When the infrastructure fails us… we turn human beings into infrastructure?" Tim Carmody of Wired.com said it “sounds like something out of a darkly satirical science-fiction dystopia.” To many, the concept feels exploitative, a way of using homeless people to support the wealthy and connected.

    Defenders of the program say it's a clever way to raise awareness about homelessness. Mitchell Gibbs, the director of development at Front Steps, from where the homeless people were recruited, supported the program. BBH says the program is modeled after Street News, a newspaper about homeless people sold by homeless people. BBH also clarified that participants at SXSW were given $20 each day and are keeping whatever money they get when people donate online.

    Discussion Starters:

    • What's your view of the program? Is it clever, exploitative, or something else?
    • If you were at the SXSW conference, how you think you might feel about using one of the hotspots?
  • Rush Limbaugh Rejects Advertiser Wanting to Come Back

    The Sleep Train wants to come back to The Rush Limbaugh Show, but the talk show host has rejected the company's request. The company pulled its advertising after Limbaugh had a run-in with Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student (and Cornell grad).

    According to one report, over 140 companies have pulled their advertising, and apparently, The Sleep Train was the first. The Sleep Train had a 25-year advertising relationship with the show, but tweeted its initial decision:

    Sleep Train

    Now, the Sleep Train wants to begin advertising once again. However, although his show now suffers with dead air during some commercial breaks, Limbaugh has cut off the relationship. In an email, the show explained the decision: 

    "Thank you for your requests last week and this week to restart your voiced endorsement in local markets of The Rush Limbaugh Show. Rush received your requests personally.

    "Unfortunately, your public comments were not well received by our audience, and did not accurately portray either Rush Limbaugh’s character or the intent of his remarks. Thus, we regret to inform you that Rush will be unable to endorse Sleep Train in the future. 

    "Rush appreciates your long friendship and your past support, and we wish you good luck in the future."

    Limbaugh did apologize for his comments about the law student. On his website, he posted a statement that included this message:

    "My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices."

    Discussion Starters:

    This is a highly charged, political situation, but let's focus on the relevant communication decisions and messages.

    • How do you interpret Sleep Train's initial decision and its attempt to return?
    • What's your view of Rush Limbaugh's decision to reject the advertiser? Does it reflect a smart business decision, sticking with one's principles, or something else?
    • How well do you think Limbaugh's email conveyed the message to Sleep Train?
    • How do you assess Limbaugh's apology? Do you find it sincere, insincere, or somewhere in between?
  • American Airlines Response About Flight Attendant

    American Airlines passengers were alarmed when a flight attendant started screaming about 9/11 and a potential plane crash. The flight attendant was removed from the plane, and the Dallas-to-Chicago flight was delayed but eventually took off without any further trouble.

    American Airlines issued this statement in response:

    "This morning Flight 2332 had left the gate at DFW bound for Chicago, when an incident occurred involving some of the cabin crew. The aircraft returned to the gate, where it was met by Department of Public Safety officers. Two flight attendants were taken to local hospitals for treatment. We continue to investigate the details and circumstances and will have no further comment at this time. We will ensure that the affected flight attendants receive proper care, and we commend our other crew members for their assistance in quickly getting the aircraft back to the gate so that customers could be re-accommodated. Our customers were not in danger at any time. The cabin crew was replaced. The flight departed for Chicago at 9:46 a.m., and is scheduled to land around noon. We apologize for any inconvenience to our customers, and we appreciate their patience and understanding."

    Discussion Starters:

    • How do you assess American Airlines' response? What works well, and what could the company say differently?
    • If you were American Airlines' head of customer relations, what, if anything, would you do for or communicate to the passengers of this flight?
  • MLA (Bizarre) Standard for Citing Tweets

    The Modern Language Association has announced a new standard for citing tweets:

    "Begin the entry in the works-cited list with the author’s real name and, in parentheses, user name, if both are known and they differ. If only the user name is known, give it alone.

    "Next provide the entire text of the tweet in quotation marks, without changing the capitalization. Conclude the entry with the date and time of the message and the medium of publication (Tweet).

    The word "Tweet" is rather strange to me; we don't include the words "book" or "journal" in other citations. Rather, the source is Twitter. I might also include a date when the tweet was accessed for the same reason we do so for other web content: the tweet may be deleted.

    The Verge compares MLA's approach to APA's, identified two years ago:

    MLA:

    Tweet citation in MLA

    APA:

    Tweet citation in APA
    As The Verge writer points out, the MLA version is more helpful because it includes the real name and Twitter handle, but the APA version helps readers find the actual tweet by including a link.

    The Harvard Business School Citation Guide 2012, my preferred source for business writing, doesn't include tweets at all. I imagine the theory is that tweets are considered fair use and therefore, as long as the source is clear within the text, citation is unnecessary. Or, the HBS Guide needs updating.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Do you prefer the APA or MLA citation standard? Why?
    • What's your view of not citing tweets for business writing?
  • Huggies Revises Dad Ad

    In what Advertising Age called a "poop-storm," Huggies ran a campaign called a "Dad Test." Described in the promotional video, Huggies promises "to prove Huggies diapers and wipes can withstand anything...put them to the toughest test imaginable: dads, alone with their babies in one house for five days, while we gave their moms some well-deserved time off."

    Reactions to the campaign were mixed, with many feeling that the ad insults dads, 32% of whom are primary caregivers.

    Huggies maker Kimberly-Clark responded to the controversy:

    "We have heard the feedback from dads concerning our current 'real life' dad commercials. We recognize that we need to do a better job communicating the campaign's overall message. The singular goal with this campaign was to demonstrate the performance of our products in real-life situations because we know real life is what matters most to moms and dads. A fact of life is that dads care for their kids just as much as moms do and in some cases are the only caregivers.

    "We intended to break out of stereotypes by showing that dads have an opinion on product performance just as much as moms do. That said, the Huggies brand is learning and listening, and, because of the responses we have received, are making changes to ensure that the true spirit of the campaign comes through in the strongest way possible.

    "We have already replaced our initial TV ad with a new one that more clearly communicates our true intent and are in the process of revising the wording of the Huggies brand online communications."

    Huggies has changed its approach and now encourages people to nominate great dads for a chance to win Huggies products.

    Huggies Dad Test revised

    Discussion Starters:

    • Do you find the original Huggies ad offensive, funny, or something else? Do you understand the backlash, or do you think dads are over-reacting? 
    • How do you assess Kimberly-Clark's response? What are the most and least convincing arguments?
    • How successful is the revised approach? Will this satisfy those who were offended by the original ad?
  • Accounting Study: Be Careful with Video for Bad News

    A new study found a discrepancy in how managers perceived a CEO who announced financial restatements via video compared to text. After viewing messages in each medium, managers were asked to rate the trustworthiness of a CEO who announced changes. Published in the March/April issue of The Accounting Review,  the study suggests that companies needing to issue restatements should do so via video only if they take responsibility for the bad news. The authors explain:Accounting Review

    "Announcing a restatement online via video is likely to benefit firms only when top management apologizes for the restatement and accepts responsibility by making an internal attribution for the error. When management apologizes but denies responsibility by making an external attribution, announcing a restatement online via video is likely to have unintended negative effects on investors."

    The messages varied by only one sentence in the middle of the statement:

    • "We are fully responsible for this error because we relied on the advice of our internal lease accounting expert when preparing our financial statements." OR
    • "We are not responsible for this error because we relied on the advice of external lease accounting experts when preparing our financial statements."

    According to the study, using video is risky, but there is an upside. Managers who watched the video gave the CEO a trustworthiness rating of 6.15 out of 7 for the first statement and a mere 4.0 for the second. Managers who read text of the statements gave similar ratings for both: 4.75 and 4.55, respectively.

    This study had a professional actor play the role of the CEO. For real situations, corporate communicators likely will consider many other factors before choosing video or text, including how well the CEO will come across to an audience of investors.

    For more detail, see the study, "Using Online Video to Announce a Restatement: Influences on Investment Decisions and the Mediating Role of Trust."

    Discussion Starters: 

    • What do you think accounts for the discrepancy between a video and text?
    • What would you advise a CEO to do when he or she has to issue a restatement because of an internal error? Should he or she risk creating a video? What would factor into your decision?
    • If a company has to issue a restatement because of an external error, should the CEO take responsibility as if it were an internal error in hopes of garnering more investor support? (Careful!)
  • A Peak into Facebook's Corporate Culture

    A feature in the next Fortune issue reveals a split corporate culture at Facebook: the "hacker" culture on which the company was built and the more corporate culture that is preparing the company to go public. The "hacker way" includes continuous improvement of products from anyone who can code—education isn't particularly valued as part of this culture. As one example of the hacker way, the Facebook "Like" button went through "dozens" of iterations.

    The other culture is more corporate, led by COO Sheryl Sandberg. The Fortune article describes her influence:

    "There's a term spoken quietly around Facebook to describe a cadre of elites who have assumed powerful positions under the leadership of Zuckerberg's chief operating officer: They're FOSS, or friends of Sheryl Sandberg. Many have followed her there after studying with her at the Harvard Business School or working with her at the U.S. Treasury Department or Google (GOOG). Several middle and senior executives who have left the company say that Sandberg has put friends in powerful positions, sometimes even when they were less qualified than other Facebook employees, and once there they enjoy special status. 'You can't really cross a FOSS,' says one former senior manager."

    TechCrunch sums up the culture clash as a "tug of war between innovation and monetization." Facebook employees are concerned about how the IPO may affect the hacker culture; however, Andrew Bosworth, FB Director of Engineering doesn't agree with the article's portrayal of Facebook in some respects:

    Facebook response

    Discussion Starters:

    • How would you describe the corporate culture at places where you worked?
    • Have you experienced a healthy—or perhaps an unhealthy—conflict between different corporate cultures? To what do you attribute the conflict?
    • What is the best way for Facebook to resolve this conflict? TechCrunch has some ideas from a business perspective; what are your ideas using an interpersonal approach?
  • Will This Student's Video Get Her into Yale?

    Jackie Milestone really wants to go to Yale, but she was deferred admission. To try to influence the admissions committee, she created a video, "White and Blue for You."

    It's a catchy tune, but Jackie might take some lessons in persuasive communication.

    Discussion Starters:

    • How does Jackie balance emotional appeal, logical arguments, and credibility in her video? 
    • What suggestions do you have for Jackie to improve her video and possibly sway the admissions committee?
    • If you were deciding Jackie's fate, would the video influence you? Why or why not?