• Another Restaurant Serves Alcohol to a Child

    Within the past year, at least three restaurants have mistakenly served alcohol to children. This time, an Olive Garden in Indianapolis gave a 10-year-old boy a rum drink. Olive-garden

    The boy drank half of what he thought was a non-alcoholic Wildberry Frullato drink before his family became concerned. After seeing his "increasingly strange behavior," he was taken to the hospital.

    In a statement, Olive Garden said that the server had been fired:

    "We find this situation completely unacceptable and we are extremely upset that this occurred. We have a zero-tolerance policy for any violation of our responsible alcohol service policy, and the employee who served the wrong drink has been terminated. We are thankful that the child is OK, and we will continue to work with the family to resolve this issue."

    About a year ago, an Olive Garden in Orlando served sangria in a sippy cup to a two-year-old. This incident was just days after an Applebee's in Detroit accidentally spiked a 15-month-old boy's apple juice.

    Discussion Starters:  

    • How do you assess Olive Garden's statement, particularly the part about their "zero-tolerance policy"?
    • In your opinion, was the restaurant's termination of the server appropriate? Why or why not?
  • Marco Rubio Misses the Last Page of His Speech

    Florida Senator and potential Romney running mate Marco Rubio forgot the last page of his speech at the Brookings Institution. Fortunately, someone nearby had a copy, and he quickly recovered, but the incident raises other issues about his presentation style. 

    One media coach also criticized Senator Rubio for his reading, his lack of passion, and that he just kept going once he found the missing page. Instead, he suggested that Rubio make light of situation: "Well, since this moment will end up on YouTube, it’s a great chance to tell people about our vision for the 21st Century."

    Others criticized Rubio partly because of a comment he made about President Obama's delivery style in 2010. The New York Times reported that Rubio referred to the president as, "the most articulate and talented teleprompter reader in America." Of course, a teleprompter can go down, too.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Watch more of Marco Rubio's speech. What does he do well, and what would you suggest he change?
    • What advice would you give Rubio to avoid losing a page of his speech? Stapling isn't a great option—anything else?
  • Google Drive for Team Projects

    Google has introduced an evolution of Google Docs: Drive, a service that stores photos and videos in addition to documents. The new service will likely compete with both Dropbox for cloud storage and Microsoft's similar product, SkyDrive.

    The advantages of Drive over Dropbox are clear: in Dropbox, users can only store files; they can't edit documents as they can in Google Docs and Drive. The tougher choice is between Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive. PCWorld compared the services in these articles:

    For students, the decision may come down to ease of access (Drive doesn't require another login if they're already on Gmail) versus software (SkyDrive uses Microsoft files, which are more standard and feature rich than Google Docs). A minor issue for students is privacy. People have expressed concern over Drive's "terms of service," but the risks may be exaggerated, and I'm not too worried about my students' revealing trade secrets during their team projects.

    Discussion Starters:

    • What are the advantages of Google Drive over Google Docs?
    • Which service would you prefer: Google Drive or Microsoft SkyDrive? Why?
  • Jimmy John's Will Rehire Employees Who Put Up Posters

    Sandwich restaurant Jimmy John's had disappointing news this week: a federal judge ordered the company to rehire and pay lost wages to six employees. The employees were fired after they posted 3,000 notices implying that sandwiches could be made by sick workers.

    Jimmy John's

    The employees claimed that if they called in sick but couldn't find a replacement, they feared being fired. In the court decision, the judge ruled that, by removing the posters, Jimmy John's violated workers' rights under the National Labor Relations Act. This decision was based on a labor dispute under way at Jimmy John's: a union held an election to organize workers and, although the union was narrowly rejected, it filed unfair labor practices, claiming that Jimmy John's interfered with the election process.

    The union perspective is that the workers were terminated "for blowing the whistle on company policies that expose customers to sandwiches made by sick workers." 

    MikLin Enterprises, which owns Jimmy John's, will appeal the decision.

    Discussion Starters:

    • What is your perspective of the posters? What is the company's perspective?
    • How does this case relate to comments in social networking sites, a hotly debated topic for the National Labor Relations Board?
  • Apple's Impressive Second-Quarter Results

    With strong sales of iPads, iPhones, and Macs, Apple reported a 94% increase in year-over-year sales (compared to second-quarter a year ago).

    In a company news release, CEO Tim Cook said, “We’re thrilled with sales of over 35 million iPhones and almost 12 million iPads in the March quarter. The new iPad is off to a great start, and across the year you’re going to see a lot more of the kind of innovation that only Apple can deliver.” The news comes within a month of reports that Tim Cook is the highest paid CEO, raking in $278 million last year.

    The news sounds good, but a closer look at the data shows that sales are down from the first quarter (click for the PDF).

    Apple data
    Discussion Starters and Assignment Ideas:

    • Do you believe that Tim Cook's salary is justified? Why or why not?
    • Rewrite Apple's news release for employees. How would you adapt this message to an  internal email?
    • Imagine that you're presenting the second-quarter results as part of a PowerPoint presentation to shareholders. Convert the table to a few charts to show the results more visually. Which data would you choose to include?
  • Heineken Responds to Dog Fighting Accusation

    Bad timing for Heineken: banners were left up after a company event at a Mongolian nightclub. Unfortunately, next on the schedule was dog fighting. Outrage quickly ensued on Heineken's Facebook page and elsewhere.

    Heineken responded quickly with this statement:

    “Heineken is aware of a shocking photo of what appears to be a dogfighting match in a foreign country with Heineken branding visible in the background. We'd like to thank the community for bringing this issue to our attention.

    “We are as appalled by this image as you are and have asked the Heineken Global Office to immediately investigate the circumstances of this event and whether Heineken was involved in any way.

    "If you have any further information regarding this picture, such as the source, or the venue where it was taken, please let us know in this thread.”

    In a follow-up statement, Heineken denied association with the event and explained the situation:

    "Images continue to circulate in social media channels showing a dog fight, with Heineken banners clearly visible in the background. This is very distressing and totally unacceptable. As a company and a brand owner, we do not and would never knowingly support any event, outlet or individual involved in this type of activity. It is against our company and brand rules and - more important - against our company values. . . ."

    The statement goes on to explain that the banners were left from a previous event and that the company has "ceased" its relationship with the club.

    The situation follows a July 2011 Heineken commercial that compares the beer to a snakeskin jacket: "It's not right for every occasion. Unless, of course, you find yourself attending a secret, offsite, charity snake-fighting event." Weird.

    Discussion Starters:

    • How do you assess the social media response? Were people right to question Heineken's involvement, or did they overreact?
    • How do you assess Heineken's response to the criticism?
    • What do you make of the snake commercial? Is it just me, or is it weird even if the dog-fighting controversy didn't happen?
  • Communications in the Wal-Mart Bribe Inquiry

    With a New York Times headline that reads, "Vast Mexico Bribery Case Hushed Up by Wal-Mart After Top-Level Struggle," news can only be bad for the world's largest corporate employer. Of course, the evidence is that revealer of so many corporate secrets: email.

    The New York Times article reports the severity of the situation:

    "Wal-Mart dispatched investigators to Mexico City, and within days they unearthed evidence of widespread bribery. They found a paper trail of hundreds of suspect payments totaling more than $24 million. They also found documents showing that Wal-Mart de Mexico’s top executives not only knew about the payments, but had taken steps to conceal them from Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. In a confidential report to his superiors, Wal-Mart’s lead investigator, a former F.B.I. special agent, summed up their initial findings this way: 'There is reasonable suspicion to believe that Mexican and USA laws have been violated.'"

    "The lead investigator recommended that Wal-Mart expand the investigation.

    "Instead, an examination by The New York Times found, Wal-Mart’s leaders shut it down."

    The article also points to several internal communications about the situation:

    • Rather than hire outside, independent investigators, Wal-Mart leadership decided that its own legal counsel would oversee a "preliminary inquiry." 
    • In what is referred to in the article as a "terse report," the director of corporate investigations for Wal‑Mart in 2005, says that the situation is "not looking good."

    Wal-Mart Mexico

    Apparently, more than $16 million dollars was paid in "donations" or "contributions" to the Mexican government since 2003 to secure permits and build several stores in Mexico.

    The first comment selected by the NY Times staff reflects public cynicism about the company:

    Wal-Mart Mexico Comment
    Discussion Staters:

    • Does the news about Wal-Mart in Mexico surprise you? Why or why not?
    • Once again, how can people protect their communications from becoming public?
    • How, if at all, should Wal-Mart respond to this situation?
    • A follow-up NY Times article says that "...Bribery Is Taken in Stride" in Mexico. How, if at all, does that affect your perspective of this Wal-Mart situation?
  • Secret Service Responds to Scandal

    While in Columbia planning for President Obama's arrival, 11 U.S. Secret Service agents and 10 military personnel were involved in a scandal: 21 prostitutes were hired to entertain the fellas. A hotel manager learned of the situation when an argument over payment ensued between one of the prostitutes and an agent.


    Image source.

    Although prostitution is legal in parts of Columbia, other issues help us determine whether this behavior was ethical. One issue is that hiring a prostitute was been banned for military personnel in 2006. This ruling was put in place during the Bush Administration, partly to address human trafficking, a practice in Columbia as well.

    In addition, a writer of an Atlanta blog sums up potential risks and consequences of the situation:

    "Most importantly, while there is no evidence that the security of the president of the United States was endangered in this incident, an agency with this kind of internal culture could be easily manipulated by those with reason to do so. At the very least, the scandal has created a significant embarrassment for the U.S. government and put at risk the generally good reputation of the Secret Service."

    How has the Secret Service handled the response? One PR and marketing manager gave the Secret Service an A- for its response—not a bad grade for handling a difficult situation. Here's his analysis (a rubric, of sorts): 

    1. Communication. Following the breaking news of the scandal, the federal government appeared to work fast to alleviate concerns about a widespread issue. Many, however, feel this incident is possibly symbolic of a bigger cultural issue in the Secret Service. Grade: B+

    2. Acknowledgement. When the story broke on April 13, Edwin Donovan, a Secret Service agency spokesman addressed the rumors by stating that an unspecified number of agents had been recalled and replaced by others. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey and White House Spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged the incident and have already voiced deep concern, plus several members of Congress have spoken out to defend the Secret Service vowing to launch a full investigation. Grade: A

    4. Accountability. By all accounts, the military and Secret Service have appeared to take accountability. Although the story broke via a Washington Post reporter, the federal government has taken full responsibility for the agency’s actions. Grade: B+

    5. Timely updates. Following the news, the federal government steered the conversation to itself and became the irrefutable source of timely updates. Grade: A

    6. Rectification. U.S. Secret Service agent Mark Sullivan swiftly announced that he is leading an investigation of the incident with support from Congressman Peter King, Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and Senator Susan Collins, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee. By all accounts, it appears that the Secret Service, military and Congress wish to assuage any concerns that this incident somehow compromised national security. Grade: A 

    Overall grade: A-

    Discussion Starters:

    • How do you assess the response to the scandal? Do you agree with the "A-" grade?
    • What else does the Secret Service agency need to communicate at this point? How should its leaders provide updates to rebuild confidence?
  • Study: 98% Are Tethered to Email

    According to a new study of more than 500 executives, people check email often. When not at work, 98% of people check email. Authors of the study conclude, "Work is not a place anymore. It's a state of mind." 

    Discussion Starters: 

    • Are you in the majority of people who check email every 1 or 2 hours? 
    • Organizations benefit from people checking email often and when on vacation, and the consequences to people personally may be obvious, but what are the potential negative consequences to organizations? 
  • GSA Overspending Scandal: "Aggrieved by the Gall"

    The General Services Administration (GSA) is under investigation for spending $823,000 at a Las Vegas conference in 2010.  The GSA is responsible for purchasing products, transportation, and office space for other government agencies, and ironically, is charged with developing cost-containment policies.

    Martha Johnson, head of the GSA as of February 2010, has resigned amid the controversy.  In her testimony to Congress, Johnson admitted that the Western region training conference "evolved into a raucous, extravagant, arrogant, self-congratulatory event that ultimately belittled federal workers and would stain the very work that other committed staff and I were preparing to do." She also said that "[T]he expensive planning for that conference was well under way when I entered GSA, and I was unaware of the scope" and that she was "extremely aggrieved by the gall of a handful of people to misuse federal tax dollars, twist contracting rules and defile the great name of the General Services Administration."

    Johnson's strong statement was in sharp contrast to that of Jeffrey Neely, a GSA executive who evoked his Fifth amendment right not to answer any questions. As reported by CNN, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland criticized Neely specifically:

    "'In one e-mail...Mr. Neely invited personal friends to the conference, writing, and I quote -- and this is simply incredible -- quote: "We'll get you guys a room near us, and we'll pick up the room tab. Could be a blast." End of quote. He then went on and wrote this -- "I know I'm bad, but as Deb and I often say, why not enjoy it while we have it and while we can. Ain't gonna last forever." End of quote. Well, Mr. Neely, it stops now.'"

    Included in the evidence of the overspending scandal is this video, showing a GSA employee's joke about perks and then an award given to that employee at a GSA dinner at the conference.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Review the steps for ethical decision making. Which would have helped these administrators re-think their choices?
    • How do you assess the GSA employee's video and award? Is this incriminating, just office fun, or something else?
    • Grammar Check: The section above about Rep. Cummings has a quote within a quote within a quote. Is it punctuated correctly?
  • KFC Apologizes to Thailand Earthquake Victims

    Connecting chicken to the earthquake in Thailand, KFC posted this on its Facebook wall as people were being evacuated from the beaches: "Let's hurry home and follow the earthquake news. And don't forget to order your favorite KFC menu."


    People didn't respond well. Admitting its mistake, KFC removed the post within a day and replaced it with this statement:

    “KFC Thailand expresses its sincere regret for the improper post on its Facebook page and apologizes for the insensitivity and timing of the message.” 

    This isn't the first time a company used a tragic or emotionally charged event to promote its products (and it probably won't be the last). Kenneth Cole learned a tough lesson when he encouraged people to buy his "spring collection" clothing during the uprising in Cairo. And a blogger called Amy Winehouse's death a "wake-up call for small business owners."

    Companies need to be smarter about how they use social media. Sure, they can take some risks, but mixing sales and disaster likely leads only to disaster.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Can you think of any time when using a tragedy to promote a company's products would be viewed positively, for example, after a certain period of time? 
    • Assess KFC's apology. Do you find it convincing? Should the company have done anything else to demonstrate its regret?
  • World's Longest Rejection Letter

    How would you like to get a 3,000-word rejection letter with a "42-point plan to help job seekers"? If you were one of 900 applicants for a writing job at Salon.com, you may have received it. 

    Sean Gunther, the author of the rejection letter, thought he was being helpful, but the letter is long and confusing. For starters, it's unclear whether the receiver was rejected. It isn't until the end of the second paragraph that readers are told (sort-of) where they stand: "Those of you who are passed into the second round of consideration will be hearing from us soon, if you haven't been contacted by us already."

    In an article, "Here’s How to Condescend to 900 Job Applicants With a 3,000-Word Rejection Letter, " Gawker blasted the email as "arrogant" and called the writer worse names. 

    Gunther responsed to Gawker's criticism by saying that some applicants appreciated his advice. He quotes the following from one of the applicants: 

    "I read your email this morning, and to be honest, I was a little irritated at first. I didn’t particularly want to know that there were 900+ applicants for the position. The email looked lengthy, and I wasn’t sure where you were going to go with it. For sure, it didn’t say that I was hired.

    "I gradually realized that this is the sort of advice that every writer looking for work should read. I don’t think I made many of the mistakes that it mentioned, but I do I wish I had read it years ago. It’s also a rare thing that people applying for work should get anything out of it at all, especially something so useful."

    Gunther defends his letter compared to other rejection letters: 

    'Applicants learn nothing about their approach when the only response they receive is 'Thanks for applying, but the position has been filled.'"

    Discussion Starters: 

    • What do you think of Gunther's approach? How do you think you would feel if you received the letter? 
    • Read the entire letter, including his suggestions. Which are useful, and which are not? 
    • Considering that the letter caused some hard feelings, what could have been a better approach, if Gunther sincerely wanted to help job applicants?
  • Facebook Wants You to Use Its Email

    Facebook has a new program on the horizon: your timeline address will now be your email address. Unless you already have a @facebook.com email, you'll be assigned one.

    Facebook describes the change for consistency:

    "Starting today, we're updating addresses on Facebook to make them consistent across our site. Now, the address people use to get to your timeline and send you email on Facebook will be the same."

    FB Timeline

    Clearly, Facebook is continuing to push its email application, previously called messaging. Speculation is that Facebook is trying to match the integration of Google+ with Gmail. Also, a recent study showed that people are more likely to use the Internet for email (85%) than for social networking (62%). Despite early reports of its demise, email remains a frequent tool for communication.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Do you use Facebook email? Would you if you were assigned an email address? 
    • What's the value of email to Facebook? How has the company's "messaging" strategy evolved? 
  • Few CIOs Use Social Networks

    Despite their companies' increasing use of social media, CIOs are not at all active on social networking sites. TechCrunch calls this group "a little anti-social" and describes the results of a study by harmon.ie:

    "...only about 10 percent of CIOs in the top companies — Fortune 250 and and Global 250 — actively use public social networks. Within that group, only four CIOs write blogs, and more than one-third either do not have LinkedIn profiles, or have profiles with fewer than 100 connections."

    We could explain the data by saying that CIOs hire people to manage the social networking for them or that they are active on intranets rather than on the public web. But Mark Fidelman, lead author of the study, explains the issue:

    "These 250 CIOs are charged with transforming the world’s largest enterprises, yet our analysis shows that most have relatively little experience using the kinds of tools that are needed to drive that change."

    Fidelman also says, "If CIOs are charged with building a social business, shouldn't they have a social presence?" He also suggested to Information Week that "CIOs who don't get social might not be CIOs next year."

    On a more positive note, harmon.ie identified the Top 25 Social CIOs in the Fortune 250. The top five include CIOs of technology companies (no surprise) SAP, Google, and Microsoft, but also includes CIOs of the Corporate Banking division of the Royal Bank of Scotland and Mexican petroleum company Pemex.

    Top 25 Social CIOs

    Discussion Starters:

    • Do you find this news alarming? Why or why not?
    • What advice would you give CIOs who want to be more active in social networks? Where should they concentrate their efforts? Would your advice vary by industry?
  • Best Buy CEO Resigns

    In the midst of an internal investigation about "personal conduct," Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn has resigned. The news was unexpected, although Best Buy has experienced declining sales, attributed to the access people now have to visit stores, compare prices, and then buy elsewhere. Two weeks ago, Dunn announced plans to close 50 stores and cut 400 staff.Best Buy

    A 28-year employee of Best Buy, Dunn was selected as CEO in 2009. Some said Dunn was a poor choice given the company's challenges: he has sales experience but lacks the knowledge and expertise to fix the deeper problems.

    The conduct issue remains a mystery, and because Dunn resigned in the middle of it, we may never know the outcome.

    In a news release about new leadership, Best Buy assured the public that the decision wasn't business-related:

    "The board of directors of Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE:BBY) today announced that Brian Dunn has resigned as chief executive officer and director. There were no disagreements between Mr. Dunn and the company on any matter relating to operations, financial controls, policies or procedures. There was mutual agreement that it was time for new leadership to address the challenges that face the company."

    At the same time, the company did acknowledge the investigation in a statement to the press:

    "Certain issues were brought to the board's attention regarding Dunn's personal conduct, unrelated to the company's operations or financial controls, and an audit committee investigation was initiated. Prior to the completion of the investigation, Mr. Dunn chose to resign."

    Focusing on business continuity, Best Buy's news release named an interim CEO:

    "Director G. Mike Mikan has been named interim CEO to lead the company while a search for a new CEO is underway. Richard Schulze, the founder of Best Buy, continues to serve as chairman."

    Read an update about the potential misconduct issue.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Analyze Best Buy's news release as a bad-news message. What principles does the release follow, and what principles does it not use? What is the rationale for these decisions?
    • Evaluate the quotes in the news release by Dunn and Mikan. Do you find these reassuring?
  • AT&T Campaign: "Rethink Possible"

    To refocus the AT&T brand, the company is venturing into a new marketing campaign. With themes such as "Here’s to possibilities," the "Rethink possible" campaign features optimism.

    Without a focus on any particular product, AT&T is embarking on image advertising—a new approach for the conglomerate that began in April 2010. The commercial, below, is one part of AT&T's messaging.

    Esther Lee, senior vice president for brand marketing, advertising, and sponsorship at AT&T in Dallas explained the company's strategy to The New York Times:

    "'We did a lot of insight research about how people live with technology,' which included 'ethnographies, shop-alongs and spending time in people’s living rooms.'

    "When the 'Rethink possible' campaign was developed, most consumers 'felt overwhelmed with technology,' Ms. Lee said, but only a short time later many have 'found ways to integrate it in their lives” — and some even 'talk about it with love.'

    "'The real innovation that’s happening is what people are doing, and how people are dealing, with technology,' she added, and 'the unique ways they use it to make their lives better.'

    "That is the message that 'It’s what you do with what we do' is intended to convey, Ms. Lee said, describing the phrase as 'a step-up line, a bridge line' that will now lead to the 'Rethink possible' theme."

    Discussion Starters:

    • What is the difference between corporate and product advertising? Why do you believe AT&T took this approach now?
    • Do you believe AT&T's campaign will be successful? Why or why not?
    • Which of the company's new advertisements do you find most effective? Why or why not?
  • Jon Stewart Criticizes President Obama's Emails

    On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart questions the Obama campaign's informal approach to email. Stewart gives examples of subject lines such as "Hey" and "Dinner?" Rather than what he calls "fake familiarity," Stewart suggests that these email subjects should focus on the real purpose: "Give me money."


    Jon Stewart isn't the first one to criticize President Obama's emails. Back in December, White House reporter Keith Koffler took issue with the the "Hey" emails:

    "Obama, who was sold to us as something surpassingly genuine, actually likes to pretend he’s someone he’s not. All his town halls on people’s back porches, trips to Best Buy, and dinners with three dollar donors doesn’t change that he is a card carrying member of the elite liberal ruling class.

    "He was admitted around college or law school, and that’s where his soul has resided ever since. Recently, with book sales buoyed by his presidential success, he’s gained the financial status commensurate with his social standing.

    "He should act that way. The regular guy stuff diminishes both him and the presidency. More than classy or low-brow, friendly or stiff, Americans want one thing more than anything else in their leader: Authenticity.

     “'Hey,' is phony. And it’s puny for a president."

    Discussion Starters and Assignment Idea:

    • What's your view of the President's approach to email? Do you agree with this criticism?
    • What could be better subject lines that do, in reality, request donations?
    • As practice, write two email messages on behalf of a presidential candidate's campaign (a candidate of your choice). What could you say to inspire people to give, and what subject line will you use? Check the tone by asking other students for their opinion.
  • Councilman Pays $28,800 for Tweets

    A Philadelphia councilman needs help with that transparent, authentic social media voice on Twitter, so he hired a firm to tweet for him. Jim Kenney hired ChatterBlast to help with his social media strategy, including monitoring his Facebook and Twitter accounts and writing posts.

    Kenney explains why he needs this help: 

    "I, at 53 years old, do not have that facility. So I need consultant advice to communicate with a group of folks who are not necessarily in my age group."

    In addition to hiring ChatterBlast, Kenney has hired an outside communications consultant, Martin O'Rourke. In an embarrassing admission, O'Rourke described his own limitations:

    "I have no clue how to tweet; I still don't understand the mechanics of it. It's a thing of the future."

    ChatterBlast promotes its services to government officials in this way: 

    "Interactive online communities represent a whole new arena of vocal constituents. ChatterBlast uses social media networks, targeted advertising and digital marketing to deliver real-time, personalized and high-impact messages while building a community of supporters.  We can listen to what is being said about you or your organization in real-time, faster and more accurately then pollsters. More importantly, we can engage and address the naysayers while promoting and rewarding positive feedback. 

    "If you are an agency or elected official, social media can be used to keep in touch with your constituents and address issues before they become a crisis. If you are running for office, social media provides a new untapped fundraising channel.  Maintaining an active and identifiable base can be managed before, during, and after your campaign.  We can even help secure your votes before campaign time begins."

    Discussion Starters:

    • What are the ethical considerations in this situation? 
    • Where do you see the line between how an outside firm helps a person or a company develop and implement a social media strategy and how that firm implements the strategy?
    • Under what, if any, circumstances should an individual hire an outside firm to tweet on his or her behalf?
  • New Yahoo CEO's Layoff Email

    When Scott Thompson took the job as Yahoo's chief executive in January, he likely knew he had difficult work ahead of him. To compete for shrinking advertising revenue against Google and Facebook, Thompson has announced a refocus on Yahoo's core media and communications, platforms, and data.

    With this new focus, Yahoo will lay off about 2,000 employees, roughly 14% of the company. Thompson's email to employees explains the decision and then gives the bad news:

      Yahoo Layoff Memo 4-2012

    Business communication students may find it interesting to compare Thompson's memo with  Yahoo layoff memos from the two previous CEOs:

    Discussion Starters:

    • Thompson's email mentions "dignity and respect" twice. Does this represent a clever strategy, strong reinforcement, sloppy editing, or something else? How do you think employees might react to this phrase?
    • Compare the CEOs' emails. Consider audience focus, tone, organization, writing style, and editing.
    • Considering the different circumstances around each layoff, which memo do you think is most effective and why? 
    • If you were consulting with a CEO prior to announcing layoffs, what principles would you advise that he or she use in writing an email to employees?
  • Burger King Pulls Mary J. Blige Ad

    Mary J BligeBurger King has removed a controversial commercial featuring Mary J. Blige. The ad was one of several videos starring famous people such as Jay Leno, Salma Hayek, Steven Tyler, and Sofia Vergara. However, the Blige video was criticized for reinforcing stereotypes. An article on Clutch magazine, for example, identifies three "problems" with the ad: 

    1. Yet Another Black Person Singing About Fast Food Chicken. 
    2. She Seems Crazy For No Good Reason. 
    3. Those Snack Wraps Look Nasty.

    In a statement to Ad Age, Burger King explains the decision to pull the ad as a copyright issue:

    "The Mary J. Blige advertisement was pulled off of the Burger King YouTube channel due to a music-licensing issue, which Burger King is in the process of resolving. We expect to have the ads back up and on air soon.

    "Burger King enlisted a diverse cast of A-list celebrities representing the many faces of the American melting pot. Mary J. Blige is just one of the celebrities helping to promote our new menu items, including Garden Fresh Salads, Snack Wraps, Crispy Chicken Strips, Real Fruit Smoothies and Frappes."

    The ad can still be seen on Gawker's website.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Do you find the Mary J. Blige ad offensive, funny, entertaining, dumb, or something else? How does this ad compare to the others that are part of Burger King's new campaign: Jay Leno, Salma Hayek, and David Beckham?
    • How do you assess Burger King's rationale for removing the Blige video? Do you believe the company's statement?
  • P&G Blocks Pandora and Netflix

    P&GBandwidth hogs Pandora and Netflix have been taking up too much time and space, causing P&G to block employees' access to these sites. According to an internal memo, the strain on P&G's network was great, “requiring immediate intervention.”  The memo also warned that blocking these two sites is a "first step" to addressing employees' personal use of the Internet on company time. 

    Recent studies show how much prospective employees, particularly college students, value access to social media. At the same time, 19% of companies (according to a September 2011 survey) block some social media sites. Many have taken more drastic positions than P&G has: Cintas, for example, with 30,000 employees, blocks Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

    From a communication perspective, some of the language is jargony and could be improved:

    • “It’s a worldwide phenomenon. As P&G drives toward end-to-end digitization of our business, ensuring bandwidth capacity within our networks is a high priority.” (from P&G spokesperson Paul Fox)
    • “These statistics indicate that access to non-business-critical Internet sites goes far beyond the business need." (from the internal memo)
    • “We’re asking all employees to leverage company resources with an ownership mentality." (also from the internal memo)

    Discussion Starter and Assignment Idea: 

    • Do you believe that P&G is justified in its decision to block these sites? Why or why not? What about companies, such as GE Aviation (also a Cincinnati-based company), that also block YouTube and Facebook? 
    • Practice your revising skills by rewriting the three P&G quotes above.