• Should Jamie Dimon Resign? CNBC Says No.

    CNBC is accused of being less than objective in assessing whether JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon should resign. In a pointed blog post, Reuters reporter Felix Salmon refers to CNBC producers and hosts as Dimon's "biggest cheerleaders" and criticizes them of not considering the whole story. Titled, "The JP Morgan apologists of CNBC," the post includes a clip from CNBC showing hosts asking leading questions. 

    Readers may recall that JP Morgan Chase lost a risky trading hedge that could amount to to $20 billion in fines.

     Salmon highlights this excerpt from the video as an example of CNBC's tone:

    Maria Bartiromo: Alex, to you first. Legal problems aside, JP Morgan remains one of the best, if not the best performing major bank in the world today. You believe the leader of that bank should step down?

    Alex Pareene: I think that any time you’re looking at the greatest fine in the history of Wall Street regulation, it’s really worth asking should this guy stay in his job. In any other industry — I can’t think of another industry. If you managed a restaurant, and it got the biggest health department fine in the history of restaurants, no one would say “Yeah, but the restaurant’s making a lot of money. There’s only a little bit of poison in the food.”

    The arguments on both sides use several reasoning types we discuss in class: criteria, analogy, dissocation, and others.

    Discussion Starters:

    • How do you assess the interview? Is CNBC biased in its view?
    • How are principles of persuasion used in the arguments? What examples do you see of reasoning types, fallacies, and evidence?
  • Barilla Won't Use Gays in Advertising

    The CEO of Barilla Italian pasta company sounded anti-gay on a radio show. Although the interview was in Italian, blogger translated Guido Barillo's comments into English:

    "We won’t include gays in our ads, because we like the traditional family. If gays don’t like it, they can always eat another brand of pasta. Everyone is free to do what they want, provided it doesn’t bother anyone else."

    Re-thinking his comments the next day, Barillo said,

    "With reference to statements made yesterday, I apologize if my words have generated controversy or misunderstanding, or if they have hurt the sensibilities of some people. In the interview, I simply wanted to highlight the central role of the woman in the family."


    Here's the audio, which is useful if you speak Italian.

    Image source.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Some are calling for a boycott of Barilla products. Would you follow along if you typically bought the pasta? Why or why not?
    • Assess the CEO's follow-up message. How, if at all, does it affect your view of the company?
  • McDonald's Offers Healthier Menu Items

    After much criticism of its unhealthy food and advertising targeted towards children, McDonald's is offering more options for people looking for healthy food.

    McDonald's menu

    In 20 of its major markets, accounting for 85% of its total sales, McDonald's will revamp the menu. Costing $35 million through 2020, the move may pave the way for other fast-food chains. This is Bill Clinton's hope, as he said in a press release about the initiative, which is part of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York:

    "If we want to curb the catastrophic economic and health implications of obesity across the world, we need more companies to follow McDonald’s lead and step up to the plate and make meaningful changes."

    CEO Don Thompson explained the opportunity:

    "This is a particular opportunity to partner with the Clinton Foundation and the alliance to leverage our scale and size and marketing prowess to be able to influence more purchases of fruits and vegetables."

    On the "Nutrition Choices" page of McDonald's website, the company posted a progress report showing its "National Nutritional Commitments." For each, the report describes the company's "journey."

    Discussion Starters:

    • Read McDonald's progress report. Who are the primary and secondary audiences? What are the company's objectives? How is it organized? How does the company use graphics to highlight main points?
    • Analyze how data is presented in the report. How does the company use quantitative information to prove its points? In what ways is the presentation successful, and where does it fall short?
  • AIG: Bonus Criticism "Just as Bad" as Lynchings

    CEO AIGAIG's CEO has apologized for comparing criticism of employee bonuses to lynching.

    In a Wall Street Journal article, Chief Executive Bob Benmosche was quoted as saying that anger about bonuses "was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitch forks and their hangman nooses, and all that -- sort of like what we did in the Deep South <decades ago>. And I think it was just as bad and just as wrong."

    The criticism of bonuses began around 2009 during the financial meltdown when, in the midst of bailouts from the government, financial sector employees were collecting large bonuses. The banks' defense was that these employees were contractually due the bonuses, that the bonuses were essential to retain talent, and that only a few employees were responsible for bad decisions that caused the collapse. (I'm paraphrasing here.)

    Reuters explains the lynchings in this way: "Thousands of people, mainly African-Americans and primarily in the South, were beaten, hanged and killed in the 19th and 20th centuries by racist mobs."

    Do you see the analogy?

    In a statement, Benmoshce later said, "It was a poor choice of words. I never meant to offend anyone by it."

    Image source.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Several news sources (Al Jazeera, Reuters, and others) called Benmoshe's statement an "apology." Is it? What does a apology typically include?
    • Read an article in Rolling Stone discussing the comment and other perceived failings of Wall Street. Analyze the author's arguments. How does he use logical arguments, emotional appeals, and credibility to make his points? Which are strongest and which are weakest?
  • Coke Explains "You Retard" on Cap

    Imagine looking at the bottom of a bottle cap and seeing "YOU RETARD." That's what a Canadian girl saw when she opened a bottle of Coke's Vitaminwater.

    Unfortunately for Coke, the expression was particularly hurtful because the girl's younger sister has celebral palsy and autism. Their father wrote a letter to Coke explaining the family's view of the "R" word:

    "You see, the "R" word is considered a swear word in out [sic] family. We don't use it. We don't tolerate others using it around us. We are over-sensitive, but you would be too if you have Fiona for a daughter."

    The Coca-Cola Company responded to ABC News:

    "We have spoken to the family to offer our sincerest apologies and to explain the production process to them," Shannon Denny, director of brand communications for Coca-Cola Refreshment Canada, told ABC News. "This is certainly not an excuse in any way for what has occurred. We wanted them to know that this was in no way intentional and was a mistake on our part during the review process. We also wanted to share that the promotion has since been cancelled and we are no longer producing bottles with those caps."

    How did the mistake happen? Apparently, the caps were part of a promotion that randomly paired an English word with a French word. "Retard" translated to mean "late" or "delayed" in French. According to a company spokesperson, "The word's English connotation was missed during the review process." 

    Discussion Starters:

    • How do you assess Coke's apology and explanation?
    • Read the father's letter. How it is organized? What works well, and what could be improved?
  • Cornell Lacrosse Team Suspended

    Cornell LacrosseFrom right here in cloudy Ithaca, the Cornell Lacrosse Team has made national news. As the team faces hazing allegations—coerced consumption of alcohol by underage freshman—Andrew Noel, Cornell's director of athletics, is front and center.

    Noel responded in an interview with The Ithaca Journal:

    "I would say that it’s disappointing and unacceptable behavior that has to stop immediately. And having met with the lacrosse players last Sunday morning, we discussed the situation for quite a while, and I was heartened by their attitude and by the fact that I believe they understood what they put in jeopardy, for themselves as individuals, for the team, and for the (athletic) department and university."

    Noel also gave this official statement:

    "On Sept. 13, the Cornell men's lacrosse team was placed on temporary suspension pending appropriate sanctions for a team hazing incident. Following investigation into the incident, Coach (Ben) DeLuca and his team were notified that all fall competitions are canceled."

    However, Ben DeLuca has been asked for comment from USA Today and other sources, but he has been unavailable. According to The Ithaca Journal,

    "Noel said he has talked with the fourth-year coach and that they are 'both on the same page' as far as the penalty is concerned.'A lot of discussion was not necessary,' Noel said. 'He understands, like I do, that we can’t have this. He doesn’t want it to happen, and I don’t want it to happen. Neither of us are going to allow it to happen without serious repercussions, which have happened. It was a pretty stern penalty here, which is pretty tough on the athletes and on the coaching staff. We are together in how we feel about it.'"

    Image source.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Assess Noel's response. What are his objections, and how well did he meet them?
    • What do you make of DeLuca's absence of comment?
  • "Reverse Showrooming" from Pinterest and Other Sites

    People are looking at product images online and buying in the store. Proving a concept called "reverse showrooming," a survey reported that 41% of social media users look online and buy in person, while only 26% practice "showrooming," which is browsing in the store but ordering online. Twenty-one percent of Pinterest users reported purchasing a product in-store after pinning, repinning, or liking an item.

    Pinterest and Reverse Showrooming

    This survey is significant because it could alleviate concerns that people increasingly browse in brick-and-mortar stores but order online, a claim used to explain declining store sales, such as Best Buy's.

    In a nifty interactive, a Harvard Business Review article described five typical paths that Pinterest users follow to consume products: 

    • The Deal Seeker
    • The Nonseeker
    • The Category Seeker
    • The Inspiration Seeker
    • The Social-Proof Seeker

    Pinterest reverse showrooming

     Discussion Starters:

    • What is your own experience with online and in-store shopping? How do you explain differences or similarities between your behavior and that reported in this survey?
    • What implications of this survey do you see for Pinterest? Amazon? Best Buy?
  • Microsoft Pulls iPhone Parody Ads

    Called "distasteful," "terrible," "harsh," "bizarre," and "cringe-worthy," Microsoft videos poking fun at the iPhone have been removed. Here is one of seven produced, as Apple introduces iPhones 5c and 5s.

    Critics said the ads are not funny, and some thought that the executive's resemblance to Steve Jobs was in poor taste.

    Microsoft issued this statement about the decision: "The video was intended to be a light-hearted poke at our friends from Cupertino. But it was off the mark, and we’ve decided to pull it down."

    Discussion Starters:

    • Do you find the video funny? Why do you think it got a negative reaction?
    • Assess Microsoft's decision and statement. Did the company do the right thing by removing the videos? What's effective about the statement?
  • Restaurant Owner Terminates Employees but Fumbles the Explanation

    Two employees of Famous Dave's barbecue restaurant in North Dakota were fired for a Facebook post implying that Native Americans are bad tippers. 

    Famous Dave's photo

    The photo was posted during United Tribes International Pow Wow, a festival attended by more 20,000 people, according to event organizers. According to The Huffington Post, the employee shown in the poto "denies creating the cardboard sign, but she doesn't deny posing for the picture." Good move!

    Thinking the photo would disappear, the employee's friend shared the photo via Snapchat. Snapchat describes the app on its website, but in this case, the image was shared on Facebook:

    "Snapchat is a new way to share moments with friends. Snap an ugly selfie or a video, add a caption, and send it to a friend (or maybe a few). They'll receive it, laugh, and then the snap disappears.

    "The image might be a little grainy, and you may not look your best, but that's the point. It's about the moment, a connection between friends, and not just a pretty picture.

    "The allure of fleeting messages reminds us about the beauty of friendship - we don't need a reason to stay in touch.

    "Give it a try, share a moment, and enjoy the lightness of being!"

    Snapchat has been criticized as an unsafe "sexting" app.

    Although the owner of Famous Dave's may have done the right thing by terminating the employees, his Facebook post needs editing:

    Famous Dave's

    Discussion Starters:

    • Assess Mike Wright's Facebook post. What works well, and what could be improved? Edit the post for accuracy.
    • What's your view of Snapchat's claims? Can the site ensure that photos "disappear"? Is the company responsible for images that are shared in the interim, or do users hold this responsibility?
  • Starbucks Asks Customers Not to Bring Weapons to the Store

    In an open letter, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz asks customers not to bring firearms to the stores.

    Dear Fellow Americans,

    Few topics in America generate a more polarized and emotional debate than guns. In recent months, Starbucks stores and our partners (employees) who work in our stores have been thrust unwillingly into the middle of this debate. That’s why I am writing today with a respectful request that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas.

    From the beginning, our vision at Starbucks has been to create a “third place” between home and work where people can come together to enjoy the peace and pleasure of coffee and community. Our values have always centered on building community rather than dividing people, and our stores exist to give every customer a safe and comfortable respite from the concerns of daily life.

    We appreciate that there is a highly sensitive balance of rights and responsibilities surrounding America’s gun laws, and we recognize the deep passion for and against the “open carry” laws adopted by many states. (In the United States, “open carry” is the term used for openly carrying a firearm in public.) For years we have listened carefully to input from our customers, partners, community leaders and voices on both sides of this complicated, highly charged issue.

    Our company’s longstanding approach to “open carry” has been to follow local laws: we permit it in states where allowed and we prohibit it in states where these laws don’t exist. We have chosen this approach because we believe our store partners should not be put in the uncomfortable position of requiring customers to disarm or leave our stores. We believe that gun policy should be addressed by government and law enforcement—not by Starbucks and our store partners.

    Recently, however, we’ve seen the “open carry” debate become increasingly uncivil and, in some cases, even threatening. Pro-gun activists have used our stores as a political stage for media events misleadingly called “Starbucks Appreciation Days” that disingenuously portray Starbucks as a champion of “open carry.” To be clear: we do not want these events in our stores. Some anti-gun activists have also played a role in ratcheting up the rhetoric and friction, including soliciting and confronting our customers and partners.

    For these reasons, today we are respectfully requesting that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas—even in states where “open carry” is permitted—unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel.

    I would like to clarify two points. First, this is a request and not an outright ban. Why? Because we want to give responsible gun owners the chance to respect our request—and also because enforcing a ban would potentially require our partners to confront armed customers, and that is not a role I am comfortable asking Starbucks partners to take on. Second, we know we cannot satisfy everyone. For those who oppose “open carry,” we believe the legislative and policy-making process is the proper arena for this debate, not our stores. For those who champion “open carry,” please respect that Starbucks stores are places where everyone should feel relaxed and comfortable. The presence of a weapon in our stores is unsettling and upsetting for many of our customers.

    I am proud of our country and our heritage of civil discourse and debate. It is in this spirit that we make today’s request. Whatever your view, I encourage you to be responsible and respectful of each other as citizens and neighbors.


    Howard Schultz

    The letter also appeared as a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal.

    Although Schultz doesn't reference the shootings at the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard two days prior, the timing may be significant. On the other hand, Schultz says that holding "Starbucks Appreciation Days" was the impetus for the decision. He says that the event had been misconstrued, leading people to believe that the company supports "open carry" laws.

    As of this writing, Starbucks' Facebook post that referenced the letter received almost 33,000 likes but also received its share of negative comments, such as this from a police officer:

    Starbucks - weapons

    This writer failed to notice the exception in Schultz's letter: "unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel."

    Discussion Starters:

    • What do you think are Schultz's goals in writing this letter? What are his short- and long-term objectives?
    • What are the dangers of his approach? Consider public opinion, the impact on customers, employees' perspectives, and so on.
  • Chipotle's "The Scarecrow" App

    Chipotle has a clever new ad in the form of a game. With "The Scarecrow" app, users help the Scarecrow win against Crow Foods, an invented food monopoly that produces factory food. On the website, users are invited to "Join Chipotle and the Scarecrow on a journey to bring real food back to the people. Play the game, watch the animated short film, and find out how to take action."

    A companion video features Fiona Apple singing a cover of "Pure Imagination" from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." 


    Chipotle Marketing Manager Mark Crumpacker told The Village Voice that the company wants to educate people about processed foods and how antibiotics are used in meat production:

    "That's the most pressing issue to us right now. There are multiple consequences. There are obvious public-health issues, because you risk creating new antibiotic-resistant diseases. There are environmental issues that come with animals living in confinement. And there are issues with eating the food."

    This isn't Chipotle's first time mixing music and advertising. The video Back to the Start featured Willie Nelson singing a cover of Coldplay's "The Scientist. With that animated short, Chiptole targeted pork production.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Who is Chipotle's target audience for the app? Is the app effective for the audience?
    • Read the recent story about Panera apologizing to farmers. What, if any, implications do you see for Chipotle?
  • Vine: The Twitter of Video

    Vine videos are taking off, and companies are starting to create them. Vine is a mobile Twitter service that lets users capture and share six-second videos on a loop.

    CIO identified five companies that are making good use of the service. Home improvement store Lowes, for example, has posted several "Fix in Six" videos with helpful suggestions, such as using cayenne pepper to keep squirrels out of your garden. Ad agency BBDO posted this video about the idea:

    Companies also are creating commercials on Vine, although it's unclear who was first. Five days ago, Ad Week reported Dunkin' Donuts as the first:

    "During this evening’s Monday Night Football pregame show on ESPN, Dunkin’ Donuts will run what’s most certainly the first TV ad made entirely from a single Vine—Twitter’s popular six-second social video format."

    Dunkin' Donuts Vine

    But four days ago, Mashable reported Trident as introducing the "first, 6-second Vine TV ad."

    Trident Vine

    Regardless, they're both silly/cute/fun/dumb—pick your adjective.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Read CIO's examples of companies using Vine. What other ideas do you have for how companies could use the service?
    • What's next for short, mobile messages? Any predictions?
  • Former Stand-Up Comedian Takes His Company Public

    Twitter CEO *** Costolo has applied for an initial public offering. The process will be interesting to watch because *** Costolo is interesting to watch. And, of course, we're all hoping Twitter avoids Facebook's IPO disaster.

    Twitter IPO

    As a former stand-up comedian, Costolo is known for his sense of humor. At a commencement speech at the University of Michigan, Costolo spoke of his failed attempts to appear on Second City TV and Saturday Night Live. According to The New York Times, at the 2012 opening of the Cannes Film Festival, Costolo started the keynote speech as follows:

    "Since I’ve got 45 minutes, if we can just start with some quick introductions," he says, gesturing to the front row. "Start over here. Stand up, say what company you’re from and what animal you could be if you could be any animal."

    The Times article also quotes Costolo as saying, "People have Plato’s form in their mind of what a leader is, or what a C.E.O. is, and it is a bunch of elements that I really don’t conform to at all. I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I came to the conclusion that I don’t care."

    I remember writing about Facebook's IPO Roadshow video, full of emotional appeal, yet light on financials. It will be interesting to see how another non-traditional company—with a non-traditional CEO—handles the communications.

    Discussion Starters:

    • How can *** Costolo use humor to his advantage during the IPO process?
    • What potential pitfalls does he need to avoid?
    • How can Twitter differentiate itself from Facebook's experience?

    * Note: This blogging software replaces Costolo's first name with asterisks. In some circles, his name is an obscenity. Childish, I know...

  • Esquire's 9/11 Mistakes

    Esquire.com made two mistakes on September 11. First, the website posted the well-known image of a man falling from the World Trade Center on 9/11 next to a story about commuting to work.

      Esquire 911

    When people criticized the mistake, a tweet told people to "relax."

    Esquire 911 tweet

    Not surprisingly, Esquire.com suffered worse for its response.

    Discussion Starters:

    • How does the tweet response fail? Analyze the word choice and tone.
    • Rewrite the tweet for Esquire. What might have worked better?
  • 9/11 Marketing Failures

    Companies are still learning the lesson: don't use tragic events to sell your products. AT&T and a golf course made this mistake on September 11.

    ATT_never_forget_tweetgrabAT&T tweeted an image of someone taking a photo of the World Trade Center. Calling the ad "cheesy," "tacky," and other choice words, tweeters caused the company to issue an apology. ATT Apology


    Tumbledown Trails golf course offered a promotion on 9/11:


    After quite a bit of backlash, management apologized—with increasing vigor in successive posts:

    We would first like to apologize to everyone that we have upset or feels we have disrespected in anyway. By no means did we mean to do this.
    Here is what we will do this Wednesday 9-11;
    we will still let all that have tee times booked play for the previous rates we posted.
    Then for all other golf that day we would like to donate the $ difference between our normal rate and the previous price for the day to the 9/11 Memorial.
    We hope that everyone will now see this as a positive as we really meant it to be. Again we do sincerely apologize for offending anyone & hope that you do accept our sincere apology.
     Thank you
    We are a family owned business & proudly support all local charities and have always gave 20% off everyday to all Police, Fire, Emergency, Military, etc. Please accept our apology.
    Please stay tuned to see if we will be open on Weds 9/11.
    We are now worried about what people will do/say to our staff & do not want anything to happen or get out of control.
    Sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused anyone.

    David Berkowitz, CMO of MRY, offered this advice: "Unless you're bringing something of value, the easy thing is just to keep your mouth shut." In his view, a simple "We remember" or similar tweet, such as Shutterfly's, is probably most appropriate.

      Shutterfly tweet

    Discussion Starters:

    • Assess the apologies from AT&T and Tumbledown Trails. What works well and what doesn't?
    • Do you agree with David Berkowitz's advice, or should companies just avoid the observance entirely?
  • Is Kenneth Cole Trolling?

    How is it possible for Kenneth Cole to write yet another offensive tweet capitalizing on an international conflict? This time, the apparel designer is making no apologies.

    In 2011, Cole used the hashtag #Cairo during the Egyptian uprisings:


    Cole apologized for that tweet, and Ad Age did a fun summary of events (which I converted into a PowerPoint presentation), showing how quickly the hoopla emerged—and passed.

    This time, Cole chose the controversy about Syria to hook into. "Boots on the ground" is a common reference to whether the United States will proceed with a military strike on Syria.

    Kenneth-Cole Syria

    Reactions on Twitter were swift and harsh, but Cole isn't sorry at all. He issued this statement to CNBC and posted a video to Instagram

    "For 30 years I have used my platform in provocative ways to encourage a healthy dialogue about important issues, including HIV/AIDS, war, and homelessness. I'm well aware of the risks that come with this approach, and if this encourages further awareness and discussion about critical issues then all-the-better."

    Discussion Starters:

    • Did Kenneth Cole do as he says and purposely promote "a healthy dialogue"? Did he forget? Is he insensitive? Too proud to apologize a second time? Or, as some suspect, was he trolling?
    • What's your view of Cole's statement and video? What do you make of his creating a video in this situation?
    • This is Cole's Twitter description: "Designer, Aspiring Humanitarian, Frustrated Activist, Social Networker In Training." Should he change it?
  • KitKat 4.4: "Confectionery Perfectionery"

    Google's new operating system for the Android will be called KitKat, and the chocolate company is having fun with the partnership. 

    On a new website, KitKat touts benefits of the chocolate bar. Here are a few examples:

    • Hardware: As famous for its inside as its outside.
    • Adjustable orientation. Works perfectly in portrait or landscape for a panoramic taste experience.
    • Mobile: With global coverage, you can take it literally anywhere. Even to work.

    Google is also promoting the partnership:

    "Yep, our upcoming release will be named Android KitKat!

    "KitKat has been a favorite candy on the team for some time, so for the K release, we asked if they’d be willing to lend their iconic candy bar to its name. Be on the lookout for limited edition Android KitKat bars coming soon to a candy aisle near you. For a lucky few, your KitKat bar might contain a winning ticket for a new Nexus 7 tablet or Google Play credits. Check it out."

    Discussion Starters:

    • What are the potential risks of the Google/KitKat partnership and how the companies are promoting it?
    • What other examples do you recall of companies using humor in similar ways?
  • Yahoo's New Logo

    For the first time in 18 years, Yahoo has a new logo—still purple and still sporting that question mark I never know whether I should include in writing. (I recently dropped it, following The New York Times' practice.)

    In this video, you'll see many logo variations that the company considered.

    In a blog post, CEO Marissa Mayer described the redesign process:

    "So, one weekend this summer, I rolled up my sleeves and dove into the trenches with our logo design team: Bob Stohrer, Marc DeBartolomeis, Russ Khaydarov, and our intern Max Ma.  We spent the majority of Saturday and Sunday designing the logo from start to finish, and we had a ton of fun weighing every minute detail. 

    "We knew we wanted a logo that reflected Yahoo - whimsical, yet sophisticated.  Modern and fresh, with a nod to our history.  Having a human touch, personal.  Proud."

    Sounds like fun. But the changes are subtle, rather than dramatic.

    Yahoo Logo

    Discussion Starters:

    • Compare the new logo to the old one. What differences do you notice, and what significance do they hold?
    • Read Mayer's summary of the decisions made. Did you catch all of the changes and see the significance of each?
  • When Execs Send Less Email, Employees Do Too

    TempA new study shows one sure way to reduce corporate email: "start at the top."

    The seven-person management team at International Power in London saw their own influence on the number of emails sent within the organization. Sending an average of 56 emails a day, this group is actually below most middle managers in the United States. Still, the managers were surprised at this number and agreed to take steps to reduce the number of emails they sent. 

    According to an HBR article, executives participated in a process for reducing their emails: 

    "Despite a few misgivings (some felt the intervention intruded on their personal style), the executives underwent training to reduce their e-mail output by taking more-deliberate actions: not forwarding messages unless strictly necessary, limiting messages’ recipients, and choosing the form of communication that would most efficiently accomplish the task at hand. In a phone call, for example, vocal tone provides real-time feedback on whether a message is being understood—something that’s missing in the low-bandwidth e-mail channel. Facial expressions and body language make in-person meetings an even richer method of communication."

    I was skeptical about this study, wondering how sustainable the results would be. An email reduction within a few months is easy to attain, but what about the long-term? However, the authors report email reductions lasting an impressive two years: 

    "Within three months the team’s total e-mail output dropped by 54%. The output of the 73 other London-based employees soon began decreasing too, even though those employees received no training or feedback. In fact, this drop was even greater—64%. The result was an annual gain of 10,400 man-hours, which translates to a 7% increase in productivity. The new practices soon became embedded in the top team’s behavior, and the reductions have been sustained for two years."

    HBR published this "interactive," showing the number of emails that could be reduced when executives send fewer emails. Sorry, this does nothing for me. How about a simple chart instead? 

    Image source. 

    Discussion Starters: 

    • To what do you attribute these results in email reduction throughout the organization? 
    • This study took place at a British energy company. Do you think the results may be different in the United States or at a company in a different industry? Why or why not? 
    • What's your assessment of HBR's "interactive"? Am I too harsh in saying that it doesn't add value to the survey results?
  • Chobani Apologizes for Moldy Yogurt

    Chobani FB apology
    Chobani's CEO and Founder Hamdi Ulukaya is personally apologizing for selling moldy yogurt produced in its Idaho facility.

    In a letter on the Chobani website, Ulukaya opens with, "I'm sorry we let you down.

    "From the workers in our factories to our sales teams on the road, there is nothing we take greater pride in than making a perfect cup of yogurt."

    Chobani also communicated updates through a press release and its Facebook page. The company's communication has been generally web received, as shown in these two Facebook posts:

    Chobani FB responses

    However, several customers said it had been "weeks" since they reported the bad product on Chobani's Facebook page, but the company responded only recently.

    Also, I doubt I'm the only one who finds the CEO's large, sad-looking photo a bit odd.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Compare Chobani's communications: press release, letter, and Facebook post. How did the company adapt the message to different audiences and media?
    • What works well about the CEO's letter, and what could be improved?