• FIFA Responds to Accusations

    FIFA officials, who run the international soccer association, have been accused of corruption.

    In a presentation to FIFA Congress, president Sepp Blatter, who is seeking a fifth term of office, referred to "unprecedented and difficult times." Although he admitted, "The events of yesterday have cast a long shadow over football," he tried to separate himself, football, and FIFA, from the "actions of a few": "We cannot let the reputation of football, and of FIFA, be dragged through the mud." 

    FIFA Sepp Blatter

    Seven FIFA senior managers were arrested. The US Justice Department has accused 18 people total of accepting more than $150 million in bribes, which were handled as cash through three British international banks. 

    Blatter said he could "not monitor everyone all the time." But not everyone is convinced Blatter didn't know about the corruption. UK Prime Minister David Cameron has called for his resignation, "the sooner, the better." 

    FIFA's governance page provides additional statements about the situation. 

    Discussion Starters: 

    • Review information on FIFA's governance page. How well do you think the organization is handling the news? 
    • Do you buy Blatter's argument that he's not involved in the scandal? What convinces you either way? 
    • Should Blatter resign? 
  • Hardee's and Carl's Jr. Promote Sex, Not Healthy Food

    As other fast-food restaurants promote healthier menu options, CKE Restaurants is sticking with good-tasting food and selling it with sex. A Wall Street Journal article describes the company's new ads:

    "New ads promoting 'The Most American Thickburger' feature Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Samantha Hoopes donning an American flag bikini as she frolics in a hot tub on the back of a pickup truck."

    Carl's Jr

    One burger weighs in at 1,000 calories, and the company isn't apologizing for it. In an interview, CKE's Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Brad Haley defends the strategy:

    "We advertise in a way that appeals our target–young, hungry guys. Sometime they like attractive models. Sometimes our ads are funny or they have an edge to them.

    "We are not afraid to take a chance to build our relationship with our target audience, 18-to-34-year-old males. If it’s something they love but maybe their moms and dads don’t approve of, in a lot of ways that can help us form a stronger bond with our target."

    Haley responds to other pointed questions about "crossing a line," "scantily-clad models," ad spending, and the high-calorie food. 

    Discussion Starters: 

    • What's your view of CKE's strategy? Is the company missing a trend and a moving market, or is it appropriately targeting its customers? 
    • How well did the CMO respond to the reporter's questions? Which responses, if any, could be improved? 
  • 2015 Commencement Speeches

    The lists and commentary are coming in. CNN and The Hollywood Reporter published their top picks of 2015 commencement speeches, and The New York Times and The Washington Post published advice to future speakers. 

    Perhaps the most talked about speech so far is from actor Robert De Niro at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts if not for the content than for his use of the "F-word." He warned graduates that their career choice may be a tough one: 

    "You discovered a talent, developed an ambition and recognized your passion. When you feel that, you can't fight it — you just go with it. When it comes to the arts, passion should always trump common sense. You aren't just following dreams, you're reaching for your destiny. ... You're an artist — yeah, you're f—d. The good news is that's not a bad place to start."

    Other notable moments include Ed Helms' criticism of Rolling Stone's retracted story about rape at the University of Virginia: " 

    "It has been said that a rolling stone gathers no moss. I would add that sometimes a rolling stone also gathers no verifiable facts or even the tiniest morsels of journalistic integrity."  

    For more, Graduation Wisdom has compiled a list of speakers through June and offers "sketchbooks" of previous speeches: infographics if you don't want to listen to them on YouTube.

    Discussion Starters: 

    • What's your view of Robert De Niro's use of an obscenity during his speech: offensive, funny, or something else? 
    • How do you think Ed Helms handled the University of Virginia controversy? If you were part of the university's administration, would you worry about his portrayal? Do you think the university pre-screened his speech? Do universities typically review speeches before they're delivered?
  • World Cup Sponsors Respond to Qatar Controversy

    Fifa-world-cupPR Daily has gathered statements from corporate sponsors Visa, Coca-Cola, and Adidas about the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Reports of worker abuse and deaths and the detention of BBC journalists have sparked controversy about Qatar as FIFA's choice for the event. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has urged sponsor to speak out. 

    Visa was the first company to get FIFA's attention

     "We continue to be troubled by the reports coming out of Qatar related to the World Cup and migrant worker conditions. We have expressed our grave concern to FIFA and urge them to take all necessary actions to work with the appropriate authorities and organisations to remedy this situation and ensure the health and safety of all involved."

    In response, FIFA issued this statement: 

    "FIFA has repeatedly urged publicly and with the highest authorities in Qatar that fair working conditions for all workers in Qatar are imperative.

    "Migrant workers have been working for many global companies in Qatar for decades, yet only now is real change happening in their working conditions.

    "While there are huge construction programs under way in Qatar that have no connection to the FIFA World Cup, it is clear that the FIFA World Cup is serving as a catalyst for significant change.

    "FIFA, alongside trade unions and human rights organisations, will continue to urge the Qatari authorities to accomplish reforms and abolish the Kafala system. Ultimately, however, sustainable change in the whole country can only be reached in a collective effort with all stakeholders involved, including international companies and governments."

    The Qatari government issued a statement about detaining BBC reporters: 

    "The Government Communications Office invited a dozen reporters to see—first-hand—some sub-standard labour accommodation as well as some of the newer labour villages. We gave the reporters free rein to interview whomever they chose and to roam unaccompanied in the labour villages.

    "Perhaps anticipating that the government would not provide this sort of access, the BBC crew decided to do their own site visits and interviews in the days leading up to the planned tour. In doing so, they trespassed on private property, which is against the law in Qatar just as it is in most countries. Security forces were called and the BBC crew was detained."

    The BBC expressed its dissatisfaction with the response: 

    "We are pleased that the BBC team has been released but we deplore the fact that they were detained in the first place. Their presence in Qatar was no secret and they were engaged in a perfectly proper piece of journalism.

    "The Qatari authorities have made a series of conflicting allegations to justify the detention, all of which the team rejects. We are pressing the Qatari authorities for a full explanation and for the return of the confiscated equipment."

    Image source

    Discussion Starters: 

    • Read additional statements from Adidas and Coca-Cola. What else, if anything, should these companies say? 
    • Should the sponsors pull their support of the Word Cup 2022? 
    • What should FIFA do at this point? 
  • Twitter Has More Work to Do

    Twitter CEO *** Costolo's promise to "take full responsibility" for hate and bullying on the site doesn't seem to be working. President Obama's @POTUS Twitter account received terrible threats and insults within just a few minutes of his first post. 


    In February, Costolo posted an internal message to employees, which included the following: 

    "We're going to start kicking these people off right and left, and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them."

    Unfortunately, the company fell far short this week. The President's new Twitter account, which garnered 2.3 million followers in four days, received 500 "f-bombs" on the first day, according to The Washington Post. The Post also warned that tweets to @POTUS are archived forever. Maybe someday, users will regret posting despicable images of the President with a noose around his neck, for example.  

    Discussion Starters: 

    • Why do you think the President chose to start a Twitter account now, six years into office? 
    • Was this the right decision? Consider the benefits of having an account, the obvious downsides of the backlash, and perhaps less obvious issues. 
    • Some hateful tweets are promoted on Twitter. Should the company do more? Like what? 
  • Blue Bell CEO Explains Layoff Decision

    In an emotional message, Blue Bell Creameries CEO and President Paul Kruse explains the "agonizing decision" to furlough some employees and lay off others. The company is struggling to regain ground after a recall stopped production. 

    So far, the video post on Blue Bell's Facebook page received 1,022 likes. 

    In a press release, the company described which and how many employees are affected: 

    • Employees who are essential to ongoing operations and cleaning and repair efforts will continue to work but have their pay reduced. 
    • A second group of employees will be placed on partially paid furlough.  They will be paid a substantial portion of their current pay, with the expectation that they will return to work as production resumes. 
    • Because there is not a clear timeline for when production will resume, and because supply and distribution will be limited when it does, a third group of employees will be laid off. 

    In total, "Approximately 1,400 employees will be furloughed, and approximately 750 full-time and 700 part-time employees—or 37 percent of the total Blue Bell workforce of 3,900—will be laid off."

    Discussion Starters: 

    • Assess Kruse's video message: which principles of bad-news messages does he follow? How well does he deliver the news? 
    • Next, assess the press release: organization, word choice, tone, and so on. What works well, and what would you suggest the company improve? 
    • If you were an employee affected by this decision, how do you think you might react? 
  • Restaurant Owner Slams Guest Who Wrote a Bad Review

    It's not the first time, and it won't be the last. The owner of LA restaurant Sunset Terrace Restaurant & Bar didn't like a review and told all of us about it. 

    The original post was from June 2014, but Tyrone only recently replied. 

    Sunset Review

    The owner's response (read at your own risk!) referred to the guest as "ignorant, disgusting, miserable" and said "The world will be a little bit better of place once you no longer a part of it. [sic]."  

    After the predictable backlash, the owner posted a long response on his Facebook page. The first three paragraphs are below: 

    After all the interest in my admittedly vulgar Facebook post (which I intended to send to Brooke privately)

    I think I should give an explanation as to how I came to choose such Spicy language towards her.

    Below is the account of what actually happened according to the three (3) witnesses I spoke with immediately after the incident. (A customer who frequents Sunset Terrace several times a week, an off duty employee having lunch and my employee working at the time Crystal)

     Discussion Starters: 

    • When you read Tyrone's entire Facebook post, you learn that the guest had insulted one of his employees. Does this justify initial response? 
    • How would you advise owners to handle negative reviews, keeping in mind that the guest may always be right—but not always fair or pleasant?
  • Zappos Loses 210 Employees

    Zappos_teamBack in March, Zappos announced a new management structure—or lack of structure—and offered employees three months' severance pay if they didn't want to deal with it. In CEO Tony Hsieh's email to employees, he explained the organization's process of Holacracy: moving towards self-management and self-organization. The company is striving to be a "teal organization" described in the book Reinventing Organizations

    Although 210 (14% of employees) chose the severance deal, it's unclear whether it's because of Zappos' management direction or a strong economy with better job opportunities. John Bunch, who's leading the effort at Zappos, said, "The offer was a big incentive to leave Zappos, and people took the offer for various reasons. Some Zapponians took it because they are not in line with the vision of the company, others took it to pursue other passions including starting businesses. Ultimately, however many people took the offer is the right number because they are doing what is best for them and for Zappos."

    Hsieh has a history of offering employees money if they choose to leave the company. The company pays employees $2,000 if they quit. Presumably, this encourages people who aren't happy (and perhaps the company isn't happy with them either). 

    Image source

    Discussion Starters: 

    • The Washington Post article is titled, "At Zappos, 210 employees decide to leave rather than work with 'no bosses.'" Is this a fair characterization given the quotation by Bunch? 
    • What's your view of Zappos' practice of offering money for employees to leave the company? What are the benefits and risks?
  • Facebook Encourages a $15 Wage and Other Benefits

    Facebook is taking a stand to increase wages. In a statement, COO Sheryl Sandberg described new standards for companies who want to do business with Facebook. The first paragraph is shown here: FB minimum wage

    Sandberg writes that this is "the right thing to do for our business and our community." She also mentions, "We’ve been working on these changes for some months and had originally planned to announce this last Monday." Monday was May 4; sadly, Sandberg's husband, SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg, passed suddenly on May 1. 

    Read more.

    Discussion Starters: 

    • What's your view of Facebook's position? Why would the company jump into this controversial debate? Consider Sandberg's history. 
    • Is it fair for Facebook to require these standards of its suppliers? What are the potential consequences? Read the entire post, so you know what the company is requiring. 
    • Why did Sandberg mention the company's original date for the announcement? How do you expect people to react to this? 
  • Amtrak Posts Messages About Crash

    Amtrak derailmentAn Amtrak train traveling from Washington, D.C., to New York derailed, leaving at least six people dead and more than 200 injured. The investigation has started with the obvious question about speed.  

    Passengers describe a horrible scene with items and bodies flying around the cars. Some people are still missing. 

    In the meantime, Amtrak posted two messages to its Facebook page. The first simply announced the accident and provided an emergency number for people to call. The second gave more information and conveyed the company's regrets: 

    Wednesday, May 13 2:45am

    We are deeply saddened by the loss of life from Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 that derailed north of Philadelphia Tuesday evening. We ask the news media to be respectful of our customers, our employees, and their families.

    There were approximately 238 passengers and 5 crew members on board. Individuals with questions about their friends and family on this train should call the Amtrak Incident Hotline 800-523-9101. Amtrak has also established a Family Assistance Center to work closely with family and friends of individuals on the train. Local emergency responders are on the scene and an investigation is ongoing.

    On Wednesday, May 13, modified Amtrak service will be provided between Washington and Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Philadelphia, and New York and Boston. There will be no Amtrak service between New York and Philadelphia, but New Jersey Transit will honor Amtrak tickets between New York City and Trenton.

    Other Amtrak Service between New York and Albany-Rensselaer; New Haven and Springfield, Mass., and other points will operate.

    Additional updates will be provided when available.

    Image source

    Discussion Starters: 

    • Assess Amtrak's Facebook post. What works well, and what changes would you suggest?
    • What else, if anything, should the company do or say at this point?  
  • Is Andrew Cuomo Right?

    Fast-food-workers-in-ny-4_3In an op-ed piece in The New York Times, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo writes, "Fast-Food Workers Deserve a Raise." The article begins with context about his own actions in NY: 

    ALBANY — INCOME inequality is a national problem that leaders at all levels of government are grappling with. While American capitalism never guaranteed success, it did once guarantee opportunity. But today, too many Americans don’t believe their children will have a better life than their own. The ideal of mobility has been replaced by the reality of stagnation.

    Some argue that we can close the income gap by pulling down the top. I believe we should do it by lifting up the bottom. We can begin by raising labor standards, starting with the minimum wage.

    In 2013, I raised New York State’s minimum wage; it is now $8.75, up from $7.25 (and will rise to $9 at the end of the year). In my latest budget, I proposed raising it again, to $11.50 in New York City and $10.50 elsewhere in the state. But the Legislature rejected that proposal. So I am continuing the fight. While lawmakers delay, I am taking action.


    As evidence, Governor Cuomo quotes President Franklin D. Roosevelt and provides data about income inequality, worker demographics, public assistance spending, wages and prices in Europe, and projected outcomes of raising wages.  

    Image source

    Discussion Starters: 

    • What examples do you find of logos, pathos, and ethos in Governor Cuomo's article? 
    • Which arguments are strongest and weakest? What, if any, flaws do you find in his data or logic? 
  • Welsh Bus Company Rethinks Sexy Ad

    Welsh bus adAre people just too sensitive, or did this Welsh bus company cross a line with its ad? The picture of a naked woman with a provocative line was created for a Cardiff, Wales, company promoting its cross-city service.

    A representative for the Advertising Standards Agency reported 45 complaints and told Business Insider, "We've received complaints about this ad, but we understand that the advertiser will be taking it down within the next 24 hours and has removed its accompanying tweet in response to the concerns it's received. We'll continue to monitor the situation in case further action is needed."

    On Twitter, New Adventure Travel promised to take down the ads: 

    In view of the reaction to our bus advertising today we wish to set out our position:

    Firstly we have stated that our objectives have been to make catching the bus attractive to the younger generation. We therefore developed an internal advertising campaign featuring males and females to hold boards to promote the cost of our daily tickets.

    The slogan of 'ride me all day for £3' whilst being a little tongue in cheek was in no way intended to cause offence to either men or women and, if the advert has done so then we apologise unreservedly. There has certainly been no intention to objectify either men or women.

    Given the volume of negativity received we have decided to remove the pictures from the back of the buses within the next twenty four hours.

    Discussion Starters: 

    • What's your view? Is this just a catchy ad and people are too sensitive? Or is the ad potentially offensive?
    • What, if any, cultural differences are at play? How do you think this would be received in the United States?
    • How do we decide what "crosses a line"? What criteria do you use to form your opinion? 
    • Did New Adventure Travel do and say the right thing?
  • SurveyMonkey Announces Death of CEO

    Sheryl-Sandberg-husband-david-Goldberg-photoDave Goldberg was the CEO of SurveyMonkey and husband of Sheryl Sanberg, COO of Facebook and author of the book "Lean In." At just 47, Golberg died of head trauma after falling off a treadmill at a gym in a private villa in Mexico, where he was vacationing with family and friends. 

    According to The New York Times, Goldberg was "well regarded as an entrepreneur and mentor and was the less famous half of one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent power couples." The news came as a shock and caused speculation about the cause. But a spokesperson for the prosecutor's office in the Mexican town said plainly, "he fell off the treadmill and cracked his head open." The incident may lead to new measures treadmill safety.

    SurveyMonkey posted this announcement on its website: 

      Goldberg Survey Monkey

    Image source

    Discussion Starters:

    • How do you assess Survey Monkey's statement? Which principles of delivering bad news in Chapter 8 are followed, and which are not? Consider the audience, purpose, and so on. 
    • Should the company say or do anything else at this point? 
  • McDonald's New CEO's Video Isn't a Hit

    Was Steve Easterbook, McDonald's new CEO, too honest in his video message? Easterbrook outlined a turnaround plan and admitted, "The reality is our recent performance has been poor. The numbers don't lie."

    Easterbrook Video

    After the video was released, S&P downgraded McDonald's credit rating to A-, and the stock took a 1% hit in early trading.

    A Mashable author calls the presentation a "passionless video pep talk." Seth Fiegerman said the video didn't reflect the promised "brand excitement":

    "Excitement — or emotion of any kind — was, however, conspicuously lacking from Easterbrook's even, careful speech. For 23 minutes, Easterbrook talked at the screen, staring straight ahead, rarely blinking and gesturing blandly with his hands while only occasionally raising his eyebrows for emphasis. He stood in an empty, beige McDonald's hallway decorated with generic artwork. The camera kept locked on Easterbrook's face, only breaking away to show a gray slide deck with numbers from time to time."

    Ouch. To be fair, Easterbrook is in a tough spot. The company clearly isn't doing well, as shown in this bar chart.

    McDonald's sales

    Image source.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Watch Easterbrook's video. What's your assessment?
    • Are authors like Fiegerman being too hard on Easterbrook?
    • What do you identify as McDonald's key strategies for turning the business around? Which do you find most and least compelling?
  • Fiorina Announces Run but Forgets .org

    Here's a riddle: what costs $35 on Register.com (or $7 if you don't mind GoDaddy's advertising approach) but can blow a campaign launch? CarlyFiorina.org. The Republican presidential candidate and former CEO of Hewlett Packet didn't register the .org domain. Instead, someone took over the URL and posted about her layoffs at the company. 

    Carly org

    Text at the bottom reads: 

    That's 30,000 people she laid off. People with families. And what does she say she would have done differently?

    "I would have done them all faster."
    —Carly Fiorina

    It's too early in the campaign for a mistake like this. 

    Discussion Starters: 

    • Who do you think is responsible for this? Should Fiorina make a statement about the mistake?
    • How do you assess Fiorina's prospects at this point? On balance, will her history at HP help her or hurt her? 
  • Barbie Won't Associate with SeaWorld

    SeaWorld BarbieBarbie, whose bones are attached with only moral fiber, has finally ended her agreement with SeaWorld. She will no longer be a SeaWorld trainer.

    Mattel doesn't say why, but we can speculate that negative press about the theme park's treatment of orca whales, exposed by the movie Blackfish, is part of the reason.

    Alex Clark, a Mattel spokesperson told NBC, "We're not making the doll anymore. Consumers may find it on retail shelves but we are not shipping and not producing the doll." About the decision, Clark said only, "A number of factors go into a decision like that. Their licensing deal expired and we've elected not to renew it."

    Image source

    Discussion Starters:

    • Is discontinuing SeaWorld Trainer Barbie the right decision for Mattel even if the doll has been profitable? 
    • Should Mattel say more about the reason? What factors would management consider in communicating the decision?
  • Laughs at the Correspondents' Dinner

    As is the tradition, the President of the U.S. gave an irreverent speech at the Correspondents' Dinner, an annual event for journalists covering the White House (and other celebs).  

    Watch the video.

    Here are a few highlights: 

    • He said his new strategy was something that rhymes with "bucket list." He repeated "bucket" after mentioning several initiatives, such as immigration. 
    • Referring to people still believing he's a Muslim, he said he's been so busy "all while finding time to pray five times a day."
    • Admitting that some people still think he's "arrogant and aloof," he said, "Some people are so dumb."
    • About Hillary Clinton, he said the economy is so bad, "I had a friend, just a few weeks ago, she was making millions of dollars a year, and now she's living out of a van in Iowa.

    Discussion Starters: 

    • What's the real value of the Correspondents' dinner?
    • Is it surprising to hear President Obama speak in this way? Did he cross the line in any way? 
  • An AT&T President Fired Over Racist Text

    AT&T suitOne of AT&T's presidents has been fired for sending a racist tweet, and other executives may be involved. Aaron Slator sent offensive images that became public in a $100 million lawsuit filed by an AT&T employee.

    The complaint blames a culture of racism at the company: 

    "These images, put out by Slator who is the President of AT&T, are beyond offensive. When Slator sent the picture of the African child via text message, he referred to it as an 'oldie but goodie.' Slator transmitted these images on his work phone, evidencing deep-rooted racial bigotry in his place of employment."

    Knoyme King is claiming that she was denied a promotional opportunity, was unfairly paid, and suffered a hostile work environment. 

    AT&T has terminated Slator, which King's attorneys equate with admitting guilt. 

    A spokesperson for AT&T told Business Insider, "Aaron Slator has been terminated. There is no place for demeaning behavior within AT&T, and we regret the action was not taken earlier."

    Image source.

    Discussion Starters: 

    • Was terminating Slator the right decision? Do you agree with the lawyers that this proves AT&T's guilt?
    • I'm trying to understand Slator's position? What could be his defense?