• Adweek Rounds Up Best Ads of 2015

    Adweek has identified some of the best international ads of the past year. Topping the list are phenomenal Swedish skaters performing to the song "The Reindeer Herder's Joik" by Jon Henrik Fjällgren.

    A commercial advertising organ donation uses a clever strategy:

    Discussion Starters: 

    • Adweek identifies "fun" as a common theme of these ads. After watching more of them, what else do they have in common? 
    • What are your favorite commercials from 2015?
  • Nordstrom Excelling on Social Media

    Nordstrom-2According to Engagement Labs, Retailer Nordstrom is doing a great job on social media based on three performance rankings on specific social networks: 

    • Engagement: how much interaction the company's posts receive
    • Impact: the level of reach to constituencies 
    • Responsiveness: how quickly the company replies to specific users' comments

    Of all the brands Engagement Labs analyzes, Nordstrom is doing the best, according to a write-up by Forbes:

    "Upscale fashion retailer, Nordstrom, is a top performer on Facebook FB +0.00% and Twitter TWTR -1.20%. On Facebook, Nordstrom has the highest eValue average score on the list at 93.11. It has enjoyed fan growth of 89,536 within the one-month tracking period and attracted 380.57 likes per 1,000 fans—the highest on the entire list."

    Engagement Labs also follows Vloggers and has highlighted YouTube stars PewDiePie, Smosh, Rhett & Link, and others. 

    Discussion Starters: 

    • What is your favorite brand, and how would you rate its levels of engagement, impact, and responsiveness on social media? What examples do you see of interaction? 
    • How, if at all, does a brand's use of social media affect your purchase decisions? 
  • REI Makes Headlines with #OptOutside

    TempOutdoor and sports equipment retailer REI is closing its 143 stores for Black Friday, instead encouraging people to #OptOutside. A CEO message on the company's website says employees will be paid not to work: 

    REI is closing on Black Friday.

    You read that correctly. On November 27, we'll be closing all 143 of our stores and paying our employees to head outside.

    Here’s why we’re doing it.

    For 76 years, our co-op has been dedicated to one thing and one thing only: a life outdoors. We believe that being outside makes our lives better. And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth.

    We're a different kind of company—and while the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we’ll be spending our day a little differently. We’re choosing to opt outside, and want you to come with us.

    Jerry Stritzke, President, CEO

    An NBC article questions whether the strategy will pay off. The move responds to criticism of increasing consumerism and from employees who want the day off, and it's a "gesture" against bigger box retailers who couldn't afford to lose the day's sales. Still, the company suffered some backlash with employees on Reddit complaining about low wages, poor benefits, and pressure to sell memberships. 

    Overall, its seems like a good move. After all, REI is an outdoor company—and the weather in New York at least is uncharacteristically warm for this time of year.

    Discussion Starters: 

    • What's your view of REI's decision? How would the company decide whether the positive publicity is worth the lost sales?  
    • How could the CEO have handled the Ask Me Anything (AMA) questions on Reddit? Some say he didn't respond to important employee complaints, such as the pressure to sell memberships.  
  • Nestle Addresses Worker Abuse

    A non-profit organization commissioned by Nestle has exposed worker abuse in the Thailand seafood industry, which includes fish sold by the company. The report is titled, "Recruitment Practices and Migrant Labor Conditions in Nestlé’s Thai Shrimp Supply Chain: An Examination of Forced Labor and other Human Rights Risks Endemic to the Thai Seafood Sector."

    Business Insider explains the abuse: 

    The laborers come from Thailand's much poorer neighbors Myanmar and Cambodia. Brokers illegally charge them fees to get jobs, trapping them into working on fishing vessels and at ports, mills and seafood farms in Thailand to pay back more money than they can ever earn.

    "Sometimes, the net is too heavy and workers get pulled into the water and just disappear. When someone dies, he gets thrown into the water," one Burmese worker told the nonprofit organization Verite commissioned by Nestle.

    "I have been working on this boat for 10 years. I have no savings. I am barely surviving," said another. "Life is very difficult here."

    Nestle has responded by restating its commitment:  

    "As we've said consistently, forced labor and human rights abuses have no place in our supply chain. Nestle believes that by working with suppliers we can make a positive difference to the sourcing of ingredients."

    In an action plan posted on its website, Nestle reports on "pre-requisites achieved in 2014 - 2015" and identifies objectives for 2015 - 2016 summarized in this infographic


    Discussion Starters: 

    • Assess the infographic against principles in Chapter 10. Which are followed, and how could the graphic be improved? 
    • Do the same for the Verite report. Consider the format, design, content choices, organization, writing style, and so on. 
  • Chipotle Addresses Spread of E. coli

    Chipotle TwitterChipotle's E. coli trouble is spreading to other parts of the United States. Although the outbreak was thought to be limited to Washington and Oregon, new reports show illnesses in California, Ohio, New York, and Minnesota. For the first time since it became an independent company, Chipotle's same-restaurant sales may decline, and the stock has taken a hit.

     On a page on its website under "Food Safety Update," the company explains the situation. 

     The CDC has informed Chipotle that it identified six additional cases in which initial testing matches the E. coli strain involved in the Washington and Oregon incident. Although one of the individuals has no known link to Chipotle, five individuals did report eating at Chipotle, including two in Turlock, CA, one in the Akron, OH area, one in Amherst, NY, and one in Burnsville, MN.

    Investigators have suggested that in incidents like this, it is not unusual to see additional cases after the initial incident as the investigation moves forward. The source of the problem appears to have been contained during a period in late October. 42 of the 43 cases linked to Chipotle reported visiting one of the restaurants in question between October 13 and October 30. One person reported having eaten November 6.

    Since this issue began, Chipotle conducted deep cleaning at the restaurants that have been linked to this incident, replaced ingredients in those restaurants, changed food preparation procedures, provided all necessary supply chain data to investigators, and surveyed employees to be sure none had E. coli (note: no Chipotle employees in any states have had E. Coli stemming from this incident). Similar actions are immediately being taken in response to these newly reported cases.

    Chipotle is also taking significant steps to be sure all of its food is as safe as possible. Specifically, we are expanding testing of key ingredients, examining all of our food-safety procedures to find any opportunity for improvement, and are working with two renowned food safety scientists to assess all of its food safety programs, from the farms that provide our food to our restaurants.

    Connections to this incident are limited to seventeen Chipotle restaurants. 

    The statement goes on to list the locations and provide a Q&A for concerned customers. 

    The company's Twitter page is active. Representatives respond personally to tweets, as shown here. 

    Discussion Starters: 

    • Analyze the company's statement on its website. What works well, and what could be improved? Particularly consider the last sentence shown above. 
    • Does this news affect whether you would visit a Chipotle restaurant? What, if anything, can the company do to assure you that the food is safe? 
  • Radisson Blu Responds to the Terror Attacks

    Radisson Blu (@RadissonBlu) _ TwitterA terrorist attack at the Radisson Blu in Mali resulted in 27 deaths, and the company is responding to the news. 

    Radisson Blu's website features a large message: "Remember our guests and colleagues in Bamako." The message links to a statement and video from Wolfgang Neumann, president and CEO of The Rezidor Hotel Group (on behalf of the Carlson Rezidor Group).  

    In his video message, Neumann expresses condolences and appreciation. He also explains support services and provides a telephone line for people needing support and information. 

    On the day of the attack, the Rezidor website showed a statement saying the company was "closely following" the situation. Neumann created another video emphasizing safety and security.

    Radisson Blu has been active on Twitter, providing peridic updates and links to statements and videos.


    Discussion Starters:

    • Assess Neumann's video statements. As always, we have to empathize with his position during this difficult time. Still, if you were his media advisor, what strengths and suggestions would you identify? 
    • How do you assess company communications so far? What are the Radisson Blu and Rezidor doing well?
  • False Claims from an Obesity Study?

    Junk Food InfographicA Cornell University study concludes, "consumption of fast food, soft drinks, or candy was not positively correlated with measures of BMI," meaning (excluding those very under- and overweight), people consumed these foods at about the same rate. But a Forbes writer criticizes the "false claim" reflected in Cornell's press release (and similarly reported elsewhere): "Candy, soda and fast food are not driving the rising obesity trend in the U.S."

    Other headlines, such as, "Is junk food making us fat? Why cutting candy, soda may not be enough," in USA Today have little connection to the findings at all. The study says nothing about restricting certain foods. It merely reports that people of different weights consume similar amounts of these particularly foods.

    I also don't think the study distinguished between diet and regular soda. People at the lowest BMIs consumed the most soda.

    One of the study's authors, David Just, responded to the Forbes writer's concerns:

    "I clarified this with the study’s lead author, David Just, a professor of economics at Cornell University, who said his aim was to consider the potential impact of public policies that banned certain foods. 'There’s been a lot of diet advice given that narrowly focuses on eliminating soda and fast food and a rash of policies that are targeting these specific foods and promising to address the obesity crisis,' he said. 'I felt these policies were overpromising.'

    "He said he did not intend people to leave with the message that sugary sodas and junk food have nothing to do with their weight, or that it’s useless to try to lose weight by cutting back on sugar."

    An infographic summarizes the study's findings, and Just describes the results in a video.

    Discussion Starters:

    • How would you explain the Forbes writer's concerns? What are the potential consequences of how the findings are reported?
    • What conclusions are safe to draw from the study? How could the results be useful to policymakers and individuals?
  • More Marriott + Starwood Communications

    Marriott and Starwood clearly have coordinated communications to loyalty program members and employees. Three days after the news that Marriott is buying Starwood, Marriott Rewards Members received an email. A similar message was posted on Starwood's homepage for Starwood Preferred Guests (SPG members) on the day of the announcement. At the end of the Marriott message, which you can see here, is a LOT of boilerplate.

    Marriott Rewards Email

    Messages to employees are also similar. Starwood sent an email to employees from Sorenson to express his enthusiasm, welcome—and some empathy:

     "I know it’s strange that we will go from competitors to teammates.  I believe strongly that we share similar goals and our partnership will be a natural one.

    "You may already know a fair amount about our company, but I want to be sure that you know that the well-being of associates has been and will always be our first priority."

    Both emails included a video of Sorenson and Bill Marriott. From what I hear from employees in the United States and Europe, they heard the news before it became public, which of course, is best.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Why would SPG members receive information three days earlier than Marriott Rewards members?
    • One Chinese employee says she didn't receive an email about the news, only the rewards email. How do you think this disconnect happened?
    • How do you explain all of the boilerplate at the bottom of the Marriott Rewards email?
  • Executives' "Email Habits"

    Inbox-prayingBusiness Insider has identified ways CEOs and other executives manage their email. On average, people send and receive 116 emails per day, but we can expect this group to handle many more. 

    Here are a few of the lessons learned from executives: 

    • LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner sends less email, believing he receives fewer in return: "After recognizing this dynamic, I decided to conduct an experiment where I wouldn't write an email unless absolutely necessary. End result: Materially fewer emails and a far more navigable inbox. I've tried to stick to the same rule ever since." Weiner is right, according to a 2013 study in London
    • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos seems to scare his employees when we forwards a customer complaint with only a question mark in his message. According to Businessweek, "When Amazon employees get a Bezos question mark email, they react as though they've discovered a ticking bomb. They've typically got a few hours to solve whatever issue the CEO has flagged and prepare a thorough explanation for how it occurred, a response that will be reviewed by a succession of managers before the answer is presented to Bezos himself."
    • Zuckerberg Media Founder and CEO Randi Zuckerberg has two rules: "1. She waits at least 20 minutes after she's woken up before she checks it, and 2. She holds off on sending emails when she knows she's feeling overly emotional."

    On the somewhat random list, others don't start with "I," wake up at 3:45 a.m. (or 5:30 a.m.), don't check email right before bed, hire "email ninja" to help, or ask people to specify by when they need a response.

    The CEO of Hootsuite sometimes "declares inbox bankruptcy" and deletes everything. He recommends doing this only occasionally and letting people know in a disclaimer. This is the second time I've heard this strategy in the past two weeks, and it scares me. I would never do it. What if I miss a great opportunity or an email from a student in crisis?

    Image source.

    Discussion Starters: 

    • What are your biggest challenges in managing email? Which of these tips may help you?
    • What's your view of "inbox bankruptcy"? Who can get away with this and under what circumstances?
  • McDonald's Video: Nutrition Advice or Infomercial?

    McDonald's has created a 19-minute video, "540 Meals: Choices Make the Difference," which the company says is an educational video about nutrition. Others call it an infomercial or, as a Fortune writer put it, "a slickly produced McDocumentary." McDonald's encourages showing the film in schools and provides a Teachers Discussion Guide to help. 

    The star of the film is John Cisna, an Iowa teacher who lost 60 pounds on a McDonald's-only diet. (Remember Super Size Me?) Cisna reminds me of Subway's Jared, which didn't work out too well in the end. 

    McDonald's is hosting McTeacher's Nights, where teachers, students, and parents serve McDonald's food, and part of the revenue goes to a school fundraising campaign. Since 2013, McDonald's has contributed more than $2.5 million to schools from these nights. 

    Educators in a group called Corporate Accountability International call the practice "exploitative." In a letter to McDonald's, organizations and individuals write, in part, 

    "It is wrong to enlist teachers to sell kids on a brand like McDonald’s whose core products are burgers, fries, and soda. Marketing junk food to children is a harmful practice. We are in the midst of the largest preventable health crisis in the U.S. -- one that is spreading throughout the world, and that increasingly affects children. If this trend is not reversed, many children will be burdened with diet-related diseases like obesity and Type 2 diabetes, affecting their heath for life."

    Discussion Starters:

    • What's your view of McDonald's video and the McTeacher's Nights? 
    • What principles of persuasion does the education group use in its letter to the company? Try to identify examples of pathos, logos, and ethos. 
  • Volkswagen Tries to Win Customers with Gift Cards

    VW_Golf_TDI_Clean_Diesel_WAS_2010_8983Too little, too late? Volkswagen is finally trying to rebuild its image, but the approach may not work. The company is offering U.S. customers two credits for $500: one to be spent at a VW dealership and the other to be spent anywhere. In addition, customers with diesel cars will have free roadside assistance for three years.

    The "Goodwill Package" is announced on the VW website.

    A Fortune writer doubts the cash will have any impact:

    "When it comes to throwing money at a problem, we can learn something important from an experiment that was conducted on 632 eBay users in Germany, who had left negative feedback following a transaction. In the study, published in 2010, half received an apology 'I would like to apologize and ask whether you might withdraw your evaluation.' The other half received a cash rebate (about $5) 'as a goodwill gesture.' The results? When offered cash, 21% removed their critical rating. But when offered an apology (without any cash), 45% removed the critical rating."

    Customers are still waiting for a solution, but U.S. CEO Michael Horn says the company isn't ready: "We are working tirelessly to develop an approved remedy for affected vehicles. In the meantime we are providing this goodwill package as a first step towards regaining our customers' trust."

    Image source.

    Discussion Starters:

    • How effective do you think the customer credit will be in rebuilding VW's image?
    • The company is taking a long time to identify a solution for customers. What's your view of the situation? Do you find it understandable, stalling, or something else?
  • Marriott Buys Starwood

    Marriott will acquire Starwood to create the largest hotel company in the world with 1.1 million rooms in more than 5,500 hotels. Crain's Chicago Business reported that Hyatt and Starwood were in "advanced discussion" about an acquisition, but Marriott is the ultimate winner. 

    Marriott's statement included quotations from Arne Sorenson, Marriott's CEO who will lead both organizations; JW Marriott, Marriott chairman of the board; Bruce Duncan, Starwood's chairman of the board; and Adam Aron, Starwood's interim CEO. 

    Sorenson focused on growth potential: 

    "The driving force behind this transaction is growth. This is an opportunity to create value by combining the distribution and strengths of Marriott and Starwood, enhancing our competitiveness in a quickly evolving marketplace.  This greater scale should offer a wider choice of brands to consumers, improve economics to owners and franchisees, increase unit growth and enhance long-term value to shareholders.  Today is the start of an incredible journey for our two companies.  We expect to benefit from the best talent from both companies as we position ourselves for the future.  I know we’ll do great things together as The World’s Favorite Travel Company."

    Communication was prominent on the website and swift to Starwood Preferred Guests (SPG), members of the loyalty program. Members worry how their points will be affected by the deal. In contrast, general news of the acquisition was hidden under a "News" link at the bottom of the page. This is the same statement that appears on Marriott's website.

    Starwood SPG

    Discussion Starters: 

    • Analyze the companies' statement; it's an unconventional press release. Why would they choose this format? Does the message convince you the acquisition is a good decision? Would you react differently if you were an investor or guest?
    • Explain the announcement to SPG members on the Starwood home page. Why is this communication so important?
  • Debate: Substantive But Boring

    Analysts are complimenting the policy-related questions for the fourth Republican Presidential debate, but the result was a less exciting debate. Representatives from Fox Business Network did a better job than CNBC reporters in the last debate by focusing on real issues instead of personality. 

    Donald Trump played a less dominant role in this debate. Fox News reported, "As for Trump, he was very passive tonight. Statesman Trump is not as fun as reality TV Trump." CNN reported other players winning ground:

    "There was no single dominant performance as in the past when candidates such as Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio wowed audiences -- and swiftly improved their place in the polls. Several candidates, including Rubio and Ted Cruz, were strong on the debate stage on Tuesday. And Jeb Bush, who has struggled in such environments, projected greater confidence, seeming to relish a confrontation with Donald Trump on national security."

    Reuters' focus was also on Jeb Bush, who said of his own performance, "I thought the debate went well, and I had a good debate because I got to talk about things with a little substance instead of the cute one-liners." Bush may have bought himself more time to gain a few percentage points in the polls; his campaign has been suffering, and his debate performances until this one certainly haven't helped.

    Rubio and Cruz are emerging as the most well spoken, if not the most brilliant or substantive.

    Discussion Starters:

    • How much do you think appearance and youth count in the election? How will these factors help Rubio and Cruz?
    • Who do you think won the fourth debate? How, if at all, will this debate affect your vote?
  • University of Missouri President Resigns

    Mizzou athletes

    Students have forced the resignation of University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe. Unhappy with Wolfe's response during racial incidents at the university, some students have been on a hunger strike, while the football team announced plans to boycott upcoming games.

    Wolfe published a statement apologizing for his response and another describing actions the university will take, but they weren't enough.  

    A final statement announces Wolfe's resignation, which he also describes in a news conference.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Assess Wolfe's three statements. Could he have said anything else to quell the controversy, or was it hopeless?
    • Assess Wolfe's news conference. What improvements would you suggest for future presentations?
    • Wolfe's resignation misuses "affect." Do you see the mistake?
  • SeaWorld Changes Its Whale Show

    It took since the opening of the movie "Blackfish" in July 2013: after increasing protests and declining park attendance, SeaWorld has finally announced the end of its killer whale show—in some form.

    The documentary and other critics accused the theme park of keeping and mistreating orcas in captivity. Although the news reports that shows are ending, they will reopen with a different type of show in 2017. CEO Joel Manby describes a "natural setting, natural environment, and also the natural behaviors of the whale."

    This report from the Today Show features Samantha Berg, a former SeaWorld trainer who appeared in "Blackfish." (Sam is also a Cornell graduate and was a guest speaker for my Corporate Communication class last year.)

    Critics say the new show plan is a "bait and switch" and perpetuates captivity of the whales.

    As the news was hitting media reports, SeaWorld published two major communications—neither mentions the decision to end shows as we know them:

    • A video, "This is How SeaWorld is Taking Action to Make a Better World for Animals," describing the organization's rescue efforts and the emotional appeal of its parks
    • A post on its website

    Discussion Starters:

    • What's your view of SeaWorld's PR strategy? Should the organization mention the show changes in its communications, or is it a smart decision to avoid the topic entirely?
    • Many news reports focus on ending on the shows, but that's not quite the story we hear from the Today Show clip. Are the news reports short-term, deceiving, or something else?
  • More Trouble for Volkswagen

    Volkswagen is facing a new wave of inquiry since the diesel emissions scandal. According to The Economist, "VW confessed that it overstated claims about the carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions and, thus, fuel efficiency of 800,000 cars, including, it seems, some with petrol engines."

    The European Commission is asking EU countries to expand their investigation. A spokesperson for the Commission said, "Public trust is at stake. We need all the facts on the table and rigorous enforcement of existing legislation." Since the news about the cheating software, VW's stock lost more than one-third of its value. 

    Now that Porsche models have also been implicated, VW's new CEO, Matthias Müller, previously head of the Porsche division, is not looking as good. As The Economist writes, the news "casts a shadow" on his role. 

    Communications continue to lag. The U.S. VW site has the same tired video of Michael Horn. 

    VW site

    Discussion Starters:

    • Did VW do the right thing by admitting the emissions under-reporting? Another strategy would have been to wait for the news to be discovered as part of the diesel software investigation. 
    • What else should VW communicate at this point? Look at the U.S. website and make a few recommendations. 
  • HomeAway Announces Expedia Deal

    HomeAway and its other vacation rental sites will be acquired by Expedia. Expedia has been busy: the company recently bought Travelocity and Orbitz. HomeAway's portfolio includes VRBO and VacationRentals.com and 1.2 million vacation properties.


    In HomeAway's press release, Expedia CEO expresses his enthusiasm: 

    "We have tremendous respect for the HomeAway team and the business they have built. With our expertise in powering global transactional platforms and our industry-leading technology capabilities, we look forward to partnering with them to accelerate their shift from a classified marketplace to an online, transactional model to create even better experiences for HomeAway's global traveler audience and the owners and managers of its 1.2 million properties around the world." 

    In an email to users, VRBO describes the deal and plans. As a VRBO user, I was taken aback by no mention of VRBO except for the logo at top. This looks like the same email HomeAway users received. Also, I did not appreciate the spin in this bullet: 

    More travelers – We plan to introduce a new service fee for travelers who book through HomeAway websites, enabling us to spend more on marketing to bring even more travelers to your vacation rental listing and highlight the benefits of vacation rentals to traditional hotel shoppers.

    Discussion Starters: 

    • Read VRBO's entire email. What are the key messages? What principles of business communication does this message follow? Do you see how the "More travelers" bullet is spun? 
    • Listen to the conference call announcing the deal. If you were an investor, how might you react to the news? What advice would you have for the Expedia team leading the call? 
  • E. Coli Outbreak at Chipotle

    1024px-Chipotle_Mexican_Grill_logo_svgAn E. coli outbreak has caused Chipotle to close 43 stores in Oregon and Washington. The Center for Disease Control is investigating links between ingredients and 39 people falling ill. Fortunately for Chipotle, the CDC said it "does not have any information to suggest that Chipotle Mexican Grill locations in other states are affected by this outbreak."

    The company issued a press release:

    Chipotle Moves Aggressively to Address Issues in Washington and Oregon

    Company voluntarily closes restaurants; replaces food; cooperates fully with investigation

    DENVER--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nov. 3, 2015-- On the heels of an E. coli incident that was linked to eight of its restaurants in Oregon and Washington state, Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) has taken a number of immediate steps to assist investigators as they conduct their review of the incident in Oregon and Washington. Among the specific actions the company has taken since the incident began are:

      • Immediately closing 43 restaurants in Oregon and Washington state out of an abundance of caution, even though only eight restaurants have drawn concern, while investigators search for a cause;
      • Conducting additional deep cleaning and full sanitization of its restaurants in the area;
      • Conducting environmental testing in its restaurants, and food testing in its restaurants and distribution centers in addition to testing being conducted by health department officials;
      • Replacing all food items in the restaurants we closed, out of an abundance of caution;
      • Batch testing some ingredients before resupplying;
      • Continuing to help in the investigation; and
      • Retaining two preeminent food safety consulting firms (including Seattle-based IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group) to help the company assess and improve upon its already high standards for food safety.

    “The safety of our customers and integrity of our food supply has always been our highest priority,” said Steve Ells, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle. “We work with a number of very fresh ingredients in order to serve our customers the highest-quality, best-tasting food we can. If there are opportunities to do better, we will push ourselves to find them and enhance our already high standards for food safety. Our deepest sympathies go out to those who have been affected by this situation and it is our greatest priority to ensure the safety of all of the food we serve and maintain our customers’ confidence in eating at Chipotle.”

    While no cause has yet been identified by investigating health officials, Chipotle continues to work swiftly and thoroughly with health department officials as they look to conclude this investigation.

    The company's Twitter page has no mention of the closings.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Assess the company's press release. What works best?
    • Should Chipotle include some of this news on its Twitter page? What are the arguments for and against this communication?
  • Employers Discriminate on Disability

    Sdsimage A new study showed that employers reject candidates based on disabilities discussed in a cover letter.

    Researchers sent cover letters and resumes for accounting positions and found that people who mentioned either a spinal cord injury or Asperger’s Syndrome received 26% fewer interview offers than those who didn't mention a disability. The rejection numbers were higher for candidates who had more experience and by companies with fewer than 15 employees (who don't need to comply with federal Americans with Disabilities Act requirements).

    Although some disabilities may affect job performance, the researchers chose these examples  because they would not likely impact job success in an accounting position.

    The study may explain the lower employment rates of adults with disabilities: 34% compared to 74% for people without disabilities. Although the researchers say they expected some evidence of discrimination, they were surprised by the extent. The study abstract concludes,

    "The overall pattern of findings is consistent with the idea that disability discrimination continues to impede employment prospects of people with disabilities, and more attention needs to be paid to employer behavior and the demand side of the labor market for people with disabilities."

    Image source.

    Discussion Starters:

    • What about the study results surprise you—or not?
    • What is the employer's perspective? Why would they discriminate, particularly against more experienced applicants?
  • Metrojet Defends Its Plane and Pilot

    A Russian airplane crashed in Egypt, killing 224 people, and the cause still eludes investigators. The airline, Metrojet, has ruled out mechanical failures and pilot error, anxious to rebuild its reputation.

    But the head of Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency said, "...it is very premature to talk about the reasons. I would like to call on the aviation community to abstain from premature statements." Russian President Vladi­mir Putin said, "Everything must be done to create an objective picture of what happened so that we know what happened and react accordingly."

    Metrojet is still at the center of the investigation. Turns out, the company hasn't paid its employees in two months, and a pilot's wife says her husband complained about poor plane maintenance. Also, the Metrojet plane had suffered a tail strike, and investigators are wondering whether the problem was properly fixed. In a video statement, Metrojet denied mechanical and pilot errors.

    Recent reports indicate a flash picked up by a U.S. satellite, which could point to an explosion on board, such as a fuel tank or a bomb.

    Meanwhile, ISIS has taken responsibility for the crash. Although officials won't yet rule out terrorism, few seem to believe the organization's claims.

    Discussion Starters:

    • How well is Metrojet handling the news and its defense?
    • How does the background information about Metrojet—potentially missing payroll, for example—influence your thinking about the situation?


  • Messages About Pig Farming

    A full-page ad in today's Wall Street Journal tells us why pig farmers use antibiotics. The "We Care" initiative of two pork associations strives to "promote responsible practices in all areas of farming and is a commitment to continuously evaluate and improve our methods." 

    The Porkcares.org website highlights healthy practices for pig farming, particularly defending the use of antibiotics. 


    The controversy was elevated recently when Subway announced it would serve pork without antibiotics. This organization differs:

    "When Subway recently announced—that soon all meat served in its restaurants would be sourced from farms that use no antibiotics at any time—some folks cheered. But, the thing is, all meat sold in the U.S. is inspected by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service for consumer safety and must meet the same high standards regardless of production methods. Furthermore, it’s not practical to never use antibiotics on a farm." 

    On its website, the organization highlights "5 Ways Subway Got It Wrong" and why antibiotics are important for food safety, animal health, humane treatment, sustainability, and consumer pricing. 

    Subway's announcement included this graphic: 

    Subway antibiotics

    The opening paragraph of the press release follows: 

    "SUBWAY® Restaurants announced today that it has elevated its current antibiotic-free policy. The brand recently communicated a commitment to transition to only serving chicken raised without antibiotics important to human medicine. Today, the brand confirmed that it is beginning to transition to serving only protein from animals that have never received antibiotics across all of its 27,000+ U.S. restaurants in early 2016."

    Discussion Starters: 

    • Analyze the organization's argument on its website. Which arguments are most and least convincing? How effective do you find the graphics, fonts, and other visual elements?
    • Analyze Subway's infographic. Consider the text, graphics, color, and so on.
    • After reading the related messages, what's your view about using antibiotics?