Amy Newman is a senior lecturer of management communication at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, School of Hotel Administration. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in business writing, persuasive speaking, and corporate communication. Amy is author of Business Communication: In Person, In Print, Online, 10e and Building Leadership Character: Lessons from Communication Failures. Prior to joining Cornell, Amy taught at Ithaca College, eCornell, and Milano. She also has 20 years of corporate and external consulting experience for Reuters, Canon, Scholastic, and other companies.
The company describes the campaign "Taste the Feeling" as more focused on product than the previous slogan "Open Happiness." Chief Marketing Officer Marcos de Quinto explains, "We've found over time that the more we position Coca-Cola as an icon, the smaller we become. The bigness of Coca-Cola resides in the fact that it's a simple pleasure—so the humbler we are, the bigger we are. We want to help remind people why they love the product as much as they love the brand."
New 60-second spots show people enjoying the product, and a series of print ads are described as "Norman Rockwell meets Instagram."
That's all fine, but the company also launched a GIF maker for people to create their own ads, and we can guess what happened next. People created ads about divorce, foot fetishes, and predictably, bodily functions.
The company responded with this statement:
“Our intention is to invite people to share their feelings in fun and uplifting ways as they discover our new ‘Taste the Feeling’ campaign. While the vast majority have used ‘GIF The Feeling’ in positive ways, it’s unfortunate to see that some people have chosen to use our campaign to do just the opposite.”
Flint, Michigan, is battling issues about contaminated water from aging lead pipes. Messages from the governor's office reveal conflicting strategies for dealing with the situation.
The "Flint Water" page of the Department of Environmental Quality shows a short statement from Governor Rick Snyder: "We are working closely with Genesee County and the Flint community, taking actions to immediately improve the water situation in Flint. Currently, we are focused on water testing, lead testing for children, and ensuring every home has water filters. We are also at work on long-term solutions, including follow-up care for affected residents." Before this statement, the site had a graphic claiming that the water was safe for bathing (shown here); it has since been removed. Now, an extensive list of resources appears under "Contamination Investigation."
The governor has released 274 pages of emails related to the investigation; some show officials debating responsibility for the problems.
As the controversy continues, Governor Snyder is actively communicating. On Twitter, as @onetoughnerd (!), Snyder is posting updates and links to videos and audio "townhall" calls. In the description of his State of the State address on YouTube, Snyder posted this message:
On Tuesday Jan. 19, Governor Snyder delivered a very different State of the State address.He focused on Flint, a proud city in which residents are unable to drink the water that comes into their homes.He acknowledged that this is unacceptable. It’s a problem that we will fix, and fix quickly.He spoke directly to the people of Flint, but also to everyone in our state and people across the country.
On its Q1 earnings call, Apple reported slow iPhone growth and missed revenue targets. The Wall Street Journal summarizes results: "Apple said iPhone sales grew at the slowest pace since its introduction in 2007 for its first fiscal quarter ending in December." Business Insider, similarly, reports, "Apple's holiday-quarter revenue of $75.9 billion missed analyst expectations as well as the company's own guidance."
Of course, Apple's press release paints a different picture:
The Company posted record quarterly revenue of $75.9 billion and record quarterly net income of $18.4 billion, or $3.28 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $74.6 billion and net income of $18 billion, or $3.06 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 40.1 percent compared to 39.9 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 66 percent of the quarter’s revenue.Our team delivered Apple’s biggest quarter ever, thanks to the world’s most innovative products and all-time record sales of iPhone, Apple Watch and Apple TV,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “The growth of our Services business accelerated during the quarter to produce record results, and our installed base recently crossed a major milestone of one billion active devices.”
Tim Cook did admit that the iPhone is increasingly expensive overseas because of foreign exchange rates.
Analysts don't seem too worried about the company's future. Of 14 analysts, 12 remain "bullish," while only two are "neutral."
Shortly after hearing complaints that Oscar nominations are exclusively for white actors, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has responded with a plan to increase diversity.
President Cheryl Boone Isaacs had written a response about the controversy, but it didn't do enough to ease concerns. Actors continued plans to boycott the awards, and Saturday Night Live did a skit showing white actors winning nominations for minor roles, such as mistakenly walking on set.
Now, the organization has identified clearer targets for addressing the main criticism: that the voting members of The Academy (including its executive board) are not diverse enough. The organization's plan includes improving diversity of its governing body, partly by increasing the number of seats available and partly by restricting terms to three years. The time restriction would open the door for younger actors of color who have worked in the business more recently.
Lifetime voting rights reframed; new governor seats added and committees restructured
Goal to double number of diverse members by 2020
In a unanimous vote Thursday night (1/21), the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences approved a sweeping series of substantive changes designed to make the Academy’s membership, its governing bodies, and its voting members significantly more diverse. The Board’s goal is to commit to doubling the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020.
“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” said Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs. “These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”
Beginning later this year, each new member’s voting status will last 10 years, and will be renewed if that new member has been active in motion pictures during that decade. In addition, members will receive lifetime voting rights after three ten-year terms; or if they have won or been nominated for an Academy Award. We will apply these same standards retroactively to current members. In other words, if a current member has not been active in the last 10 years they can still qualify by meeting the other criteria. Those who do not qualify for active status will be moved to emeritus status. Emeritus members do not pay dues but enjoy all the privileges of membership, except voting. This will not affect voting for this year’s Oscars.
At the same time, the Academy will supplement the traditional process in which current members sponsor new members by launching an ambitious, global campaign to identify and recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity.
In order to immediately increase diversity on the Board of Governors, the Academy will establish three new governor seats that will be nominated by the President for three-year terms and confirmed by the Board.
The Academy will also take immediate action to increase diversity by adding new members who are not Governors to its executive and board committees where key decisions about membership and governance are made. This will allow new members an opportunity to become more active in Academy decision-making and help the organization identify and nurture future leaders.
Along with Boone Isaacs, the Board’s Membership and Administration Committee, chaired by Academy Governor Phil Robinson, led the efforts to enact these initiatives.
American mayors heard arguments about Airbnb's short-term rental business and have to decide whether it's good for their cities. Airbnb argues that the business brings millions of dollars in tax revenue to municipalities. If the company is allowed to continue connecting hosts and guests online, according to Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s head of global policy, hotel, tourist and occupancy taxes could mount to $200 million a year.
The opposing view at the mayor's conference was led by Katherine Lugar, president of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. According to a Penn State study, many of Airbnb hosts are professional landlords who rent rooms illegally and have made more than $500 million in revenue: "Our data is showing a tremendous growth of commercial operators who are exploiting sites like Airbnb to avoid paying taxes, following zoning rules and following basic laws for health and safety."
Airbnb is working through local organizations to fight restrictions, but short-term rentals have been banned in several municipalities.
We can take a lesson from Time Inc.: check before hitting "Reply All." At the largest magazine publishing company in the United States, an employee asked a benefits question that went to thousands of employees. A photo editor inquired about the heath savings plan:
The funny thing is, after reading more, we learn that this is an IT issue, which sent a response email back to the listserv (the entire company). Maybe some of the criticism was unfair. Still, we should check to see where our email goes before sending it. A listserv in the "To" line could be dangerous..
Of course, Time employees made the situation far worse by replying back to everyone with snarky comments:
This brings us to the second lesson: if you get an email like this by mistake, just delete it.
Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson told Bloomberg TV at Davos that he's optimistic about the hotel outlook for 2016.
Sorenson uses logical arguments to explain his perspective on rates and bookings despite weak performance in the stock market. Referring to industry data, he makes a convincing case that Marriott will see similar revenue in 2016.
In discussing the Starwood acquisition, Sorenson explains the purchase of equity (and a lower price today than what was announced) and describes plans for the integration mid-2016. He also talks about more potential M&A activity for other hotel companies.
Like last year, Oscar nominations from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences included not one black actor or filmmaker in the top categories, and people are upset. Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Will Smith and others will boycott the award ceremony in February, and #OscarsSoWhite is trending on Twitter.
The Academy has responded by promising to prioritize diversity for the organization. Much of the criticism is about the make-up of the group itself:
A Los Angeles Times study found that academy voters are markedly less diverse than the moviegoing public, and even more monolithic than many in the film industry may suspect. Oscar voters are nearly 94% Caucasian and 77% male, The Times found. Blacks are about 2% of the academy, and Latinos are less than 2%.
Oscar voters have a median age of 62, the study showed. People younger than 50 constitute just 14% of the membership.
President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, one of two non-white members of The Academy issued this statement in response to the controversy.
Why does the statement look as though it were written on a typewriter? This can't help The Academy's image as a bunch of old, out-of-touch people. Also, I have long stopped double-spacing between sentences based on style guides and this sound advice from PR Daily.
Last fall, McGraw-Hill was under fire for misrepresenting the history of slavery in the United States. Now, Scholastic publishing company is facing similar criticism about a children's book.
A Birthday Cake for George Washington focuses on Hercules, the former president's chef, and includes pictures of his slaves smiling. The VP of Scholastic Trade Publishing defended the book in a blog post, excerpted here:
"The topic of slavery is one that must be handled with the utmost care, especially in the form of visual depictions, historical references, dialogue, and characterizations in books for young readers. In A Birthday Cake for George Washington the lives of enslaved people ― and the complex inequities of their bondage ― play a key role in the narrative. Through carefully curated research, A Birthday Cake for George Washington presents an important slice of American history. It is based on the true story of Hercules, the president’s cook. Hercules was one of over 300 African Americans enslaved by George and Martha Washington. Even though he was a slave, everyone knew and admired Hercules ― especially the president!"
A Change.org petition called the book a "vile exemplification of the distortion of history" and got 928 signatures as of this writing. It was enough.
Scholastic has since posted a "New Statement" to announce the end of book distribution and to offer refunds for purchased books. The company clearly stands by those who made the book possible, but the management team now recognizes that, "without more historical background on the evils of slavery than this book for younger children can provide, the book may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn."
T-Mobile announced "Binge On," a new program for consumers to "stretch their data bucket." The service allows customers to watch videos at lower resolutions (which the company says doesn't matter on small screens) and not count the time against their high-resolution data minutes. In addition, consumers can watch videos from partner sites for free.
Not all responses to Binge On have been positive. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has questioned whether the program affects streaming in addition to bandwith. In a video tweet response, CEO John Legere shot back a response including the F-bomb. Legere later apologized.
In a letter to customers, Legere clarifies that the service is "opt-in" (a big concern) and explains the program in more detail. This paragraph is an example of Legere's usual, casual style:
But there is suddenly a LOT of confusion about Binge On. I keep hearing from customers that they love it – but have recently heard from some others (many of whom have never even tried Binge On, and simply have a different agenda) that they don’t like it. Well you know what? That is completely OK too.
My sister sent me the letter and didn't appreciate the casual tone or the "creepy" picture of the CEO. She also noted that the letter isn't dated, so it's unclear when all of this happened.
Consumers can find more information on T-Mobile's FAQs about Binge On.
President Obama's presidency came full circle in his last State of the Union (SOTU) address. The speech was not without humor. The president began by promising to keep it short, so people could get back to Iowa for more campaigning. (Transcript)
As expected, the president highlighted accomplishments from his administration and laid out plans for the future. The speech sounded optimistic, which of course, was the theme of his first presidential campaign. He ended this way:
That’s the America I know. That’s the country we love. Clear- eyed, big-hearted, undaunted by challenge, optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future.
I believe in change because I believe in you, the American people. And that’s why I stand here, as confident as I have ever been, that the state of our Union is strong.
The audience reaction is typical and always baffles me: Republicans don't support anything a Democratic president says, and the opposite happens when we have a Republican president. It's strange to me when the President makes some points that, surely, everyone agrees with. Early on, he says, "First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?" The camera is on Marco Rubio, who sits stoically in non-response. Doesn't he support opportunity for everyone?
As usual, major newspapers showed their political bent in reporting on the SOTU. The Wall Street Journal ran a secondary headline on the front page with the title, "GOP Candidates Contrast Obama’s Speech With Their Own Aims." The Journal showed additional stories under the "Politics" heading further down on the site, shown here.
In contrast, The New York Times ran the story as the main headline of the day with the title, "Obama Offers Hopeful Vision While Noting Nation’s Fears," and ran more stories, including opinions, with positive titles about the speech.
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz didn't disclose a loan he received from Goldman Sachs for his campaign. He was a managing director at the investment bank before taking a leave to run for president.
Campaign rules dictate that candidates reveal all sources of income for a bid for office, including loans. He received between $250,000 and $500,000 from GS as a low-interest loan at the start of his campaign. Cruz's campaign is trying to explain the failure as "inadvertent" (I was waiting for "an oversight"), saying that he did disclose a money market account that included the GS loan and another from Citibank.
Particularly troubling for Cruz is the contrast between this news and how he presented himself and his wife. He spoke in interviews about their decision to use all of their liquid savings, about $1 million, for his campaign. Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal quoted Cruz saying he wouldn't bail out "rich Wall Street banks." As the candidate tries to distance himself from Wall Street, his ties are closer than he admits.
A New York Times article also questions whether the decision with his wife happened as he described it (that she immediately agreed) and whether they did, in fact, use all of their assets:
During 2012, they sold securities worth $82,000 to $355,000, and the value of other holdings was reduced by, at most, $155,000. . . All told, the value of their cash and securities in 2012 saw a net increase of as much as $400,000 — even as the Cruzes were supposedly liquidating everything to finance Mr. Cruz’s Senate campaign."
The Federal Trade Commission's guidelines are clear: when people are paid to write social media posts that relationship must be disclosed. This applies to company employees. Two incidents this week show companies skirting those rules.
ESPN employees tweeted about Dominos, but didn't disclose their relationship to ESPN. By law, the tweets should include #ad or #spon to identify a sponsored ad.
ESPN responded to a request by Deadspin, calling the tweets an "error":
ESPN says this is all a mistake and that future tweets associated with Domino’s ad buy with the network will be compliant with federal law. Which is fine, though we’re still skeptical that New Year’s Eve means either college football or pizza—and so were the millions of fans who didn’t tune in for this year’s college football playoff games.
Yet, a couple of days later, an ESPN journalist tweeted another advertisement. The company has argued that journalists aren't paid endorsers, and a Wall Street Journal article explains, “the issue of whether [ESPN’s] roster of pundits and anchors are journalists guided by traditional editorial strictures or entertainers allowed to hawk products has been a thorny one for some time.” However, Deadspin argues that Schefter and Mortensen are clearly "personalities," and the connection to the brand is clear.
This issue isn't new. The FTC admonished Cole Han for promotions on Pinterest, and I'm sure others have been caught.
I cut the cable cord three years ago, so I missed all of the cursing during the Golden Globes, but the language is making headlines. Comedian Amy Schumer set the stage with the first cuss word of the night (beginning with a C), according to Daily Mail, "just minutes after the show got underway."
Host Ricky Gervais continued the evening with his usual vitriol, despite saying several times,"I'm going to be nice tonight," which of course, no one expected or wanted. He started his opening monologue, drinking a glass of beer, by telling the crowd to "Shut up." In about seven minutes, Gervais insulted Caitlyn Jenner, Jeffrey Tambor, Roman Polanski, Jennifer Lawrence, and the film companies in general. The worst insults flew to Mel Gibson later on.
The F-bombs continued throughout show, leading an LA Times writer to conclude , "The hardest-working person at Sunday night's Golden Globes ceremony may have been whoever was in charge of the bleep button."
Gervais also advised the actors who would receive awards, "Don't get emotional. It's embarrassing. Okay? That award is, no offense, worthless." Some of the more emotional speeches of the night were from Lady Gaga, Denzel Washington, and Sylvester Stallone.
An HBR article warns that corporate diversity programs may hurt organizations more than help. This is no real surprise given previous literature and jokes like "Diversity Training Day" in the TV show The Office. In this episode, Michael Scott is his usual foolish self, and everyone is just angry.
The article claims that diversity programs have little effect on demographic diversity within an organization; that is, the number of women and people of color doesn't increase, and one study showed a loss of black women in employee representation. The authors write, "extolling the values of diversity and trying to train employees to value it may not convince minorities and women that they will be treated well, and may not increase their representation in the workforce."
One danger of diversity programs is that companies use their existence as evidence of non-discrimination in court cases. I recall working for a large company in New York City that insisted on communicating policies and conducting training for this very reason: just having the programs in place is part of a defensive legal strategy and may make individual managers more responsible for discrimination instead of the company.
According to the studies by the authors, diversity initiatives negatively impact white males: "pro-diversity messages signaled to these white men that they might be undervalued and discriminated against." Similarly, "Groups that typically occupy positions of power may feel alienated and vulnerable when their company claims to value diversity."
From my perspective, diversity isn't a statement or a training program; it's a way of life. This is difficult to put on paper or teach in a classroom.
A Wall Street Journal article highlights Thai commercials so emotional that people daring each other not to cry has become a "digital spectator sport." A YouTube description for one video reads, "You Too Will Cry After Watching This... 95% People Cry." The commercials have inspired videos of people watching them, trying not to cry. A video of "Deadlox" garnered more than 256,000 views.
Thanonchai Sornsriwichai creates short films (between 3 and 10 minutes) to sell insurance, phones, food, and other goods. The videos are mini-movies with a dramatic story. In "Silence of Love," a daughter with an angry father tries to commit suicide. The message is to "Remember to care for those who care for you"; in other words, buy life insurance.
With 27 million views, another ad for life insurance, "Unsung Hero," is Thanonchai's highest ranking.
Using pathos or emotional appeals to persuade is nothing new, but this video genre is gaining traction. Advertisers say these film shorts compete with TV ads and capitalize on social media. An executive at Ogilvy & Mather in Bangkok calls them "media events." Of course, videos about the videos increase the number of viewers, and tagging the no-cry challenge onto a film makes it go viral.
Describe the value of using pathos in a persuasive argument. What aspects do these films use effectively?
On the other hand, what are the risks? For example, could people feel duped at the end? How do advertisers avoid this potential reaction?
A Wall Street Journal article describes how some progressive Internet companies are simplifying language in their privacy policies. Although most of us click through and "accept" policies to get to the page we want, some read them carefully. Increasing concerns about data use and information sharing has affected how people use some sites. According to a Pew study, most mobile app users didn't download at least one app because of personal information that would be collected.
The article further explains the move towards plain language:
This reminds me of our U.S. tax code: it's complex. Trying to simplify information too much may not serve users in the end.
After criticism that Twitter needs to do more to prevent ISIS from recruiting and spreading hate, the company has updated its site rules. ISIS managed more than 46,000 Twitter accounts between September and December of 2014. Twitter rules are categorized as Content Boundaries and Use of Twitter, Abusive Behavior, and Spam.
According to Reuters, Twitter "previously used a more generic warning that banned users from threatening or promoting 'violence against others.'" The new rules should make reporting and blocking new accounts easier. Under the subheading "Hateful Conduct," the rules specify,
"You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability or disease."
In a blog post describing the change, Megan Cristina, Twitter's director of trust and safety, writes, "Keeping users safe requires a comprehensive and balanced approach where everyone plays a role." Cristina also explains, "We believe that protection from abuse and harassment is a vital part of empowering people to freely express themselves on Twitter."