• Starbucks Loosens Dress Code

    Again, Starbucks is allowing more individuality in its employee dress code. In 2014, the company allowed visible tattoos, and now the color palette has expanded, including hair dyes.

    In a Lookbook, the company instructs employees to use their judgement and to ask if they have any questions; store managers have the final say. Clothes must be "clean, hemmed, wrinkle-free and in good repair," but a range of colors is acceptable instead of the previous black-and-white combination. 

    Hairstyles can be on the wild side (in my opinion), but the company isn't allowing "sprays, glitter, chalks or temporary products" for food safety reasons. The guidelines also instruct associates to "[t]ie long hair back with plain clips or hairbands to avoid contact with drinks or food. Please keep beards and mustaches neat and trimmed."

    Starbucks dress

    The Lookbook is detailed, with many acceptable and unacceptable examples of tops, bottoms, socks, and accents. Fortunately for employees, the guidelines are clear. 

    Discussion Starters: 

    • What, if anything, surprises you about Starbucks' new guidelines? Is anything missing?
    • Why do you think the company is broadening what is considered acceptable dress? 
  • Best Speech of the Conventions: Michelle Obama

    Many are saying Michelle Obama's speech was the best of the bunch at the Democratic National Convention (Hillary's aside), and I would agree. From her humble laugh, overwhelmed at the crowd's response at the beginning to her call to action at the end, she captured the hearts of the delegates and, Democrats hope, some Republicans too. 

    Obama talked about children throughout her speech, particularly her own: 

    "That is the story of this country, the story that has brought me to this stage tonight, the story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.

    And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.

    And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States."

    She tried, as did other speakers, such as Mike Bloomberg, to elevate the vote beyond a Republican/Democrat decision and focused on the best person to lead: 

    And make no mistake about it, this November when we go to the polls that is what we're deciding, not Democrat or Republican, not left or right. No, in this election and every election is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives.

    And I am here tonight because in this election there is only one person who I trust with that responsibility, only one person who I believe is truly qualified to be president of the United States, and that is our friend Hillary Clinton.

    Discussion Starters:

    • What makes Michelle Obama's speech so compelling? Consider the content as well as her tone and body language. Do you agree that hers was the best of the convention?
    • Obama didn't mention the controversy around Melania Trump plagiarizing her 2008 DNC speech. Should she have? 
    • Which other speeches in both conventions were powerful? Do you find any compelling, even though they may not align with their political views? 

  • Yahoo CEO Takes Sale in Stride

    News of a potential Yahoo sale has circulated for years, and now it's a reality. CEO Marissa Mayer discusses Verizon's acquisition in a blog post, concluding, "Yahoo is a company that changed the world. Now, we will continue to, with even greater scale, in combination with Verizon and AOL."

    In a press release, Mayer spoke positively about the sale:

    "Yahoo and AOL popularized the Internet, email, search and real-time media. It’s poetic to be joining forces with AOL and Verizon as we enter our next chapter focused on achieving scale on mobile. We have a terrific, loyal, experienced and quality team, and I couldn’t be prouder of our achievements to date, including building our new lines of business to $1.6 billion in GAAP revenue in 2015. I’m excited to extend our momentum through this transaction."

    Although Mayer writes that she'll stay with Yahoo, PR Daily notes conflicting reports, including a New York Times article that said she'll get $57 million in severance pay, or $218 million total for her reign at Yahoo.

    The New York Times also posted a few impressive graphics showing Yahoo's considerable US visitors, yet declining search traffic and ad revenue.

    Yahoo sale

    Discussion Starters: 

    • Assess Mayer's blog post. Who are the audiences, and what are her key messages? How well does she convey enthusiasm for the sale?
    • What principles of visual communication does The New York Times use in these graphics? How can they be improved?
  • Bullied Off Twitter

    Mashable lists seven people who were "trolled" off Twitter. Although many more have likely quit the social media site, these celebrities took a harsh, public hit.

    Lena Dunham, creator and star of Girls, said she was tired of reading, for example, "10 mentions that say I should be stoned to death." Iggy Azalea went off social media sites after a body-shaming photo of her in a bathing suit went viral. The most recent is Leslie Jones, star of the new Ghostbusters movie. Jones was subjected to racist and sexist comments by a known troll, who encouraged users to send her pictures of apes.

    Leslie Jones

    Twitter continues taking heat for not reacting quickly enough to shut down users' accounts. Jonathan Weisman, a New York Times editor who experienced anti-Semitism on Twitter, wrote, "I am awaiting some sign from Twitter that it cares whether its platform is becoming a cesspit of hate. Until then, sayonara." Journalist Julieanne Smolinski wrote, "Perhaps make hate speech a terminable violation of your terms of service,@twitter? Just a reasonable humane thought." 

    Discussion Starters: 

    • Should Twitter do more? This isn't the first time the company has been criticized. 
    • Is trolling worse on Twitter than on other social media sites? If so, why do you think this is the case?
  • Melania Trump's Plagiarized Speech

    By any definition, Melania Trump's GOP Convention speech was plagiarized from Michelle Obama. The similarities between Donald Trump's wife's speech and Michelle Obama's 2008 DNC speech are uncanny. Here's one comparison from CNN, and other similarities exist:

    Trump and Obama
    Donald Trump's campaign chairman Paul Manafort denied accusations of plagiarism: "To think that she would do something like that knowing how scrutinized her speech was going to be last night is just really absurd." Senior Communications Advisor Jason Miller said only, "In writing her beautiful speech, Melania's team of writers took notes on her life's inspirations, and in some instances included fragments that reflected her own thinking. Melania's immigrant experience and love for America shone through in her speech, which made it such a success."

    Later, the RNC communications director, Sean Spicer, said that searches for some of Ms. Trump's phrases turn up similarities from "My Little Pony" and John Legend, who tweeted, "I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative." But the phrases are not nearly as verbatim as those in Michelle Obama's speech. Spicer told The Huffington Post, "Melania Trump said, 'You work hard for what you want in life.' Akon said, 'Work hard for what you get in life.' John Legend said, ‘Work hard.'" 

    Update: Meredith McIver, a Trump staff writer, took responsibility for the mistake. A New York Times article said the letter "breathed new life into a story now in its third day." 

    Discussion Starters:

    • How could such a mistake happen? Melania Trump said, "I read once over it, that's all, because I wrote it ... with (as) little help as possible."
    • The Trump campaign said that no one will be fired over this incident. Should someone take the fall? 
    • Does McIver's admission end the conversation? What else, if anything, should the campaign managers or Trumps say? Is The New York Times writer right: did the admission just keep the story alive? 
  • Taking Offense

    Two groups are backtracking this week for offensive symbols and language. Are people too sensitive, or should marketers be more careful? 

    Cna23hLXgAABa74The Trump campaign for president created the first failing: a logo that looked pornographic to some people. A Slate article is titled, "A Hard Look at the Trump-Pence Campaign’s Penetrating New Logo." Twitter jokes abound: 

    • @ellievhall: "When two people love each other very much and want to start a campaign together..."
    • @willrahn: "How are we supposed to explain the new Trump logo to our children??"

    Forever 21Although the Trump campaign hasn't responded specifically, the logo no longer appears on the website.

    In other news, Forever 21 has pulled t-shirts for boys with sayings such as, "Sorry, I only date models," "Chicks are all over me," and "Ladies Man." Critics say the t-shirts sexualize children. 

    Forever 21 communicated the decision in a statement: "Forever 21 takes feedback and product concerns very seriously. With regards to the T-shirts in question, after receiving feedback we have taken immediate action to have them removed from our website.  We sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by the products."

    Discussion Starters: 

    • What's your opinion to the initial question: Are people too sensitive, or should marketers be more careful? 
    • Did the Trump campaign and Forever 21 do the right thing in pulling the logo and t-shirts? 
    • Should the Trump campaign communicate anything else at this point? Did the Forever 21 statement say enough? 
  • Sample HR Posting

    ALMA_PAGE_WELLNESSThe Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has published a draft notice to help employees to understand their rights. Employers that offer wellness programs are expected to communicate a new law that requires them to collect certain information about employees; however, they must still comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

    The notice is long and, in my opinion, confusing. The EEOC could use principles of business communication, such as including "you" to make it more readable and conversational. Also, this is an opportunity for employers to promote their wellness programs, and this notice does little. Although it says the program is voluntary, it doesn't include how employees will benefit. Yes, the focus is on the information collection, but most employees will care more about the program itself. 

    The EEOC includes an FAQ for employers that explains how the notice could be distributed.

    Image source

    Discussion Starters: 

    • What business writing principles are used in the notice? What other principles would improve the message? 
    • Would another format work better for the notice? How about an FAQ for employees? What are the advantages and downsides of this type of message? 
  • Ikea Bungles Recall

    Ikea dressersIkea has finally recalled dressers in China that could tip over if not properly anchored. In June, the company recalled 36 million dressers in the United States and Canada after reports that six children were killed. But Ikea skipped China because, according to a WeChat post, the dressers met local regulations.

    Chinese news agency Xinhua criticized Ikea, referring to the company's "arrogance":

    "The behavior shown contradicts to the 'Ikea spirit' that founder Ingvar Kamprad talks about, being helpful and responsible" and "China is a huge market, and should not be deprived of the high standards that the brand promises." 

    In a turnaround a few days after the WeChat post, Ikea recalled all dressers, which includes about 1.7 million in China. On a page on its Chinese website, the company announced the recall and reinforced its campaign, "Firmly Fixed," which encourages people to anchor certain products to the wall. Consumers also can read the recall FAQ

    Image source.

    Discussion Starters: 

    • What is Ikea's responsibility to communicate installation instructions? What is the consumer's responsibility to install furniture properly?
    • Should Ikea have recalled all products? Did the company do the right thing after the criticism? What are the consequences of each decision?
  • Chipotle's New Film Short

    Chipotle needs to win back customers, so it went back to its film-making roots and created a new short video: "A Love Story." 

    Kids with competing lemonade and orange juice stands grow each and lose sight of natural ingredients. Set to the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way,” film is a direct hit to fast-food restaurants like Burger King. The last line is "I never want to hear you say, 'I want it that way.' " The couple, of course, return to fresh fruits and vegetables and live happily ever after.

    The end of the video announces Chipotle's rewards program. Like the free burrito, this is a another attempt to rebuild loyalty.

    Mark Shambura, Chipotle’s brand marketing director, explained the goal: "We think 'Love Story's' message will galvanize our loyalists and remind people of the Chipotle they love." Shambura is not to be confused with Mark Crumpacker, the company’s former chief creative and development executive who, before being placed on leave because of a drug arrest, led the company's rebranding efforts.

    Discussion Starters:

    • One analyst warns that Chipotle shouldn't ignore the core issue of how the company is overcoming the crisis of food safety. How well do you see Chipotle explaining new procedures, etc. to consumers?
    • Chipotle's video short, The Scarecrow, with more than 16 million views on YouTube, has been criticized. Some say Chipotle didn't live up to its claims even before the E. coli outbreaks; for example, what does "naturally raised" mean? What criticism could you foresee with the "A Love Story" short?
  • Phrases to Avoid on Your Resume

    Business Insider has identified nine phrases that "make hiring managers cringe." Some recommendations are based on data by ZipRecruiter, but much of them are the writers' opinions. Still, I agree with most of them, except "Microsoft Word." For students, this could be a differentiator, and I would include it for entry-level jobs. 

    9 phrases

    It makes sense to avoid pronouns and general traits that can't be verified. "Team player" is my personal pet peeve; who would say "I'm not a good team player. I don't like people"? 

    In addition to the video, Business Insider offers more phrases to avoid, including "extracurricular activities" with the explanation, "Unless these activities are in some way related to the job you're applying for, no one really cares what you do in your spare time when they're skimming your résumé."

    I'm not sure I agree. It depends what the activity says about you as a person, which some employers may care to know. You can also make a personal connection this way, and it could be a good icebreaker during an interview. Particularly for students, I'd keep it in. 

    Similarly, employers seem to like seeing applicants' volunteer work, for which LinkedIn added a section in 2011. 

    Discussion Starters: 
    • We don't see any context for this advice. Would it differ depending on the industry, region, job, or level? 
    • How many of these phrases do you include on your resume? Will you omit them in the future? 
    • What other phrases could employers find annoying? 
  • Communications Around Shootings

    Obama FB Police ShootingsMore police shootings this week led to a peaceful protest in Dallas until a sniper killed five police officers, wounded seven more, and wounded two civilians. Videos and messages are shaping our understanding of the incidents and our perspective on how to solve the problem of ongoing violence.

    Diamond (Lavish) Reynolds posted a video after her boyfriend, Philando Castile, was shot in a car in St. Paul, Minnesota. The video, viewed more than 5 million times, is graphic, showing the man dying while Reynolds narrates. 

    In a statement, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton asked for a full investigation of the incident. 

    Another graphic video this week showed police shooting Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA. The FBI has opened an investigation of this incident.  

    President Obama made a statement on Facebook and in video. After expressing condolences, he gave data showing "disparities in how African-Americans and Latinos are treated."

    Today's New York Post's cover reads, "Civil War," and people aren't happy about it. One Twitter user called it "insanely irresponsible."

    Discussion Starters: 

    • Assess President Obama's statements. What else is there to say? 
    • What's your reaction to the graphic videos (of course, you don't need to watch them—I could take only about a minute. In what ways do the videos help and hurt the victims and their families? 
    • What's your view of the New York Post front page? What are the dangers of this headline?