• More Trouble for Wells Fargo

    In what The Wall Street Journal called "another round of blistering criticism," Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf faced the House Financial Services Committee on Thursday. If Elizabeth Warren didn't challenge Stumpf enough last week during the Senate Banking Committee Hearing, Chairman Jeb Hensarling stated early on, in his opening statement, "Fraud is fraud. Theft is theft."

    He also said, "All culpable individuals must be held accountable." Earlier in the week, Stumpf was criticized for firing low-level employees but retaining managers. For the first time, Stumpf said that "10% or more" of the 5,300 employees fired were branch managers, but that didn't seem to soothe the committee members. Others expressed enthusiasm for the $41 million clawback (money recovered from Stumpf's compensation), said he should be fired, and encouraged the break-up of Wells Fargo.

    Jeff Sonnenfeld, A Yale University School of Management professor, called Stumpf "completely unprepared" and called the scene "political theater."

    To make matters worse for Wells Fargo, the bank will pay $24 million in settlements for "allegedly improper repossessions of cars belonging to members of the U.S. military."

    Discussion Starters:

    • How well did Hensarling introduce the hearings? Did you find him too harsh, right on target, or something else?
    • Sonnenfeld also says Stumpf wasn't prepared for questions. Do you agree with his assessment?
    • What were Stumpf's strongest and weakest points?
  • News Conference About the NJ Train Crash

    One person was killed and 108 were injured when a train crashed in Hoboken, NJ. What caused the crash is still unclear, and NJ Governor Chris Christie promised an investigation: "We have no indication that this is anything other than a tragic accident but ... we're going to let the law enforcement professionals pursue the facts."

    Christie gave a news conference with NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, calling the incident "obviously an extraordinary tragedy." He said it was too early to guess what happened.

     Discussion Starters:

    • Analyze Christie's delivery skills at the beginning of the press conference. What principles from Chapter 11 does he use?
    • Next analyze Cuomo's delivery skills. What similarities and differences do you notice?
    • How well do the governors respond to questions? Which were the most difficult to address?
    • This isn't the first train crash in the area. Research other recent events and how officials handled those situations.


  • New Leadership at HomeAway

    HomeAway logoHomeAway, a property rental site similar to Airbnb, has announced a new CEO. A message from the co-founder and chairman, Brian Sharples, explained the change:

    Hello Owners and Property Managers.

    I wanted to reach out to you directly to let you know about some big news for both HomeAway and me personally. After 12 years at the helm at HomeAway, I have made the very difficult decision to step down as CEO and have chosen John Kim, our current Chief E-Commerce Officer, to lead the company as President. We will gradually move through this transition and I will remain on board as Chairman until mid-January to advise John and the leadership team for the remainder of the year.

    While it’s never easy to hand over the reins of something you built, I believe now is the right time to empower the next generation of leadership to take HomeAway to new heights. John is already an incredible driving force for the growth of our company. I’m very comforted in knowing we have someone of his caliber with rich experience in product development and innovation to lead our mission and strategy.

    As the vacation market grows, so does the expectation of customers to have a superior online experience. John’s proven ability to transform web and mobile sites will help HomeAway build the right customer experience to attract even more travelers to your properties. John looks forward to sharing his vision with you and will be hosting a Q&A session on October 19th at 10:00am CT. Please click here to sign up. You may also submit questions in advance for John to address during this webcast.

    I want to thank you for trusting HomeAway with your business and for the feedback and support you have provided me personally over the last several years. You have helped us break ground in this industry, and as a frequent HomeAway traveler, I look forward to seeing many of you at your amazing properties in the coming years!

    Best regards and heartfelt appreciations,
    Brian Sharples
    Co-Founder and Chairman of HomeAway, Inc.

    Sharples emphasizes Kim's technology experience and sells the decision to property owners as helping to provide "the right customer experience to attract even more travelers to your properties."

    An article in the Austin Business Journal describes HomeAway as a successful business in Austin, TX, founded in 2005 and sold to Expedia last year. In a statement, President and CEO of Expedia Dara Khosrowshahi said that Sharples "leaves behind an incredible foundation and legacy that we plan to build on as part of the Expedia Inc. family." Today, the company has 1,540 employees and lists homes for rent in more than 190 countries.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Assess Sharples' message. Who is the audience, and what are his objectives? How well does he achieve the objectives?
    • The message seems to leave out some information. What is Sharples not saying, and why isn't he clearer?
  • Marriott + Starwood: Completion Announcement to Staff

    The deal is finally done: Marriott and Starwood are one company. Starwood associates received this message from Marriott Communications under the subject line, "A Historic Moment: Marriott + Starwood Merger Complete." The message continues, highlighting the combined company's impressive portfolio of brands and properties. Associates are also invited to find out more on a "new integration site" called "The Platform."

    Marriott + Starwood

    The message comes almost a year after the acquisition was announced and confirms the largest hotel company in the world, with 5,809 properties and more than 1.1 million rooms. Executive Chairman Bill Marriott expressed his enthusiasm for the deal, focusing on people and culture:

    “We hope to continue the trend of promoting, developing and working with people. We have the strongest culture, I think, of any lodging company, and of most companies in America. And we’ll continue to promote and really strengthen that culture.”

    Starwood will cease to exist. The HOT symbol will be removed from the New York Stock Exchange.

    Discussion Starters:

    • In the message, identify all types of sentences: simple, complex, and compound. How varied are the sentences? 
    • How would you characterize the tone of the message? Do you find it appropriate for the primary audience (Starwood employees?)
  • Italy Can't Seem To Get "Fertility Day" Ads Right

    Italy has stepped into another quagmire of controversy with its second "Fertility Day" ad. To encourage births, the first ad showed a woman with a timer, implying that her child-bearing days are numbered. The caption read, "Beauty has no age. But fertility does." People took offense: some felt it was insulting to people who had trouble conceiving; others felt it encouraged people to procreate regardless of their situation (e.g., no partner or job). The latter may particularly sting because Italy was a high youth unemployment rate: 35%.

    Italy FertilityThe newest ad is deemed racist. Two white couples are featured at the top of a brochure photo, looking happy and healthy. Below this picture is a group of people, including a Black person, smoking marijuana.

    Oddly, the bottom photo is similar to one used by Maricopa County Attorney's Office to discourage heroin use in Arizona.

    Contrasting people of different races is never a good idea. In a public service announcement earlier this year, the American Red Cross was similarly criticized for showing White people behaving well and people as color behaving badly around a swimming pool.

    At first, the Italian health ministry denied the criticism: “The photos represent a homogeneity of people, as is the multi-ethnic society in which we live. Racism is in the eye of the beholder.” But the group has since come around: the pamphlet has been removed, as had the first ad.

    Italy has the lowest birth rate in the EU, so having a campaign is understandable, but the approach isn't working.

    Discussion Starters:

    • What's your view of the ad? Do you find it offensive? Can you see how others might?
    • Compose a different ad that might help Italy meet its fertility goals.
  • More Recalls at Blue Bell

    Aspen HillsJust when we thought the trouble had passed for Blue Bell Creamery, the company is recalling Cookie Dough ice cream because of Listeria concerns. Last year, Blue Bell recalled several products, which resulted in staff layoffs, a difficult situation for a family-owned company with loyal employees.

    This time, the company is clearly blaming external supplier Aspen Hills. The latter company's recall announcement tops Blue Bell's webpage. Then, Blue Bell's press release is titled to deflect responsibility:


    Blue Bell uses a similar strategy on its Facebook page, pointing to Aspen Hills as the cause of the problem. To downplay the issue, the company starts the announcement with "Out of an abundance of caution," further putting the bad news in context.  Blue Bell recalll

    Discussion Starters:

    • Who are the audiences for Blue Bell's announcement? Identify primary and secondary audiences and analyze each.
    • How well is Blue Bell announcing the bad news? Consider principles from Chapter 8, Bad-News Messages.
    • Analyze word choices in all Blue Bell communications. Which are the most powerful? Which could be improved?
  • Yahoo Responds to Data Breach

    Yahoo Breach
    More than 500 million Yahoo users were affected by a security breach, just as the company is being acquired by Verizon. The breach happened in 2014, and information is surfacing now.

    In a Tumblr post, Yahoo explained what information was stolen (and what was not), what the company is doing, and what individuals should do to protect themselves:

    "The account information may have included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords (the vast majority with bcrypt) and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers. The ongoing investigation suggests that stolen information did not include unprotected passwords, payment card data, or bank account information; payment card data and bank account information are not stored in the system that the investigation has found to be affected. Based on the ongoing investigation, Yahoo believes that information associated with at least 500 million user accounts was stolen and the investigation has found no evidence that the state-sponsored actor is currently in Yahoo’s network. Yahoo is working closely with law enforcement on this matter."

    A Wired article offers this advice: "And for the millionth time: Don’t reuse passwords." Wired also discussed the bad timing: "Yahoo’s buyout deal is set to become a test case of whether a massive corporate sale can weather an equally massive hacking debacle."

    Discussion Starters:

    • Read Yahoo's statement. What principles from Chapter 8, Bad-News Messages, are followed?
    • How well does Yahoo reassure users? How clearly are the action steps explained?
  • Wells Fargo CEO Suffers Tough Questions

    During the U.S. Senate Committee Hearing, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf responded to difficult questions, particularly from Senator Elizabeth Warren, a democrat from Massachusetts. Stumpf's prepared responses, particularly the "only 1%" of employees argument, wasn't well received by Warren and others. Warren interrupted with harsh words, telling Stumpf, "You should resign and give back the money you took" and calling his practice "gutless leadership."

    Another tense moment, reported by The Wall Street Journal, was when Senator Robert Menendez challenged Stumpf's salary:

    Mr. Stumpf said earlier in the hearing that the fired employees had been making “good money” of $35,000 to $60,000 a year, a point that Sen. Robert Menendez brought up. “How much money did you make last year?” asked Sen. Menendez. “$19.3 million,” replied Mr. Stumpf.

    “Now that’s good money,” Sen. Menendez replied, unsmiling.

    Menendez, from New Jersey, gave a poignant example of a woman's daughter whose credit score was affected by the scandal.

    Discussion Starters:

    • How would you describe Warren's approach in questioning? Do you find her inquiries fair, unfair, or something else?
    • How well did Stumpf respond to Warren's questions?


  • New Trouble for Christie on the Bridge Closings

    After years of denying knowledge about wrongdoing, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie may have a tough time maintaining his stance. In 2013, members of Christie's administration were accused of intentionally closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge to cause problems for the mayor of Fort Lee, who didn't support Christie's re-election. Christie denied the allegations for himself and his senior staff:

    “I’ve made it very clear to everybody on my senior staff that if anyone had any knowledge about this that they needed to come forward to me and tell me about it, and they’ve all assured me that they don’t.”

    But now the truth comes out: in court filings, text messages between two staffers, Christina Renna and Peter Sheridan, during Christie's news conference in 2013 have indicated otherwise, according to a Wall Street Journal report:

    “Are you listening?” Ms. Renna texted Mr. Sheridan, according to the filing. “He just flat out lied about senior staff and [campaign manager Bill] Stepien not being involved.”

    “I’m listening,” Mr. Sheridan replied. “Gov is doing fine. Holding his own up there.”

    According to the filing, Ms. Renna replied: “Yes. But he lied. And if emails are found with the subpoena or ccfg [Chris Christie for Governor] emails are uncovered in discovery if it comes to that it could be bad.”

    Mr. Christie, encountering reporters outside a Manhattan radio studio after a guest-host stint on a sports-talk program, called the text-message matter “ridiculous.”

    “There’s nothing new to talk about,” he said, according to a video of the exchange posted by the Associated Press. Asked about Ms. Renna’s remark that he had lied, Mr. Christie said “yeah, and she was wrong.”

    Discussion Starters:

    • Do you believe Christie's defense? Why or why not?
    • Big picture: What is most relevant in this situation? Let's not lose perspective.
    • Christie was making a run for president in the 2016 elections. Could this hurt his candidacy for 2020? Also, Trump didn't choose Christie as his running mate, although Christie expressed interest. To what extent do you think his decision was tied to this situation?
  • Recruiter Rejects Candidate for "Vulgar Comments"

    O-OKCUPID-facebookThe Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) tells the story of a recruiter who rejected a candidate because of comments found on the dating app OkCupid. The recruiter, Sam Oliver, explains his decision in an article and describes the post: "[H]e was calling her obscene names and threatening sexual assault."

    Oliver also describes his process for screening candidates online:

    "Like most recruiters, I use a variety of sources when evaluating candidates — LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, AngelList, github, reddit, dribbble, the list goes on. Most people’s social media is pretty benign: shared memes and jokes, vacation photos, interactions with friends and family. When looking at people’s social media, I’m mostly looking to corroborate facts and timelines on their resume — where they live, previous jobs, alma mater, etc. If they’ve put enough information out there, I might also get an accurate glimpse of their personality, which is very helpful in hiring."

    "Unfortunately for him, he had used his LinkedIn head shot as one of his OKCupid profile photos, and it was very easy for me to confirm his identity via a reverse Google image search. To any seasoned recruiter, I deduced his real identity using well-known tricks of the trade; people often do not realize how much information is public and readily accessible via social media."

    Both the SHRM article and Oliver explain that the rejection is perfectly legal. You may be thinking that you can't discriminate against applicants, but that applies only to certain qualities, such as race, sex, and age. On the other hand, employers have a legal responsibility to maintain a harassment- and discrimination-free environment, and an employee who writes "threatening" messages online may put an organization at risk. 

    Although he had no obligation to, Oliver told the applicant why he wouldn't pass his resume along to his client, which gave the applicant a chance to deactivate some accounts and remove incriminating photos. 

    This situation is a good lesson for students seeking jobs. Assume everything you post can be retrieved and traced back to you.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Does the recruiter's decision surprise you? Why or why not? What are the downsides to rejecting a candidate based on social media posts?
    • What advice from Chapter 12 would have helped this applicant?
    • What about your own social media history may put your job search in jeopardy? Use Google and other sites to find as much information about yourself as you can.
  • Offensive 9/11 Mattress Company Ad

    What were they thinking? Miracle Mattress in San Antonio, TX, produced a commercial advertising twin mattress prices for 9/11. At the end of the ad, two employees fall into "towers" of mattresses, and the lead actor says, "We'll never forget."

    Understandably, people were outraged. This reminds me of the golf club that used a similar promotion in 2013. Also, this year, Coca-Cola took down a display of soda cartons at a Florida Walmart.

    Walmart 9-11

    The company owner posted an apology and announced the store's closing on Facebook. He said elsewhere that he was unaware of the ad created by his employees.

    Miracle Mattress

    Discussion Starters:

    • How are these promotions different from, for example, Memorial Day sales?
    • Assess the owner's apology. What principles of persuasion does he use? What recommendations do you have for improving the message?
    • In this post, the owner didn't mention that he was unaware of the ad, as he did in other sources. What's your view of this choice?
  • Airbnb Continues Working Towards Inclusion

    Just as Twitter is battling harassment, Airbnb if facing its own demons: hosts who discriminate. A report published in September by Harvard researchers found that, as previously believed, hosts are less likely to accept reservations from guests who are African-American. Hosts are 16% less likely to rent to someone whose name sounds African-American, all else being equal.

    In a detailed report, Airbnb outlined policies and practices the company will implement. The Economist highlights two of the changes, referring to the first as the "most visible" and the second as "perhaps the most meaningful": 

    • Everyone signs a "community commitment" statement: “We believe that no matter who you are, where you are from, or where you travel, you should be able to belong in the Airbnb community. By joining this community, you commit to treat all fellow members of this community, regardless of race, religion, national origin, disability, sex, gender identity,
      sexual orientation or age, with respect, and without judgment or bias.”
    • If a host rejects a reservation, he or she will not be able to book the same nights with another guest. Airbnb also is starting an "Open Doors" program to help people who believe they were discriminated against find another place to stay.

    Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky described these and more changes in an email to users:

    Dear Airbnb community,

    At the heart of our mission is the idea that people are fundamentally good and every community is a place where you can belong. We don’t say this because it sounds nice. It’s the goal that everyone at Airbnb works towards every day – because we’ve all seen how when we live together, we better understand each other.

    Discrimination is the opposite of belonging, and its existence on our platform jeopardizes this core mission. Bias and discrimination have no place on Airbnb, and we have zero tolerance for them. Unfortunately, we have been slow to address these problems, and for this I am sorry. I take responsibility for any pain or frustration this has caused members of our community. We will not only make this right; we will work to set an example that other companies can follow.

    In June, we asked Laura Murphy, the former head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington D.C. Legislative Office, to review every aspect of the Airbnb platform, and to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to fight bias and discrimination. Thanks to Laura’s leadership, today we’re releasing a report that outlines the results of that process. You can read the full report here, but I’d like to highlight four changes that will impact the way our platform works:

    Airbnb Community Commitment

    Beginning November 1, everyone who uses Airbnb must agree to a stronger, more detailed nondiscrimination policy. We aren’t just asking you to check a box associated with a long legal document. We’re asking everyone to agree to something we’re calling the Airbnb Community Commitment, which says:

    We believe that no matter who you are, where you are from, or where you travel, you should be able to belong in the Airbnb community. By joining this community, you commit to treat all fellow members of this community, regardless of race, religion, national origin, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age, with respect, and without judgment or bias.

    Open Doors

    We’ll be implementing a new policy called Open Doors. Starting October 1st, if a Guest anywhere in the world feels like they have been discriminated against in violation of our policy – in trying to book a listing, having a booking canceled, or in any other interaction with a host – we will find that Guest a similar place to stay if one is available on Airbnb, or if not, we will find them an alternative accommodation elsewhere. This program will also apply retroactively to any Guest who reported discrimination prior to today. All of these Guests will be offered booking assistance for their next trip.

    Instant Book

    We’ll increase the availability of Instant Book, which allows our hosts to offer their homes to be booked immediately without their prior approval of a specific guest. Instant Book makes booking easier for everyone, and our goal is to have 1 million listings bookable via Instant Book by January 1st, 2017.

    Anti-bias training

    We are working with experts on bias, including Dr. Robert Livingston of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Dr. Peter Glick of Lawrence University, to make anti-bias training available to our community, and will be publicly acknowledging those who complete it.

    These steps are just the beginning, not the end, of our efforts to combat bias and discrimination.

    While we as a company have been slow on this issue, I am now asking you the community to help us lead the way forward. Every time you make someone else feel like they belong, that person feels accepted and safe to be themselves. While this may sound like a small act of kindness, we are a community of millions of people strong. Imagine what we can do together.

    Brian Chesky

    CEO, Co-founder

     Sent with ♥ from Airbnb

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    Discussion Starters:

    • How well do you think Airbnb's initiatives will solve the problem of discrimination on its site? What else could the company do? Some advised that they remove profiles and use pseudonyms. What do you think?
    • Assess Brian Chesky's email. Describe the components of the writing process he likely followed.
  • Wells Fargo Reaches Settlement Agreement

    La-fi-wells-fargo-settlement-20160907-snapWells Fargo is taking action after the discovery that bank employees opened millions of fake checking and credit card accounts. Employees opened accounts in unsuspecting customers' names so they could earn credit for the sale. The bank benefited from fees people paid on accounts they never used.

    In addition to paying a $100 million settlement fee to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the bank has fired 5,300 employees over the past few years.

    The company issued two major communications related to the situation: 

    In addition, Jim Cramer interviewed CEO John Stumpf on Mad Money:


    Image source.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Compare the two Wells Fargo statements. How well does the company tailor these messages to primary and secondary audiences?
    • How can customers miss paying fees? What is their responsibility, and what is the company's? Consider visual displays of bank statements in your response.
    • How well does Stumpf respond to Jim Cramer's questions? Which are his strongest and weakest arguments?
  • Wells Fargo Apologizes for Ads Targeting Teens

    Wells Fargo adWells Fargo made the news twice this week. In addition to a big settlement for creating fake accounts, the company has apologized for an ad targeting teens.

    Several actors and other artists have expressed their disappointment in the company's promoting science over the arts. The Irregular Times was one of many critics of the company's campaign:

    Wells Fargo will teach teens that the path to financial prosperity just so happens to come through the financial services offered by Wells Fargo itself. That’s no coincidence. Teen Financial Education Day is really just a sales gimmick, at which Wells Fargo will teach the children of working Americans that they can’t have the privilege of careers in the arts.

    Wells Fargo posted an apology on Twitter.

    Wells Fargo ad apology
    Discussion Starters:

    • A Forbes article reminds us that science isn't something you just do; it's good to have "talent and ability" for the field. How do you see this factoring into the ad's logical failure?
    • The Forbes writer also insults the "marketing guru" who developed the ad campaign. What's your view? Should the company have known better, or is this a good attempt to advertise to teens, even if the results were appreciated?
  • ITT Closes and Leaves Students in Limbo

    Educ Blog ITTThe U.S. Education Department has stepped up its regulation of for-profit institutions, and ITT hasn't fared well. The government cut federal aid for new students attending ITT schools, and the organization has decided to close the entire operation—130 campuses across 38 states. More than 35,000 students and 8,000 employees will have to find new a place to study or work.

    A non-profit sector research analyst was quoted in the LA Times: "Both Corinthian and ITT made the same bad decision, which was to guarantee third-party private loans while pushing out more students into a weak jobs market after the Great Recession."

    The New York Times reported a host of questionable practices at ITT for years:

    "[Critics] reported deceptive marketing; strong-arm recruitment tactics; misleading information about costs, courses, graduation and job placement rates; inflated enrollment numbers; bait-and-switch schemes; subpar instruction; and more."

    A former dean was troubled by ITT's practices but got fired when he raised issues.

    U.S. Education Department Secretary John B. King Jr. said, "The school’s decisions have put its students and millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded federal student aid at risk." He explained the Department's perspective and provided resources to students in a blog post, shown here. Students also can participate in a webinar to learn more.

    ITT, of course, is blaming the government, calling its actions "unwarranted" and "inappropriate and unconstitutional." 

    Discussion Starters:

    • Compare ITT's statement and King's message to students. What differences do you notice in audience focus, tone, messaging, organization, and so on? 
    • What other information do you think students will need? What about employees?
    • How could ITT more convincingly defends its position?
  • FDA Finds No Evidence for Antibacterial Soaps

    La-sci-germophobes-fda-antibacterial-soap-2013-001What does "antibacterial" mean, and is it better than regular soap and water? The Food and Drug Administration says there's no evidence to back up such claims. In a press release and a post on the FDA website, the agency explains that antibacterial soap won't prevent the spread of germs any better than regular hand washing.

    The FDA explains, "To date, the benefits of using antibacterial hand soap haven’t been proven. In addition, the wide use of these products over a long time has raised the question of potential negative effects on your health." The announcement will affect many brands with false claims:

    "Companies will no longer be able to market antibacterial washes with these ingredients because manufacturers did not demonstrate that the ingredients are both safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections. Some manufacturers have already started removing these ingredients from their products."

     Manufacturers were criticized for lacking evidence:

    "Because the manufacturers haven’t proven that those ingredients are safe for daily use over a long period of time. Also, manufacturers haven’t shown that these ingredients are any more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illnesses and the spread of certain infections. Some manufacturers have already started removing these ingredients from their products, ahead of the FDA’s final rule."

    Image source.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Chapter 9 describes types of evidence. What principles apply in this situation?
    • Antibacterial brands will have a difficult time defending their products. What advice would you give brand managers?
  • British Airways Apologizes for Delays

    BA delaysComputer issues plagued Delta recently, and now British Airways is feeling the pain. Tens of thousands of customers have been delayed while checking in, dropping off luggage, and waiting to take off. Frequent fliers may remember similar delays in July, when the airline was upgrading its check-in system. This time, an IT issue shut down some systems, causing staff to hand write boarding passes.

    The airline apologized for the delays, admitting that processes have been "taking longer than usual": "We are sorry for the delay to their journeys." Although passengers were actively complaining on Twitter, the company had little to say online. The Twitter page has only one reference to the delays—after the issues were resolved.

    But some customers did receive a letter, posted in an NBC article.

      BA apology

    Discussion Starters:

    • Assess the letter to customers. What principles of letter writing and bad-news messages does the airline follow in this communication? What would improve the letter?
    • What word choices and other aspects of the letter tell you it's British? Why did the airline chose this method of communication?
    • What else, if anything, should the airline have communicated on social media?
  • More Jargon to Banish

    Annoying PhrasesOnce a year or so, I write about business clichés and jargon. This infographic, generated by GoToMeeting is a good summary of perhaps the worst examples heard in companies recently.

    Here are some of my favorites (to avoid, that is):

    • Content is king (Who's the queen?)
    • Game change, par for the course, and other sports references I don't understand
    • With all due respect, which usually indicates no respect at all
    • Do more with less, a.k.a. work harder for less pay
    • Open the kimono, which has both sexual and racial overtones.

    Image source.

    Discussion Starters:

    • What's the value of business jargon? It's not all bad.
    • Compare these 50 to those in Chapter 5 of the textbook. Which are most and least familiar to you?
    • Do you find any of the terms offensive?


  • Does American Airlines' New Ad Blame the Customer?

    American Airlines has a new ad campaign and video: "World's Greatest Flyers."

    Critics say the ad blames the customer: If you want a better travel experience, pack better, bring headphones, and change your attitude. Not everyone appreciated the advice. 

    American Air ad

    The company's VP of global marketing told AdAge, "The demographic of the type of customers we have is changing. The pervasive use of social tools, for example, digital and video -- these are things that are becoming more important for us to connect to and for us to start a dialogue with our customers." Fernand Fernandez also said, "The bigger goal here is to create, celebrate and acknowledge these types of behaviors and hopefully, amplify them on social media."

    Encouraging customers to use #GreatestFlyers, the airline will see about as many positive comments as negative ones.

    Discussion Starters:

    • What's your view of the campaign? The reaction may reflect the typical cynicism of people, particularly those on Twitter. Or could the negativity have been avoided?
    • Could American have done something different to change the social media conversation?
  • Maine Governor Regrets Voice Message

    Maine Governor Paul LePage is know for his brash style, but he seems to have crossed a new line. Politico calls him "America's Craziest Governor." Reacting to a reporter, LePage left an enraged voice mail message (NSFW) that included,

    "Mr. Gattine, this is Gov. Paul Richard LePage, I would like to talk to you about your comments about my being a racist, you (expletive). I want to talk to you. I want you to prove that I’m a racist. I’ve spent my life helping black people and you little son-of-a-b----, socialist (expletive). I need you to, just friggin, I want you to record this and make it public because I am after you. Thank you."

    He discussed his remarks in a news conference:

    Listeners are debating whether LePage has apologized, with a political scientist at the University of Maine, Amy Fried, referring to his speech as “a non-apology apology.” Mostly, LePage blames reporters and vowed never to speak to one again:

    “I will no longer speak to the press ever again after today,” LePage said. “And I’m serious. Everything will be put in writing. I am tired of being caught — the gotcha moments.”

    “You folks live in a seven-second fiction world. I live in 24-hour reality,” he continued.

    Some are calling for LePage to resign. At first, he seemed to consider it ("maybe it's time to move on"), but he has since changed his mind.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Few people will accept LePage's shifting the blame to the reporter, but does he have a point? What, if any, responsibility does the reporter have in this situation? Read more.
    • What's your view of LePage's "non-apology apology"? What else should he say? Should he resign?
  • JetBlue Temporarily Loses a Child

    JetBlue childA woman paid $100 for JetBlue to safely escort her five-year-old son from the Dominican Republic to JFK airport in NYC. But her boy was sent to Boston, in exchange for another boy who landed in JFK., according to The New York Times. JetBlue issued a statement:

    “On August 17, two unaccompanied children of the same age traveling separately from Santiago, Dominican Republic — one to New York JFK and one to Boston — each boarded a flight to the incorrect destination. Upon learning of the error, our teams in JFK and Boston immediately took steps to assist the children in reaching their correct destinations. While the children were always under the care and supervision of JetBlue crew members, we realize this situation was distressing for their families.”

    The JetBlue representative also said, “We are also reviewing the incident with our leadership and Santiago airport team to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future.” The company refunded the child's ticket and gave the family $2100 is vouchers for future flights.

    On a webpage, Families in Flight, JetBlue gives parents tips for traveling with children, including a page with pick-up and drop-off requirements for "kids flying solo."

    Image source.

    Discussion Starters:

    • How did JetBlue handle the situation? Consider the statement and compensation. Should the company have said or done something differently?
    • Since this writing, we haven't heard anything about the other boy, which may start a new round of news stories. What, if anything, should JetBlue say at that time? The company should be preparing for it.