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.
United is getting renewed attention—and not in a good way. This week, a passenger on a Southwest Airlines flight was escorted off the plane. The situation is quite different: she is allergic to animals, and two dogs were on the flight. She complained but didn't provide documentation and refused to deplane.
Video shows a rough scene, with two police officers and passengers encouraging her to walk, and the woman saying that she can't.
Nothing about the incident appears on Southwest's otherwise active Twitter feed or its website. But the airline did submit statements to Business Insider:
"Our policy states that a Customer (without a medical certificate) may be denied boarding if they report a life-threatening allergic reaction and cannot travel safely with an animal onboard."
"Our Flight Crew made repeated attempts to explain the situation to the Customer, however, she refused to deplane and law enforcement became involved."
The airline later apologized:
"We are disheartened by the way this situation unfolded and the Customer's removal by local law enforcement officers. We publicly offer our apologies to this Customer for her experience, and we will be contacting her directly to address her concerns.
"Southwest Airlines was built on Customer Service, and it is always our goal for all Customers to have a positive experience."
Yet the woman is facing multiple charges, including disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, and resisting arrest.
Netflix got high marks for a funny legal letter, which I realize is typically an oxymoron. A pop-up bar in Chicago showed Stranger Things, which is against Netflix's policy. In response, the company's lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter, giving the owners a generous six weeks before they need to stop playing episodes for customers.
This reminds me of the Jack Daniels letter in Chapter 5 of the book. Both show lawyers as human beings.
The typically non-apologetic Uber is apologizing. Two factors likely caused the company's change: 1) a new CEO, and 2) losing its operating license in London.
The new CEO has already demonstrated his vulnerability by talking about his emotions and showing us more of who he is as a person. An article in The Guardian explains why the city decided not to renew the company's license, which expires September 30:
TfL [Tranport for London] said last week Uber was not a “fit and proper” private car-hire operator and cited four areas of concern, including its approach to reporting criminal offences and carrying out background checks on drivers. But sources close to TfL indicated that a change of conduct from the taxi firm, the culture of which is being reformed by its new chief executive, could leave the door open to a fresh licence application.
The London decision is a blow for the ride-sharing company, and Uber is doing what it can to rebuild its image.
London Mayor Sadiq Kahn responded to the apology:
“I welcome the apology from Dara Khosrowshahi, the Uber CEO. Obviously I am pleased that he has acknowledged the issues that Uber faces in London. Even though there is a legal process in place, I have asked TfL to make themselves available to meet with him.”
After seven years at the helm, John Bryant will retire as CEO of Kellogg, and Steven Cahillane will replace him. Cahillane was most recently at The Nature's Bounty, a health and wellness company.
The company's press release includes a quotation from Bryant, which is typical when a leader retires, unless the retirement is forced because of impropriety:
"It has been my pleasure to serve as the CEO of Kellogg Company over the past seven years. I am even more confident in the future of our company today than at any other time in my 20 years with Kellogg. I've decided that the time is right to hand over the reins to a new leader who can continue the transformation of this great company."
Bryant goes on to compliment Cahillane's background, and the board chair adds more about his experience.
Also, as expected, the release includes a quotation from incoming CEO Cahillane:
"Kellogg is an incredible company with a rich legacy and iconic brands that are beloved around the world. It will be my privilege and honor to work with such a talented group of employees as we pursue the tremendous growth opportunities before us."
As a cereal company, Kellogg struggles with increasing focus on healthy eating and consumers' desires to avoid processed foods. As a result, the company's revenue and share price have been declining.
You won't hear the word "soda" in this Coca-Cola ad. The company is focusing on corporate advertising and trying to associate the brand with good things, such as employing people throughout the United States.
In the video, the narrator says, "We make much more than our name suggests," for example, tea and juice. The commercial emphasizes water sustainability and helping people go to college.
Clearly, the company is downplaying its connection to soda because of research and negative press. A Harvard nutrition page summarizes research linking sugary drinks to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other health problems. The site encourages people to choose different beverages.
Facebook is taking responsibility for ads that target audiences based on self-reported information. In their profiles, users wrote descriptions about their hatred of certain groups, and ads displayed for them based on that quality.
Identifying hate groups wasn't the original intent of targeted ads, which Facebook describes as a way to "Connect with the people who will love your business." Yet an article in Verge says the "problems were baked in from the start." The design did allow people to choose a way to identify, and the descriptors weren't monitored.
COO Sheryl Sandberg expressed her disappointment:
“Seeing those words made me disgusted and disappointed – disgusted by these sentiments and disappointed that our systems allowed this,” Sandberg said in a Facebook post. “Hate has no place on Facebook – and as a Jew, as a mother, and as a human being, I know the damage that can come from hate. The fact that hateful terms were even offered as options was totally inappropriate and a fail on our part.”
“We removed them and when that was not totally effective, we disabled that targeting section in our ad systems."
She also talked about how Facebook's internal systems failed:
"Such targeting has always been in violation of our policies and we are taking more steps to enforce that now,” Sandberg said. “We never intended or anticipated this functionality being used this way – and that is on us. And we did not find it ourselves – and that is also on us.”
New information has surfaced about patient deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. The toll is up to 11 residents, who died from heat exhaustion, heart failure, and other issues related to extreme heat at the facility.
Now we have new questions about accountability. Administrators at the facility made several calls to Florida Power and Light (FPL) requesting they restore power. Some parts of the facility had lost power, including a transformer needed to run the air conditioning. Although they were told that help was on the way, FPL didn't arrive for days.
Another turn in the story is about Governor Rick Scott's responsibility. Before the storm, he gave his cell number to nursing homes and encouraged them to call with emergencies.Because they didn't get a response from FPL, rehab center administrators left a message on Scott's cell phone. The call was returned, and administrators were told to call 911, which they did. When they still didn't get assistance, they called Scott's cell two more times. The governor's office released a statement:
“Every call made to the Governor from facility management was referred to the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Florida Department of Health and quickly returned.”
FPL also released a statement about the case:
“The tragic and senseless loss at Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center is the subject of a criminal homicide investigation by law enforcement,” the DOH [Department of Health] noted. “Let’s be clear – this facility is located across the street from one of Florida’s largest hospitals, which never lost power and had fully operating facilities. It is 100 percent the responsibility of healthcare professionals to preserve life by acting in the best interest of the health and well-being of their patients.”
FPL spokesperson Peter Robbins also said, “What we know now is that a portion of the facility did, in fact, have power, that there was a hospital with power across the parking lot from this facility, and that the nursing home was required to have a permanently installed, operational generator.”
The nursing home is under criminal investigation and has lost its license to operate and its ability to accept Medicare funding.
In a speech during a lunch with African leaders, President Trump mentioned the African country "Nambia," but no such country exists. Critics took to Twitter and other social sites to slam the president for "inventing" or "making up" a country. The reference in this tweet to Covfefe is a word President Trump used in a tweet earlier this year without explanation; it was likely a typo.
Yet the president's facts were correct for Namibia, and rather than "inventing" a country, the president likely just mispronounced its name.
Critics also took issue with the president's characterization of Africa as a business opportunity: "I have so many friends going to your countries trying to get rich. I congratulate you, they're spending a lot of money."
Ricardo Rossello the governor of Puerto Rico, gave a news conference to encourage people to move to shelters before Hurricane Maria hit. He warns people that the storm will be "catastrophic" and unlike what residents have experienced in the past.
The video caption reads, "Governor URGES Puerto Rico residents to shelter as Hurricane Maria arrives," but he could sound more urgent.
Sadly, the governor was right in his predictions. Hurricane Maria left the entire island without power and destroyed many properties.
That's a lot of people supporting him behind the podium. We don't know whether they each spoke or were there for some other reason.
Eight people died in a nursing home from heat after Hurricane Irma. Local police, the medical director of a nearby hospital, and the city mayor held a news conference to describe the situation. Although the video references six people, two additional have died for a total of eight at Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. No one was present from the facility.
Florida Governor Rick Scott called the situation "unfathomable" and "inexcusable." The facility didn't lose power, but the air conditioning wasn't working. It's not clear why people weren't transferred to another facility, for example, the hospital across the street. Patients died of heart attacks, dehydration, and other issues related to the extreme heat.
Critics say that some business in Florida, such as gas stations, are required to have backup generators, but this is not the case for nursing homes. A criminal investigation has begun. The owner of the facility has a criminal past involving kickbacks; the case was settled for $15.4 million
At this point, the facility has been evacuated, and people are being accommodated at other locations.
SoFi CEO Michael Cagney has stepped down after sexual harassment charges. This is a blow to tech start-ups, like Uber, that have been criticized for a "frat" culture. SoFi is short for Social Finance, Inc., and is the largest online lending company.
The evidence against Cagney is strong, including text messages and people who have seen Cagney flirting and holding hands with another employee. (Cagney is married with two children.) Employees also complain about Cagney bragging about his sexual prowess and about seeing supervisors and employees having sex in the office and in the parking lot. As a settlement, one employee was paid about $75,000 to leave SoFi.
Other lawsuits against the company include unfair labor practices (e.g., pay and breaks) and financial reporting issues. The company denies these claims.
In a message to employees, Cagney explained his reasons for leaving.
It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing that I will step down as CEO of SoFi by the end of this year.
SoFi has been an amazing journey. From the early days with five of us in a one-room office in 2011, to 1,200 employees spread across the country today, few firms have matched our success. We have had massive impact on our members lives, lending over $20 billion to our over 350,000 members, saving them over $1.8 billion in student loan interest and $500 million in credit-card interest, and helping them advance their careers and relationships.
That impact keeps growing. In the second quarter alone, we funded over $3.1 billion in loans, producing $134 million in revenue and $61.6 million in adjusted EBITDA. I could not be prouder of the company’s we’ve built together.
Recently, though, the focus has shifted more toward litigation and me personally. The combination of HR-related litigation and negative press have become a distraction from the company’s core mission.
I want SoFi to focus on helping members, hiring the best people, and growing our company in a way consistent with our values. That can’t happen as well as it should if people are focused on me, which isn’t fair to our members, investors, or you.
I will be fully dedicated to the business through year-end, and will work closely with the Board to find the best candidate to lead us forward.
SoFi has built an incredible team. While we’ve come a long way, we’re still in the early innings of what we can and will accomplish. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to help get us to where we are today – and I look forward to seeing where all of you take SoFi in the coming years.
During Apple's big presentation to unveil and show features of the iPhone X, the Face ID program didn't work.
The presenter, Craig Federighi, SVP Software Development, reacted briefly when the passcode screen came up. Then he said, "Let's try that again." He picked up another device, and the feature worked.
What happened? Verge reports that it probably wasn't a problem Face ID. Rather, the passcode screen came up as a precaution just as it would on earlier versions when you restart your phone or when you haven't used it for a few hours.
Still, it was tough moment for Federighi.
Things often go wrong during presentations but, as is the case for more serious company crises, how the situation is handled is sometimes remembered more than initial issue.
EPA chief Scott Priutt says it's "insensitive" to talk about climate change as people are wrestling with hurricanes. The response follows a request from Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado the Friday before Hurricane Irma hit Florida:
“This is the time to talk about climate change. This is the time that the president and the EPA and whoever makes decisions needs to talk about climate change,” said Regalado, who flew back to Miami from Argentina Friday morning to be in the city during the storm. “If this isn’t climate change, I don’t know what is. This is a truly, truly poster child for what is to come.”
“To have any kind of focus on the cause and effect of the storm versus helping people, or actually facing the effect of the storm, is misplaced," and "To use time and effort to address it at this point is very, very insensitive to this people in Florida."
Pruitt has also said that he doesn't believe that carbon dioxide emissions is a major contributor to climate change. Scientists report changing "climate change" in their documentation to other words.
In a Los Angeles Times opinion article, "Harvey and Irma say this is the right time to discuss global warming," the reporter calls Pruitt's response "patently absurd." He compares the hurricanes to shootings, when it is the right time to talk about gun control.
Ikea Canada is making a statement with a video set to "What a Wonderful World."
The spot starts with the song lyrics, "Seems to me, it's ain't the world that's so bad, but what we are doing to it." Then, a little girl looks out the window of a car as she narrates from the song what she sees—and we see images of different people. First up are two teenage girls exchanging corsages. Next, we see someone putting up solar panels, and then laundry drying outside.
An editor for Creativity-Online analyzes the approach. As the "Editor's Pick" states, Ikea is putting its mark on what the company deems important.
But in such a divisive political time, the ad is risky. Not everyone has the positive feelings Ikea is promoting when they see refugees or a woman breastfeeding.
Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber's new CEO, talks about his emotions, and he's getting big points in the media. An Inc. article applauds his vulnerability in saying to Expedia colleagues, "I have to tell you I am scared." His final email to staff continues:
I've been here at Expedia for so long that I've forgotten what life is like outside this place. But the times of greatest learning for me have been when I've been through big changes, or taken on new roles--you have to move out of your comfort zone and develop muscles that you didn't know you had.
Uber has been promoting Khosrowshahi's human side, a smart strategy to humanize the company after months of scandals under founder Travis Kalanick. In the board's email to employees, they started with the story of Khosrowshahi's immigration:
We are delighted to announce that Uber’s Board has voted unanimously to appoint Dara Khosrowshahi to be our new CEO.
Dara came to America at nine years old when his family escaped Iran on the eve of the Iranian Revolution. He grew up in Tarrytown, N.Y., trained as an engineer at Brown, and spent many years at IAC serving as Chief Financial Officer and in various operational and strategic roles.
In 2005, he became CEO of Expedia, which he built into one of the world’s leading travel and technology companies, now operating in more than 60 countries. He has four children and not surprisingly loves to travel, one of his favorite trips being to the Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia where his wife Sydney said yes to marrying him.
We’re really fortunate to gain a leader with Dara’s experience, talent and vision. The Board and the Executive Leadership Team are confident that Dara is the best person to lead Uber into the future building world-class products, transforming cities, and adding value to the lives of drivers and riders around the world while continuously improving our culture and making Uber the best place to work.
Dara will be joining us tomorrow, August 30, for an All Hands. Add your questions for Dara here, and stay tuned for a calendar invite with more details. He’ll also be meeting with employees around the world in smaller groups over the next few weeks, and spending time with drivers.
Please join us in welcoming Dara on what promises to be an exciting ride!
-Yasir, Garrett, Matt, Ryan, Arianna, Travis, Wan Ling & David
For his part, Khosrowshahi introduced himself to staff as a fighter and a "no-B.S." leader:
“First, I am going to be totally transparent with you. I am not going to B.S. you. The thing that I’ve found in life and in management is that the higher up you get in an organization, the less you really know about what’s going on. Because people start holding back, and they are afraid to tell you what’s going on. The only way that I’ve seen to combat that is to be absolutely honest with you and to be completely straight and authentic with you. Hopefully that will allow me to deserve the same right back from you. I’m not going to B.S. you and I will ask you not to B.S. me.
Second, I’m a fighter. I’ll fight with you. I don’t like war metaphors, it’s kind of a male metaphor, but we’re in a battle here and I think everybody knows it. Just know that I’m here, I made the decision, I am all in and I’m going to fight for you with everything in my body. I hope you’ll join me in that battle.
And last, I will know that I’ve succeeded here if everybody in this room and who is watching all over the world knows they can contribute to the success of Uber in their own way. Everyone’s different, everyone has their own skillsets—if you’re numerative or have a higher EQ, if you’re here in the US or in a global office, if you’re a dev, if you’re in marketing, if you’re in PR, or ops or regardless of your gender or your beliefs—everyone is going to participate and contribute in their own way. And if everyone feels like they can and they can be themselves but they can also be Uber, then I know I’ve succeeded. That’s my goal."
The line about "B.S." makes me wonder: what's the alternative? I have a similar reaction when people say, "I'll be honest with you." Why would I assume anything else?
Bank of America and other companies are lending support following Hurricane Harvey. In addition, Houston-area companies have been generous in giving employees time off and resources to get their houses and lives back in order, as much as possible. A Wall Street Journal article questions how long this generosity will last, but for now, employees have some much needed help.
Airlines in Florida have capped or reduced fares for people needing to evacuate, which of course, is the right thing to do. We saw businesses practice price gouging during Harvey, and the publicity wasn't good.
During Hurricane Irma, JetBlue, for example, dropped fares to $99 or $159, and American Airlines and Delta promised to keep lower fares through September 15. This will be helpful to people returning to the area and to others traveling to help.
Delta corrected at least one issue and blamed Expedia for listing a high price. A customer tweeted, "Shame on you @delta. Jacking from $547 to over $3200 for people trying to evacute (sic) responsibly?" Delta corrected the problem for this traveler and a spokesperson told BuzzFeed, "When they reached out directly to Delta, she was given a much lower fare. We’re looking into why Expedia listed that price, but it was not the correct fare. We have not increased any fares in response to the hurricane. In fact, as the storm approach we reduced the price level of our highest fare."
A cyberattack on credit reporter Equifax revealed personal information about 143 million people. What makes this breach worrying is the type of information that was stolen: Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, driver’s license numbers.
On the home page of its website, Equifax has a red post directing readers to a statement for more information. They are also offering identity protection for people affected.
But the company isn't making it easy. When I entered my information, I saw a message that I may be affected, and then I saw the message at right, saying, in order to enroll, I would need to revisit in 4 days for some reason.
Overall, the company is accepting responsibility. The Chairman and CEO Rick Smith explained the situation on a video.
A nurse at a Utah hospital was arrested for disobeying an officer's request, and everyone seems to be apologizing. An officer asked Alex Wubbels to draw blood from a man who was unconscious, and she refused. Wubbels said, in order to draw blood, the patient would need to be under arrest, and she would need to see a warrant. She said she had authority from hospital administrators to maintain her position.
The police officer, Jeff L. Payne, became angry and said she would be arrested if she didn't comply. And then he followed through while Wubbels screamed for help. It seems that Officer Payne's anger may have impaired his judgment.
Statements from the Salt Lake City major and the chief of police offer apologies for the incident:
Mayor Jackie Biskupski:
“Like many of you, I watched the video of police officers interacting with University of Utah Medical Center nurse Alex Wubbles for the first time through the media late yesterday. What I saw is completely unacceptable to the values of my Administration and of the values of the Salt Lake City Police Department. I extend a personal apology to Ms. Wubbles for what she has been through for simply doing her job.
There is currently an Internal Affairs investigation examining the actions, and the Civilian Review Board is conducting a parallel investigation. I have reiterated to Chief Brown that I expect the highest level of professionalism and integrity from his team. I have also instructed Chief Brown to conduct a thorough review of all policies and trainings to ensure respect for all individuals, in all situations. Following the incident Salt Lake City Police Department command met with hospital administration. We immediately changed policies that may have been a factor in this encounter, and the officer’s duties have been modified.
I take these incidences very seriously. Since I took office, I have been working with Salt Lake City Police Department to increase our use of de-escalation techniques and we have had great success, and this incident is a troubling set back to those efforts. No medical professional in Salt Lake City should be hindered from performing their duties, and certainly not be fearful of the police officers they so often partner with to save lives.”
Chief Mike Brown:
“I was alarmed by what I saw in the video with our officer and Ms. Wubbles. I am sad at the rift this has caused between law-enforcement and the nurses we work so closely with. I want to be clear, we take this very seriously. Immediate steps were taken and within 12 hours, body cam footage was reviewed and an internal affairs investigation started. We've looked at the actions that took place, the policies that could have prevented it, and the training that must be done. Within 24 hours of this incident, Salt Lake City Police Department took steps to ensure this will never happen again. We met with hospital CEO and COO, Nursing Management Team, their legal representation team, and University of Utah Chief Brophy.
Most notable of all these conversations were that we apologized for the incident and promised to find a solution. Additionally, our policy management team continues to work closely with the hospital staff on improved policies and training.
To date, we have suspended the officer from the blood draw program. We have already replaced our blood draw policy with a new policy. All remaining officers on the blood draw program have reviewed, and are operating under the new policy and protocol.
It is my sincere desire to get back to a very cooperative, respectful, and friendly relationship with our “brothers and sisters in white” we work so closely with. Salt Lake City Police Officers have a very soft spot in our hearts for all medical professionals. We know that if we are ever hurt in the line of duty, it is their caring hands that will perhaps save our lives one day.
I believe we can learn from mistakes and from building strong relationships with everyone we work with and serve. By doing that we become a stronger police department.”
In addition, Mayor Jackie Biskupski apologized during a news conference and announced an internal investigation. Biskupski also said they met with hospital administrators and changed some policies. Police Chief Mike Brown also apologized and said they would put steps in place to make sure this type of incident doesn't happen again.
Joel Osteen, senior pastor at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, has a large following, but he has taken a hit since Hurricane Harvey. Critics say Osteen should have offered his mega-church, which seats 16,8000, to people needing housing after the storm. Instead, Osteen tweeted his prayers, and people say it wasn't enough.
Church officials said the building experienced "severe flooding," but pictures told a different story. In TV interviews, Osteen defended the church's practices. He said, "The main thing is, the city didn't ask us."
In an article on PR Daily, Brad Phillips raised the issue of authenticity:
If you’re cynical about televangelists, Osteen’s tone in the Today show interview probably struck you as smarmy and self-satisfied. If you’re one of the millions of people who watch his sermons and read his books, you probably viewed him as sincere.
Phillips also questioned why the church didn't have plans in place and, specifically, why the leaders didn't coordinate with Houston city officials ahead of time.
The social media response has not been kind: memes abound.
As Texans are desperate for housing and food in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, some companies are taking advantage. People reported hundreds of examples of price gouging for items like bottled water, groceries, gas, and hotel rooms.
A Best Buy near Houston was selling a case of water for $42; others reported prices up to $99. Price gouging is illegal after natural disasters, as the Texas attorney general's site explains.
Best Buy issued a statement that this was the act of one store.
A Best Western in Robstown was also over-charging: $321.89 a night compared to its usual price of $119. In addition to raising the room rate, the hotel added extra fees. The PR manager for Best Western's corporate office issued this statement:
“Best Western was founded on the principles of honesty, integrity, compassion, and service. We are deeply offended and saddened by the actions taken by this hotel. As a result, we are immediately severing any affiliation with the hotel. This hotel’s actions are contrary to the values of Best Western. We do not tolerate this type of egregious and unethical behavior.”
The hotel has been removed from Best Western's website.
Airbnb is offering free rooms for people who had to leave their homes because of Hurricane Harvey. Evacuees won't have to pay fees to hosts through September 25. Originally, the offer was through September 1, but the company extended it after seeing the storm's devastation. Free listings appear for homes in Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio.
Conditions are explained on Airbnb's Disaster Response site. Currently, the site lists programs for Hurricane Harvey and for the Mumbai floods.
Other sharing companies have stepped up following the hurricane. Uber, Lyft, and WeWork are offering free services and other promotions.