Management Communication A CASE-ANALYSIS APPROACH

Management Communication A CASE-ANALYSIS APPROACH

Management Communication


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Management Communication


James S. O’Rourke, IV Teaching Professor of Management

Arthur F. and Mary J. O’Neil Director The Eugene D. Fanning Center for Business Communication

Mendoza College of Business University of Notre Dame

Prentice Hall Boston Columbus Indianapolis New York San Francisco Upper Saddle River

Amsterdam Cape Town Dubai London Madrid Milan Munich Paris Montreal Toronto Delhi Mexico Sao Paulo Sydney Hong Kong Seoul Singapore Taipei Tokyo




Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data O’Rourke, James S Management communication : a case-analysis approach / James S. O’Rourke. — 5th ed. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN-13: 978-0-13-267140-8 (alk. paper) ISBN-10: 0-13-267140-9 (alk. paper) 1. Communication in management. 2. Communication in management–Case studies. I. Title. HD30.3.O766 2013 658.4’5–dc23 2011033216 Editorial Director: Sally Yagan Acquisitions Editor: James Heine Editorial Project Manager: Karin Williams Editorial Assistant: Ashlee Bradbury Director of Marketing: Maggie Moylan Senior Marketing Manager: Nikki Jones Marketing Assistant: Ian Gold Senior Managing Editor: Judy Leale Production Project Manager: Debbie Ryan Art Director: Jayne Conte Cover Designer: Suzanne Behnke Composition: Integra Software Services, Pvt.Ltd. Printer/Binder: Courier/Westford Cover Printer: Lehigh-Phoenix Color/Hagerstown Text Font: Times New Roman, Arial. Management Communication A CASE-ANALYSIS APPROACH

Credits and acknowledgments borrowed from other sources and reproduced, with permission, in this textbook appear on the appropriate page within text.

Copyright © 2013, 2010, 2007, 2004, 2001 by Pearson Education, Inc., publishing as Prentice Hall. All rights reserved. Manufactured in the United States of America. This publication is protected by Copyright, and permission should be obtained from the publisher prior to any prohibited reproduction, storage in a retrieval system, or transmission in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or likewise. To obtain permission(s) to use material from this work, please submit a written request to Pearson Education, Inc., Permissions Department, One Lake Street, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458, or you may fax your request to 201-236-3290.

Many of the designations by manufacturers and sellers to distinguish their products are claimed as trademarks. Where those designations appear in this book, and the publisher was aware of a trademark claim, the designations have been printed in initial caps or all caps.


10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 ISBN 10: 0-13-267140-9

ISBN 13: 978-0-13-267140-8




To: Pam, Colleen, Molly, and Kathleen. And to Jay, Cianan, and Ty. Your inspiration, patience, and support have been indispensable.

Thank you for making this possible. To my colleagues: Sandra, Sondra, and Liddy. You are among

many who have encouraged me, corrected me, kept me honest, and held me accountable for my ideas. And to Andrea and Judy:

Teaching and writing are so much easier with your help. And, of course, to my friends in MCA and the Arthur Page Society:

Thank you for the support, counsel, and good ideas. My life is richer for having shared your company.









Preface xv

Chapter 1 Management Communication in Transition 1 What Do Managers Do All Day? 2 The Roles Managers Play 3 Major Characteristics of the Manager’s Job 5 What Varies in a Manager’s Job? The Emphasis 6 Management Skills Required for the Twenty-First

Century 6 Talk Is the Work 7 The Major Channels of Management Communication

Are Talking and Listening 8 The Role of Writing 8 Communication Is Invention 9 Information Is Socially Constructed 10 Your Greatest Challenge 10 Your Task as a Professional 11 For Further Reading 11 Endnotes 11 CASE 1-1 Odwalla, Inc. (A) 13 CASE 1-2 Great West Casualty v. Estate

of G. Witherspoon (A) 17 CASE 1-3 Domino’s “Special” Delivery:

Going Viral Through Social Media 19

Chapter 2 Communication and Strategy 26 Defining Communication 26 Elements of Communication 27 Principles of Communication 27 Levels of Communication 28 Barriers to Communication 29 Communicating Strategically 29 Successful Strategic Communication 30 Why Communicating as a Manager Is Different 32 Crisis Communication 33 For Further Reading 36




Endnotes 37 CASE 2-1 Starbucks Coffee Company: Can Customers Breastfeed in a Coffee

Shop? 37 CASE 2-2 Taco Bell Corporation: Public Perception

and Brand Protection 43

Chapter 3 Communication Ethics 50 The Ethical Conduct of Employers 52 Defining Business Ethics 52 Three Levels of Inquiry 53 Three Views of Decision Making 54 An Integrated Approach 55 The Nature of Moral Judgments 55 Distinguishing Characteristics of Moral Principles 56 Four Resources for Decision Making 57 Making Moral Judgments 58 Applying Ethical Standards to Management

Communication 60 Statements of Ethical Principles 60 The “Front Page” Test 63 For Further Reading 64 Endnotes 64 CASE 3-1 Excel Industries (A) 66 CASE 3-2 A Collection Scandal at Sears, Roebuck &

Company 69 CASE 3-3 The Tiger Woods Foundation:

When Values and Behavior Collide 72 CASE 3-4 Google’s New Strategy in China:

Principled Philosophy or Business Savvy? 79

Chapter 4 Speaking 88 Why Speak? 89 How to Prepare a Successful Management

Speech 90 Develop a Strategy 90 Get to Know Your Audience 90 Determine Your Reason for Speaking 92 Learn What You Can About the Occasion 93 Know What Makes People Listen 93




Understand the Questions Listeners Bring to Any Listening Situation 94

Recognize Common Obstacles to Successful Communication 95

Support Your Ideas with Credible Evidence 96 Organize Your Thoughts 97 Keep Your Audience Interested 100 Select a Delivery Approach 102 Develop Your Visual Support 103 Rehearse Your Speech 104 Develop Confidence in Your Message and in

Yourself 105 Deliver Your Message 106 For Further Reading 107 Endnotes 107 CASE 4-1 A Last Minute Change at Old Dominion

Trust 108 CASE 4-2 Preparing to Speak at Staples, Inc. 110

Chapter 5 Writing 112 An Introduction to Good Business Writing 114 Fifteen Ways to Become a Better Business Writer 114 Writing a Business Memo 116 The Six Communication Strategies 116 Writing an Overview Paragraph 116 Sample Overviews 117 The Informative Memo 118 The Persuasive Memo 118 Standard Formats for Memos 119 Meeting and Conference Reports 120 Project Lists 120 Make Your Memos Inviting and Attractive 121 Editing Your Memos 121 Writing Good Business Letters 122 When You Are Required to Explain Something 123 When You Are Required to Apologize 124 A Few Words About Style 124 Make Your Writing Efficient 124 Speak When You Write 126




How to Make Passive Verbs Active 127 Make Your Bottom Line Your Top Line 128 How to Encourage and Develop Good Writers 128 For Further Reading 129 Endnotes 130 CASE 5-1 Cypress Semiconductor Corporation 130 CASE 5-2 Carnival Cruise Lines:

Fire Aboard a Stranded Cruise Ship 137 CASE 5-3 AntennaGate: Apple’s Loss of Signal (A) 146

Chapter 6 Persuasion 154 The Human Belief System 155 Two Schools of Thought 155 The Objectives of Persuasion 158 Outcomes of the Attitudinal Formation Process 159 The Science of Persuasion 159 Successful Attempts at Persuasion 160 Should You Use a One- or Two-Sided Argument? 167 Managing Heads and Hearts to Change Behavioral Habits 169 Being Persuasive 170 Endnotes 171 CASE 6-1 The United States Olympic Committee:

Persuading Business to Participate in the Olympic Movement 172

CASE 6-2 An Invitation to Wellness at Whirlpool Corporation 175

CASE 6-3 Kraft Foods, Inc.: The Cost of Advertising on Children’s Waistlines 176

Chapter 7 Technology 182 Life in the Digital Age 182 Communicating Digitally 183 Electronic Mail 184 Privacy and Workplace Monitoring 188 The Internet and Online Behavior 193 Text Messaging 193 Social Media 194 Etiquette and Office Electronics 195 Working Virtually 197




Teleconferencing 199 For Further Reading 202 Endnotes 202 CASE 7-1 Cerner Corporation: A Stinging Office Memo

Boomerangs 205 CASE 7-2 Johnson & Johnson’s Strategy with Motrin:

The Growing Pains of Social Media 209 CASE 7-3 Facebook Beacon (A): Cool Feature or an Invasion. Management Communication A CASE-ANALYSIS APPROACH

of Privacy? 215

Chapter 8 Listening and Feedback 221 An Essential Skill 221 Why Listen? 222 The Benefits of Better Listening 223 The Role of Ineffective Listening Habits 224 An Inventory of Poor Listening Habits 224 Developing Good Listening Habits 227 The Five Essential Skills of Active Listening 228 A System for Improving Your Listening Habits 229 Giving and Receiving Feedback 230 Guidelines for Constructive Feedback 230 Knowing When Not to Give Feedback 232 Knowing How to Give Effective Feedback 232 Knowing How to Receive Feedback 235 For Further Reading 236 Endnotes 236 CASE 8-1(A) Earl’s Family Restaurants: The Role of the Regional Sales

Manager 237 CASE 8-1(B) Earl’s Family Restaurants: The Role of the Chief

Buyer 239 CASE 8-1(C) Earl’s Family Restaurants: The Role of the

Observer 241 CASE 8-2(A) The Kroger Company: The Role of the Store

Manager 243 CASE 8-2(B) The Kroger Company: The Role of the Pepsi-Cola

Sales Manager 245 CASE 8-2(C) The Kroger Company: The Role of the Instructional

Facilitator 246 CASE 8-3 Three Feedback Exercises 248




Chapter 9 Nonverbal Communication 250 A Few Basic Considerations 251 Nonverbal Categories 251 The Nonverbal Process 252 Reading and Misreading Nonverbal Cues 252 Functions of Nonverbal Communication 253 Principles of Nonverbal Communication 254 Dimensions of the Nonverbal Code 255 The Communication Environment 255 Body Movement 255 Eye Contact 256 A Communicator’s Physical Appearance 256 Artifacts 257 Touch 257 Paralanguage 258 Space 259 Time 261 Color 262 Smell 263 Taste 264 Sound 264 Silence 264 For Further Reading 267 Endnotes 267 CASE 9-1 Olive Garden Restaurants Division: General

Mills Corporation 269 CASE 9-2 Waukegan Materials, Inc. 271

Chapter 10 Intercultural Communication 273 Intercultural Challenges at Home 273 Cultural Challenges Abroad 275 Business and Culture 277 Definitions of Culture 277 Some Principles of Culture 278 Functions of Culture 281 Ethnocentrism 281 Cross-Cultural Communication Skills 282 For Further Reading 282




Endnotes 283 CASE 10-1 Oak Brook Medical Systems, Inc. 284 CASE 10-2 LaJolla Software, Inc. 286

Chapter 11 Managing Conflict 289 A Definition of Conflict 291 Conflict in Organizations 291 Sources of Conflict in Organizations 292 Sensing Conflict 292 The Benefits of Dealing with Conflict 294 Styles of Conflict Management 295 So, What Should You Do? 296 What If You’re the Problem? 298 For Further Reading 299 Endnotes 300 CASE 11-1 Hayward Healthcare Systems, Inc. 301 CASE 11-2 Dixie Industries, Inc. 303 CASE 11-3 Hershey Foods: It’s Time to Kiss and Make Up 307

Chapter 12 Business Meetings That Work 316 What’s the Motivation for Meeting? 317 So, Why Meet? 318 What Is a Business Meeting? 318 When Should I Call a Meeting? 319 When Should I Not Call a Meeting? 319 What Should I Consider as I Plan for a Meeting? 320 How Do I Prepare for a Successful Meeting? 321 What Form or Meeting Style Will Work Best? 323 How Do I Keep a Meeting on Track? 324 What Should I Listen for? 325 What Should I Look for? 325 What Should I Write Down? 326 How Can I Make My Meetings More Productive? 327 Can Business Meetings Ever Improve? 328 For Further Reading 328 Endnotes 329 CASE 12-1 Spartan Industries, Inc. 330 CASE 12-2 American Rubber Products Company (A) 332




Chapter 13 Dealing with the News Media 336 Introduction 336 Why Interviews Are Important 338 Should You or Shouldn’t You? 341 A Look at the News Media 343 Getting Ready 347 Making It Happen 350 Staying in Control of an Interview 351 Follow-Up 353 For Further Reading 353 Endnotes 354 CASE 13-1 L’Oreal USA: Do Looks Really Matter

in the Cosmetic Industry? 355 CASE 13-2 Taco Bell: How Do We Know It’s Safe to Eat? 359 Exercise 13-1 Buon Giorno Italian Foods, Inc. 368 Exercise 13-2 O’Brien Paint Company 369

Appendix A Analyzing a Case Study 371

Appendix B Writing a Case Study 378

Appendix C Sample Business Letter 385

Appendix D Sample Strategy Memo 387

Appendix E Documentation 390

Appendix F Media Relations for Business Professionals: How to Prepare for a Broadcast or Press Interview 399

Index 405





Six brand-new, current-issue case studies: Case 1-3: Domino’s “Special” Delivery: Going Viral through Social Media. Case 3-3: The Tiger Woods Foundation: When Values and Behavior Collide. Case 3-4: Google’s New Strategy in China: Principled Philosophy or Business Savvy? Case 5-2: Carnival Cruse Lines: Fire Aboard a Stranded Cruise Ship Case 5-3: AntennaGate: Apple’s Loss of Signal (A). Case 7-2: Johnson & Johnson’s Strategy with Motrin: The Growing Pains of Social


New writing assignments for several case studies, including: Case 6-3: Kraft Foods, Inc.: The Cost of Advertising on Children’s Waistlines. Case 7-3: Facebook Beacon (A): Cool Feature or an Invasion of Privacy? Case 11-1: Hayward Healthcare Systems, Inc. Case 11-3: Hershey Foods: It’s Time to Kiss and Make Up. Case 13-1: L’Oreal USA: Do Looks Really Matter in the Cosmetic Industry? Case 13-2: Taco Bell: How Do We Know it’s Safe to Eat?

Approximately 10% of new anecdotes and examples, including extensive new examples in the Managing Conflict chapter.

A new section on social media and its uses, as well as updated content on the Internet and online behavior.

Newly updated chapter on Technology and its applications in business.

Up-to-date census data in the chapter on Intercultural Communication.





Many years ago, as an Air Force officer assigned to a flight test group in the American Southwest, I had the opportunity to speak with an older (and obviously wiser) man who had been in the flying business for many years. Our conversation focused on what it would take for a young officer to succeed—to become a leader, a recognized influence among talented, trained, and well-educated peers. His words were prophetic: “I can think of no skill more essential to the survival of a young officer,” he said, “than effective self-expression.” That was it. Not physical courage or well-honed flying skills. Not advanced degrees or specialized training, but “effective self-expression.”

In the years since that conversation, I have personally been witness to what young managers call “career moments.” Those moments in time are when a carefully crafted proposal, a thorough report, or a deft response to criticism saved a career. I’ve seen young men and women offered a job as a result of an especially skillful speech introduction. I’ve seen others sputter and stall when they couldn’t answer a direct question—one that fell well within their area of expertise—during a briefing. I’ve watched in horror as others simply talked their way into disfavor, trouble, or oblivion.

Communication is, without question, the central skill any manager can possess. It is the link between ideas and action. It is the process that generates profit. It is the emotional glue that binds humans together in relationships, personal and professional. It is, as the poet William Blake put it, “the chariot of genius.” To be without the ability to communicate is to be isolated from others in an organization, an industry, or a society. To be skilled at it is to be at the heart of what makes enterprise, private and public, function successfully.

The fundamental premise on which this book is based is simple: Communication is a skill that can be learned, taught, and improved. You have the potential to be better at communicating with other people than you now are. It won’t be easy, but this book can certainly help. The fact that you’ve gotten this far is evidence that you’re determined to succeed, and what follows is a systematic yet readable review of those things you’ll need to pay closer attention to in order to experience success as a manager.

WHAT THIS BOOK IS ABOUT This book will focus on the processes involved in management communication and concentrate on ways in which business students and entry-level managers can become more effective by becoming more knowledgeable and skilled as communicators.

The second premise on which this book is based is also simple: Writing, speaking, listening, and other communication behaviors are the end-products of a process that begins with critical thinking. It is this process that managers are called on to employ every day in the workplace to earn a living. The basic task of a manager, day in and day out, is to solve managerial problems. The basic tools at a manager’s disposal are mostly rhetorical.

Management Communication supports learning objectives that are strategic in nature, evolving as the workplace changes to meet the demands of a global economy that is changing at a ferocious pace. What you will find in these pages assumes certain basic competencies in communication, but encourages growth and development as you encounter the responsibilities and opportunities of mid-level and higher management, whether in your own business or in large and complex, publicly traded organizations.




WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS BOOK This book is aimed directly at the way most professors of management communication teach, yet in a number of important ways is different from other books in this field.

First, the process is entirely strategic. We begin with the somewhat nontraditional view that all communication processes in successful businesses in this century will be fully integrated. What happens in one part of the business affects all others. What is said to one audience has outcomes that influence others. Without an integrated, strategic perspective, managers in the twenty-first century economy will find themselves working at cross-purposes, often to the detriment of their businesses.

Second, the approach offered in Management Communication integrates ethics and the process of ethical decision making into each aspect of the discipline. Many instructors feel either helpless or at least slightly uncomfortable teaching ethics in a business classroom. Yet, day after day, business managers find themselves confronted with ethical dilemmas and decisions that have moral consequences for their employees, customers, shareholders, and other important stakeholders.

This text doesn’t moralize or preach. Instead, it offers a relatively simple framework for ethical decision making that students and faculty alike will find easy to grasp. Throughout the book, especially in case studies and role-playing exercises, you will learn to ask questions that focus on the issues that matter most to your classmates and colleagues. The answers won’t come easily, but the process of confronting the issues will make you a better manager.

Third, this text includes separate chapters on Technology (Chapter 7) and Listening and Feedback (Chapter 8), as well as Nonverbal Communication (Chapter 9), Intercultural Communication (Chapter 10), and Managing Conflict (Chapter 11). These are topics that are often either ignored or shortchanged in other texts. These kinds of interpersonal communication skills are clearly central to relationship building and the personal influence all managers tell us they find indispensable to their careers. And, you’ll find a newly revised chapter devoted to Persuasion (Chapter 6), which explores the science that underlies the process of influence.

Finally, Management Communication examines the often tenuous but unavoidable relationship that business organizations and their managers have with the news media. A step-by-step approach is presented to help you develop strategies and manage relationships, in both good news and bad news situations. Surviving a close encounter with a reporter while telling your company’s story—fairly, accurately, and completely—may mean the difference between a career that advances and one that does not.

THE ADDED VALUE OF A CASE STUDY APPROACH The fifth edition of this book contains nearly three dozen original, classroom-tested case studies that will challenge you to discuss and apply the principles outlined in the chapters. Two of the chapters (8 and 13) include role-playing exercises. Appendix A, “Analyzing a Case Study,” will introduce you to the reasons business students find such value in cases and will show you how to get the most from the cases included in this book. A rich, interesting case study is always an opportunity to show what you know about business and communication, to learn from your professors and classmates, and to examine the intricate processes at work when humans go into business together. Reading and analyzing a case are always useful, but the more profound insights inevitably come from listening carefully as others discuss and defend their views. Appendix B, “Writing a Case Study,” will provide enough information for you and a small group of classmates to begin researching and writing an original business case on your own.




THE REST IS UP TO YOU What you take from this book and how you use it to become shrewder and more adept at the skills a manager needs most is really up to you. Simply reading the principles, looking through the examples, or talking about the case studies with your friends and classmates won’t be enough. You’ll need to look for ways to apply what you have learned, to put into practice the precepts articulated by successful executives and discussed at length in this book. The joy of developing and using those skills, however, comes in the relationships you will develop and the success you will experience throughout your business career and beyond. They aren’t simply essential skills for learning how to earn a living; they’re strategies for learning how to live.

—James S. O’Rourke, IV




Chapter 1

Management Communication in Transition



This book will argue that management communication is the central skill in the global workplace of the twenty-first century. An understanding of language and its inherent powers, combined with the skill to speak, write, listen, and form interpersonal relationships, will determine whether you will succeed as a manager.

At the midpoint of the twentieth century, management philosopher Peter Drucker wrote, “Managers have to learn to know language, to understand what words are and what they mean. Perhaps most important, they have to acquire respect for language as [our] most precious gift and heritage. The manager must understand the meaning of the old definition of rhetoric as ‘the art which draws men’s hearts to the love of true knowledge.’ ”1

Later in the twentieth century, Harvard Business School professors Robert Eccles and Nitin Nohria reframed Drucker’s view to offer a perspective of management that few others have seen. “To see management in its proper light,” they write, “managers need first to take language seriously.”2 In particular, they argue, a coherent view of management must focus on three issues: the use of rhetoric to achieve a manager’s goals, the shaping of a managerial identity, and taking action to achieve the goals of the organizations that employ us. Above all, they say, “the essence of what management is all about [is] the effective use of language to get things done.”3

The job of becoming a competent, effective manager thus becomes one of understanding language and action. It also involves finding ways to shape how others see and think of you in your role as a manager. A number of noted researchers have examined the important relationship between communication and action within large and complex organizations and conclude that the two are inseparable. Without the right words, used in the right way, it is unlikely that the right actions will ever occur. “Words do matter,” write Eccles and Nohria, “they matter very much. Without words we have no way of expressing strategic concepts, structural forms, or designs for performance measurement systems.” Language, they conclude, “is too important to managers to be taken for granted or, even worse, abused.”4

So, if language is a manager’s key to effective action, the next question is obvious: How good are you at using your language? Your ability to take action—to hire people, to restructure an organization, to launch a new product line—depends entirely on how effectively you use rhetoric, both as a speaker and as a listener. Your effectiveness as a speaker and writer will determine how well you are able to get others to do what you want. And your effectiveness as a listener will determine how well you understand others and can do things for them.



2 Chapter 1 • Management Communication in Transition

This book will examine the role language plays in the life of a manager and the central position occupied by rhetoric in the life of business organizations. In particular, though, this book will help you examine your own skills, abilities, and competencies as you use language, attempt to influence others, and respond to the requirements of your superiors and the organization in which you work. If you think that landing your first really big job is mostly about the grades on your transcript, think again. Communication skills are most often cited as the primary personal attribute employers seek in college graduates, followed by a strong work ethic, teamwork skills, initiative, relating well to others, problem-solving skills, and analytic abilities.5

Management Communication is about the movement of information and the skills that facilitate it—speaking, writing, listening, and processes of critical thinking—but it’s more than just skill, really. It’s also about understanding who you are, who others think you are, and the contributions you as an individual can make to the success of your business. It’s about confidence— the knowledge that you can speak and write well, that you can listen with great skill as others speak, and that you can both seek out and provide the feedback essential to your survival as a manager and a leader.

This chapter will first look at the nature of managerial work, examining the roles managers play and the characteristics of the jobs they hold. We’ll also look at what varies in a manager’s position, what is different from one manager’s job to another. And we’ll look at the management skills you will need to succeed in the years ahead. At the heart of this chapter, though, is the notion that communication, in many ways, is the work of managers, day in and day out. This book goes on to examine the roles of writing and speaking in your life as a manager, as well as other specific applications and challenges you will face as you grow and advance on the job.

WHAT DO MANAGERS DO ALL DAY? If you were to consult a number of management textbooks for advice on the nature of managerial work, many—if not most—would say that managers spend their time engaged in planning, organizing, staffing, directing, coordinating, reporting, and controlling. These activities, as Jane Hannaway found in her study of managers at work, “do not, in fact, describe what managers do.”6 At best they seem to describe vague objectives that managers are continually trying to accomplish. The real world, however, is far from being that simple. The world in which most managers work is a “messy and hectic stream of ongoing activity.”7

Managers are in constant action. Virtually every study of managers in action has found that they “switch frequently from task to task, changing their focus of attention to respond to issues as they arise, and engaging in a large volume of tasks of short duration.”8 Professor Harvey Mintzberg of McGill University observed CEOs on the job to get some idea of what they do and how they spend their time. He found, for instance, that they averaged 36 written and 16 verbal contacts per day, almost every one of them dealing with a distinct or different issue. Most of these activities were brief, lasting less than nine minutes.9

Harvard Business School professor John Kotter studied a number of successful general managers over a five-year period and found that they spend most of their time with others, including subordinates, their bosses, and numerous people from outside the organization. Kotter’s study found that the average manager spent just 25 percent of his or her time working alone, and that time was spent largely at home, on airplanes, or commuting. Few of them spend less than 70 percent of their time with others, and some spend up to 90 percent of their working time this way.10

Kotter also found that the breadth of topics in their discussions with others was extremely wide, with unimportant issues taking time alongside important business matters. His study revealed



Chapter 1 • Management Communication in Transition 33

that managers rarely make “big decisions” during these conversations and rarely give orders in a traditional sense. They often react to others’ initiatives and spend substantial amounts of time in unplanned activities that aren’t on their calendars. He found that managers will spend most of their time with others in short, disjointed conversations. “Discussions of a single question or issue rarely last more than ten minutes,” he notes. “It is not at all unusual for a general manager to cover ten unrelated topics in a five-minute conversation.”11 More recently, managers studied by Lee Sproull showed similar patterns. During the course of a day, they engaged in 58 different activities with an average duration of just nine minutes.12. Management Communication A CASE-ANALYSIS APPROACH

Interruptions also appear to be a natural part of the job. Rosemary Stewart found that the managers she studied could work uninterrupted for half an hour only nine times during the four weeks she studied them.13 Managers, in fact, spend very little time by themselves. Contrary to the image offered by management textbooks, they are rarely alone drawing up plans or worrying about important decisions. Instead, they spend most of their time interacting with others—both inside and outside the organization. If you include casual interactions in hallways, phone conversations, one- on-one meetings, and larger group meetings, managers spend about two-thirds of their time with other people.14 As Mintzberg has pointed out, “Unlike other workers, the manager does not leave the telephone or the meeting to get back to work. Rather, these contacts are his work.”15

The interactive nature of management means that most management work is conversational.16 When managers are in action, they are talking and listening. Studies on the nature of managerial work indicate that managers spend about two-thirds to three-quarters of their time in verbal activity.17 These verbal conversations, according to Eccles and Nohria, are the means by which managers gather information, stay on top of things, identify problems, negotiate shared meanings, develop plans, put things in motion, give orders, assert authority, develop relationships, and spread gossip. In short, they are what the manager’s daily practice is all about. “Through other forms of talk, such as speeches and presentations,” they write, “managers establish definitions and meanings for their own actions and give others a sense of what the organization is about, where it is at, and what it is up to.”18

THE ROLES MANAGERS PLAY In Professor Mintzberg’s seminal study of managers and their jobs, he found the majority of them clustered around three core management roles.

INTERPERSONAL ROLES Managers are required to interact with a substantial number of people in the course of a workweek. They host receptions; take clients and customers to dinner; meet with business prospects and partners; conduct hiring and performance interviews; and form alliances, friendships, and personal relationships with many others. Numerous studies have shown that such relationships are the richest source of information for managers because of their immediate and personal nature.19

Three of a manager’s roles arise directly from formal authority and involve basic interpersonal relationships. First is the figurehead role. As the head of an organizational unit, every manager must perform some ceremonial duties. In Mintzberg’s study, chief executives spent 12 percent of their contact time on ceremonial duties; 17 percent of their incoming mail dealt with acknowledgments and requests related to their status. One example is a company president who requested free merchandise for a handicapped schoolchild.20

Managers are also responsible for the work of the people in their unit, and their actions in this regard are directly related to their role as a leader. The influence of managers is most clearly seen,



4 Chapter 1 • Management Communication in Transition

according to Mintzberg, in the leader role. Formal authority vests them with great potential power. Leadership determines, in large part, how much power they will realize.21

Does the leader’s role matter? Ask the employees of Chrysler Corporation (now DaimlerChrysler). When Lee Iacocca took over the company in the 1980s, the once-great auto manufacturer was in bankruptcy, teetering on the verge of extinction. He formed new relationships with the United Auto Workers, reorganized the senior management of the company, and—perhaps, most importantly—convinced the U.S. federal government to guarantee a series of bank loans that would make the company solvent again. The loan guarantees, the union response, and the reaction of the marketplace were due in large measure to Iacocca’s leadership style and personal charisma. More recent examples include the return of Starbucks founder Howard Schultz to re-energize and steer his company, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his ability to innovate during a downturn in the economy.22

Popular management literature has had little to say about the liaison role until recently. This role, in which managers establish and maintain contacts outside the vertical chain of command, becomes especially important in view of the finding of virtually every study of managerial work that managers spend as much time with peers and other people outside of their units as they do with their own subordinates. Surprisingly, they spend little time with their own superiors. In Rosemary Stewart’s study, 160 British middle and top managers spent 47 percent of their time with peers, 41 percent of their time with people inside their unit, and only 12 percent of their time with superiors.23 Robert H. Guest’s study of U.S. manufacturing supervisors revealed similar findings.24

INFORMATIONAL ROLES Managers are required to gather, collate, analyze, store, and disseminate many kinds of information. In doing so, they become information resource centers, often storing huge amounts of information in their own heads, moving quickly from the role of gatherer to the role of disseminator in minutes. Although many business organizations install large, expensive information technology systems to perform many of those functions, nothing can match the speed and intuitive power of a well-trained manager’s brain for information processing. Not surprisingly, most managers prefer it that way.25

As monitors, managers are constantly scanning the environment for information, talking with liaison contacts and subordinates, and receiving unsolicited information, much of it as a result of their network of personal contacts. A good portion of this information arrives in oral form, often as gossip, hearsay, and speculation.26

In the disseminator role, managers pass privileged information directly to subordinates, who might otherwise have no access to it. Managers must not only decide who should receive such information, but how much of it, how often, and in what form. Increasingly, managers are being asked to decide whether subordinates, peers, customers, business partners, and others should have direct access to information 24 hours a day without having to contact the manager directly.

In the spokesperson role, managers send information to people outside of their organizations: An executive makes a speech to lobby for an organizational cause, or a supervisor suggests a product modification to a supplier. Increasingly, managers are also being asked to deal with representatives of the news media, providing both factual and opinion-based responses that will be printed, broadcast, or posted to vast unseen audiences, often directly or with little editing. The risks in such circumstances are enormous, but so too are the potential rewards in terms of brand recognition, public image, and organizational visibility.

DECISIONAL ROLES Ultimately, managers are charged with the responsibility of making decisions on behalf of both the organization and the stakeholders with an interest in it. Such decisions are often



Chapter 1 • Management Communication in Transition 55

made under circumstances of high ambiguity and with inadequate information. Often, the other two managerial roles—interpersonal and informational—will assist a manager in making difficult decisions in which outcomes are not clear and interests are often conflicting.

In the role of entrepreneur, managers seek to improve their businesses, adapt to changing market conditions, and react to opportunities as they present themselves. Managers who take a longer-term view of their responsibilities are among the first to realize that they will need to reinvent themselves, their product and service lines, their marketing strategies, and their ways of doing business as older methods become obsolete and competitors gain advantage.

While the entrepreneur role describes managers who initiate change, the disturbance or crisis handler role depicts managers who must involuntarily react to conditions. Crises can arise because bad managers let circumstances deteriorate or spin out of control, but just as often good managers find themselves in the midst of a crisis that they could not have anticipated but must react to just the same.

The third decisional role of resource allocator involves managers making decisions about who gets what, how much, when, and why. Resources, including funding, equipment, human labor, office or production space, and even the boss’s time are all limited, and demand inevitably outstrips supply. Managers must make sensible decisions about such matters while still retaining, motivating, and developing the best of their employees.

The final decisional role is that of negotiator. Managers spend considerable amounts of time in negotiations: over budget allocations, labor and collective bargaining agreements, and other formal dispute resolutions. In the course of a week, managers will often make dozens of decisions that are the result of brief but important negotiations between and among employees, customers and clients, suppliers, and others with whom managers must deal.27


TIME IS FRAGMENTED Managers have acknowledged from antiquity that they never seem to have enough time to get all those things done that need to be done. In the early years of the twenty-first century, however, a new phenomenon arose: Demand for time from those in leadership roles increased, while the number of hours in a day remained constant. Increased work hours was one reaction to such demand, but managers quickly discovered that the day had just 24 hours and that working more of them produced diminishing marginal returns. According to one researcher, “Managers are overburdened with obligations yet cannot easily delegate their tasks. As a result, they are driven to overwork and forced to do many tasks superficially. Brevity, fragmentation, and verbal communication characterize their work.”28

VALUES COMPETE AND THE VARIOUS ROLES ARE IN TENSION Managers clearly cannot satisfy everyone. Employees want more time to do their jobs; customers want products and services delivered quickly and at high-quality levels. Supervisors want more money to spend on equipment, training, and product development; shareholders want returns on investment maximized. A manager caught in the middle cannot deliver to each of these people what each most wants; decisions are often based on the urgency of the need and the proximity of the problem.

THE JOB IS OVERLOADED In recent years, many North American and global businesses were reorganized to make them more efficient, nimble, and competitive. For the most part, this reorganization meant decentralizing many processes along with the wholesale elimination of middle management layers. Many managers who survived such downsizing found that their number of



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direct reports had doubled. Classical management theory suggests that seven is the maximum number of direct reports a manager can reasonably handle. Today, high-speed information technology and remarkably efficient telecommunication systems mean that many managers have as many as 20 or 30 people reporting to them directly.

EFFICIENCY IS A CORE SKILL With less time than they need, with time fragmented into increasingly smaller units during the workday, with the workplace following many managers out the door and even on vacation, and with many more responsibilities loaded onto managers in downsized, flatter organizations, efficiency has become the core management skill of the twenty-first century.


THE ENTREPRENEUR ROLE IS GAINING IMPORTANCE Managers must increasingly be aware of threats and opportunities in their environment. Threats include technological breakthroughs on the part of competitors, obsolescence in a manager’s organization, and dramatically shortened product cycles. Opportunities might include product or service niches that are underserved, out-of-cycle hiring opportunities, mergers, purchases, or upgrades in equipment, space, or other assets. Managers who are carefully attuned to the marketplace and competitive environment will look for opportunities to gain an advantage.

SO IS THE LEADER ROLE Managers must be more sophisticated as strategists and mentors. A manager’s job involves much more than simple caretaking in a division of a large organization. Unless you are able to attract, train, motivate, retain, and promote good people, your organization cannot possibly hope to gain advantage over the competition. Thus, as leaders, managers must constantly act as mentors to those in the organization with promise and potential. When you lose a highly capable worker, all else in your world will come to a halt until you can replace that worker. Even if you should find someone ideally suited and superbly qualified for a vacant position, you must still train, motivate, and inspire that new recruit, and you must live with the knowledge that productivity levels will be lower for a while than they were with your previous employee.

MANAGERS MUST CREATE A LOCAL VISION AS THEY HELP PEOPLE GROW The company’s Web site, annual report and those slick-paper brochures your sales force hands to customers may articulate the vision, values, and beliefs of the company. But what do those concepts really mean to workers at your location? What does a competitive global strategy mean to your staff at 8:00 A.M. on Monday? Somehow, you must create a local version of that strategy, explaining in practical and understandable terms what your organization or unit is all about and how the work of your employees fits into the larger picture.

MANAGEMENT SKILLS REQUIRED FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY The twenty-first century workplace requires three types of skills, each of which will be useful at different points in your career.

TECHNICAL SKILLS These are most valuable at the entry level, but less valuable at more senior levels. Organizations hire people for their technical expertise: Can you assess the market value of a commercial office building? Can you calculate a set of net present values? Are you experienced in the use of C++ or SAP/R3 software? These skill sets, however, constantly change and can become



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quickly outdated. What gets you in the door of a large organization won’t necessarily get you promoted.

RELATING SKILLS These are valuable across the managerial career span and are more likely to help you progress and be promoted to higher levels of responsibility. These skills, which help you to form relationships, are at the heart of what management communication is about: reading, writing, speaking, listening, and thinking about how you can help others and how they can help you as the demands of your job shift and increase at the same time. Management Communication A CASE-ANALYSIS APPROACH

CONCEPTUAL SKILLS These skills are least valuable at the entry level, but more valuable at senior levels in the organization. They permit you to look past the details of today’s work assignment and see the bigger picture. Successful managers who hope to become executives in the highest levels of a business must begin, at a relatively early age, to develop the ability to see beyond the horizon and ask long-term questions. If you haven’t formed the relationships that will help you get promoted, however, you may not be around long enough to have an opportunity to use your conceptual skills.

TALK IS THE WORK Managers across industries, according to Deirdre Borden, spend about 75 percent of their time in verbal interaction.29 Those daily interactions include the following:

ONE-ON-ONE CONVERSATIONS Increasingly, managers find that information is passed orally, often face-to-face in offices, hallways, conference rooms, cafeterias, rest rooms, athletic facilities, parking lots, and literally dozens of other venues. An enormous amount of information is exchanged, validated, confirmed, and passed back and forth under highly informal circumstances.

TELEPHONE CONVERSATIONS Managers spend an astounding amount of time on the telephone these days. Curiously, the amount of time per telephone call is decreasing, but the number of calls per day is increasing. With the nearly universal availability of cellular, satellite, and online telephone service, very few people are out of reach of the office for very long. The decision to switch off your cellular telephone, in fact, is now considered a decision in favor of work-life balance.

VIDEO TELECONFERENCING Bridging time zones as well as cultures, videoconferencing facilities make direct conversations with employees, colleagues, customers, and business partners across the nation or around the world a simple matter. Carrier Corporation, the air-conditioning manufacturer, is now typical of firms using desktop videoconferencing to conduct everything from staff meetings to technical training. Engineers at Carrier’s Farmington, Connecticut, headquarters can hook up with service managers in branch offices thousands of miles away to explain new product developments, demonstrate repair techniques, and update field staff on matters that would, just recently, have required extensive travel or expensive, broadcast-quality television programming. Their exchanges are informal, conversational, and not much different than they would be if both people were in the same room.30

PRESENTATIONS TO SMALL GROUPS Managers frequently find themselves making presentations, formal and informal, to groups of three-to-eight people for many different reasons: They pass along information given to them by executives; they review the status of projects in process; they explain changes in everything from working schedules to organizational goals. Such presentations are



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sometimes supported by PowerPoint slides or printed outlines, but they are oral in nature and retain much of the conversational character of one-to-one conversations.

PUBLIC SPEAKING TO LARGER AUDIENCES Most managers are unable to escape the periodic requirement to speak to larger audiences of several dozen or, perhaps, several hundred people. Such presentations are usually more formal in structure and are frequently supported by PowerPoint or Corel software that can deliver data from text files, graphics, and photos, and even motion clips from streaming video. Despite the more formal atmosphere and sophisticated audio–visual support systems, such presentations still involve one manager talking to others, framing, shaping, and passing information to an audience.

THE MAJOR CHANNELS OF MANAGEMENT COMMUNICATION ARE TALKING AND LISTENING A series of scientific studies, beginning with Rankin in 1926,31 and later with Nichols and Stevens (1957)32 and Wolvin and Coakley (1982),33 serve to confirm what each of us knows intuitively: Most managers spend the largest portion of their day talking and listening. E. K. Werner’s thesis at the University of Maryland, in fact, found that North American adults spend more than 78 percent of their communication time either talking or listening to others who are talking.34

According to Werner and others who study the communication habits of postmodern business organizations, managers are involved in more than just speeches and presentations from the dais or teleconference podium. They spend their days in meetings, on the telephone, conducting interviews, giving tours, supervising informal visits to their facilities, and at a wide variety of social events.

Each of these activities may look to some managers like an obligation imposed by the job. Shrewd managers see them as opportunities to hear what others are thinking, to gather information informally from the grapevine, to listen in on office gossip, to pass along viewpoints that haven’t yet made their way to the more formal channels of communication, or to catch up with a colleague or friend in a more relaxed setting. No matter what the intention of each manager who engages in these activities, the information they produce and the insight that follows from them can be put to work the same day to achieve organizational and personal objectives. “To understand why effective managers behave as they do,” writes Prof. John Kotter, “it is essential first to recognize two fundamental challenges and dilemmas found in most of their jobs.” Managers must first figure out what to do, despite an enormous amount of potentially relevant information (along with much that is not), and then they must get things done “through a large and diverse group of people despite having little direct control over most of them.”35

THE ROLE OF WRITING Writing plays an important role in the life of any organization. In some organizations, it becomes more important than in others. At Procter & Gamble, for example, brand managers cannot raise a work-related issue in a team meeting unless the ideas are first circulated in writing. For P&G managers, this approach means explaining their ideas in explicit detail in a standard one-to-three- page memo, complete with background, financial discussion, implementation details, and justification for the ideas proposed.

Other organizations are more oral in their traditions—3M Canada comes to mind as a “spoken” organization—but the fact remains: The most important projects, decisions, and ideas end up in writing. Writing also provides analysis, justification, documentation, and analytic discipline,



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particularly as managers approach important decisions that will affect the profitability and strategic direction of the company.

WRITING IS A CAREER SIFTER If you demonstrate your inability to put ideas on paper in a clear, unambiguous fashion, you’re not likely to last. Stories of bad writers who’ve been shown the door early in their careers are legion. Your principal objective, at least during the first few years of your own career, is to keep your name out of such stories. Remember, those who are most likely to notice the quality and skill in your written documents are the very people most likely to matter to your future.

MANAGERS DO MOST OF THEIR OWN WRITING AND EDITING The days when managers could lean back and thoughtfully dictate a letter or memo to a skilled secretarial assistant are mostly gone. Some senior executives know how efficient dictation can be, especially with a top-notch administrative assistant taking shorthand, but how many managers have that advantage today? Very few, mostly because buying a computer and printer is substantially cheaper than hiring another employee. Managers at all levels of most organizations draft, review, edit, and dispatch their own correspondence, reports, and proposals.

DOCUMENTS TAKE ON LIVES OF THEIR OWN Once it’s gone from your desk, it isn’t yours anymore. When you sign a letter and put it in the mail, it’s no longer your letter—it’s the property of the person or organization you sent it to. As a result, the recipient is free to do as he or she sees fit with your writing, including using it against you. If your ideas are ill-considered or not well expressed, others in the organization who are not especially sympathetic to your views may head for the copy machine with your work in hand. The advice for you is simple: Don’t mail your first draft, and don’t ever sign your name to a document you’re not proud of.

COMMUNICATION IS INVENTION Without question, communication is a process of invention. Managers literally create meaning through communication. A company, for example, is not in default until a team of auditors sits down to examine the books and review the matter. Only after extended discussion do the accountants come to the conclusion that the company is, in fact, in default. It is their discussion that creates the outcome. Until that point, default was simply one of many possibilities.

The fact is managers create meaning through communication. It is largely through discussion and verbal exchange—often heated and passionate—that managers decide who they wish to be: market leaders, takeover artists, innovators, or defenders of the economy. It is only through communication that meaning is created for shareholders, for employees, for customers, and others. Those long, detailed, and intense discussions determine how much the company will declare in dividends this year, whether the company is willing to risk a strike or labor action, and how soon to roll out the new product line customers are asking for. Additionally, it is important to note that managers usually figure things out by talking about them as much as they talk about the things they have already figured out. Talk serves as a wonderful palliative: justifying, dissecting, reassuring, and analyzing the events that confront managers each day.



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INFORMATION IS SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED If we are to understand just how important human discourse is in the life of a business, several points seem especially important.

INFORMATION IS CREATED, SHARED, AND INTERPRETED BY PEOPLE Meaning is a truly human phenomenon. An issue is only important if people think it is. Facts are facts only if we can agree upon their definition. Perceptions and assumptions are as important as truth itself in a discussion about what a manager should do next.36

INFORMATION NEVER SPEAKS FOR ITSELF It is not uncommon for a manager to rise to address a group of his colleagues and say, “Ladies and gentlemen, the numbers speak for themselves.” Frankly, the numbers never speak for themselves. They almost always require some sort of interpretation, some sort of explanation or context. Don’t assume that others see the facts in the same way you do and never assume that what you see is the truth. Others may see the same set of facts or evidence but may not reach the same conclusions. Few things in life are self-explanatory.

CONTEXT ALWAYS DRIVES MEANING The backdrop to a message is always of paramount importance to the listener, viewer, or reader in reaching a reasonable, rational conclusion about what she sees and hears. What’s in the news these days as we take up this particular subject? What moment in history do we occupy? What related or relevant information is under consideration as this new message arrives? We cannot possibly derive meaning from one message without considering everything else that surrounds it.

A MESSENGER ALWAYS ACCOMPANIES A MESSAGE It is difficult to separate a message from its messenger. We often want to react more to the source of the information than we do to the information itself. That’s natural and entirely normal. People speak for a reason, and we often judge their reasons for speaking before analyzing what they have to say. Keep in mind that, in every organization, message recipients will judge the value, power, purpose, intent, and outcomes of the messages they receive by the source of those messages as much as by the content and intent of the messages themselves. If the messages you send as a manager are to have the impact you hope they will, they must come from a source the receiver knows, respects, and understands.

YOUR GREATEST CHALLENGE Every manager knows communication is vital, but every manager also seems to “know” that he or she is great at it. Your greatest challenge is to admit to flaws in your skill set and work tirelessly to improve them. First, you must admit to the flaws.

T. J. Larkin and Sandar Larkin, in a book entitled Communicating Change: Winning Employee Support for New Business Goals, write: “Deep down, managers believe they are communicating effectively. In ten years of management consulting, we have never had a manager say to us that he or she was a poor communicator. They admit to the occasional screw-up, but overall, everyone, without exception, believes he or she is basically a good communicator.”37



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YOUR TASK AS A PROFESSIONAL As a professional manager, your first task is to recognize and understand your strengths and weaknesses as a communicator. Until you identify those communication tasks at which you are most and least skilled, you’ll have little opportunity for improvement and advancement.

Foremost among your goals should be to improve existing skills. Improve your ability to do what you do best. Be alert to opportunities, however, to develop new skills. Add to your inventory of abilities to keep yourself employable and promotable.

Two other suggestions come to mind for improving your professional standing as a manager. First, acquire a knowledge base that will work for the years ahead. That means speaking with and listening to other professionals in your company, your industry, and your community. Be alert to trends that could affect your products and services, as well as your own future.

It also means reading. You should read at least one national newspaper each day, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, or the Financial Times, as well as a local newspaper. Your reading should include weekly news magazines, such as Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and the Economist. Subscribe to monthly magazines such as Forbes and Fortune. And you should read at least one new hardcover title a month. A dozen books each year is the bare minimum on which you should depend for new ideas, insights, and managerial guidance.

Your final challenge is to develop the confidence you will need to succeed as a manager, particularly under conditions of uncertainty, change, and challenge.

For Further Reading Axley, S. R. Communication at Work: Management

and the Communication-Intensive Organization. Westport, CT: Quorum Books, 1996.

Christensen, L. T., Morsing, M., and Cheney, G. Corporate Communications: Convention, Complexity, and Critique. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., 2008.

Clutterbuck, D. and Hirst, S. Talking Business: Making Communication Work. Burlington, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2002.

Drucker, P. F. Management Challenges for the 21st Century. New York: HarperBusiness, 1999.

Ferguson, N. The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World. New York: The Penguin Press, 2008.

Hamel, G. and Breen, B. The Future of Management. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2007.

Krisco, K. H. Leadership and the Art of Conversation. Schoolcraft, MI: Prima Publishing, 1997.

Mintzberg, H. Managing. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2009.

Van Riel, C. B. M. and Fombrun, C. J. Essentials of Corporate Communication. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Wishard, W. V. D. Between Two Ages: The 21st Century and the Crisis of Meaning. Washington, DC: Xlibris Corporation, 2000.


Endnotes 1. Drucker, P. F. The Practice of Management.

New York: Harper &amp, Row, 1954. 2. Eccles, R. G. and N. Nohria. Beyond the Hype:

Rediscovering the Essence of Management. Boston, MA: The Harvard Business School Press, 1992, p. 205.

3. Ibid., p. 211.

4. Ibid., p. 209. 5. Job Outlook 2008. National Association of

Colleges and Employers, Chart A. 6. Hannaway, J. Managers Managing: The

Workings of an Administrative System. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989, p. 39.

7. Eccles and Nohria. Beyond the Hype, p. 47.



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8. Hannaway. Managers Managing, p. 37. See also J. P. Kotter. The General Managers. New York: The Free Press, 1982.

9. Mintzberg, H. The Nature of Managerial Work. New York: Harper &amp, Row, 1973, p. 31. See also: Mintzberg, H. Managing. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2009.

10. Reprinted by permission of Harvard Business Review from Kotter, J. P. “What Effective General Managers Really Do,” Harvard Business Review, March–April 1999, pp. 145– 159. Copyright © 1999 by the Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation; all rights reserved.

11. Kotter. “What Effective General Managers Really Do,” p. 148.

12. Sproull, L. S. “The Nature of Managerial Attention,” in L. S. Sproull (ed.), Advances in Information Processing in Organizations. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1984, p. 15.

13. Stewart, R. Managers and Their Jobs. London: Macmillan, 1967.

14. Eccles and Nohria. Beyond the Hype, p. 47. 15. Mintzberg. The Nature of Managerial Work,

p. 44 (emphasis mine). 16. Pondy, L. R. “Leadership Is a Language

Game,” in M. W. McCall, Jr. and M. M. Lombardo (eds.), Leadership: Where Else Can We Go? Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1978, pp. 87–99.

17. Mintzberg. The Nature of Managerial Work, p. 38.

18. Eccles and Nohria. Beyond the Hype, pp. 47–48.

19. Reprinted by permission of Harvard Business Review from Mintzberg, H. “The Manager’s Job: Folklore and Fact.” Harvard Business Review, March–April 1990, pp. 166–167. Copyright © 1990 by the Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

20. Mintzberg. “The Manager’s Job,” p. 167.

21. Ibid., p. 168. 22. McGregor, J. “Bezos: How Frugality Drives

Innovation,” BusinessWeek, April 28, 2008, pp. 64–66.

23. Stewart, R. Managers and Their Jobs. London: Macmillan, 1967.

24. Guest, R. H. “Of Time and the Foreman,” Personnel, May 1956, p. 478.

25. Mintzberg. “The Manager’s Job,” pp. 166–167. 26. Ibid., pp. 168, 170. 27. Ibid., pp. 167–171. 28. Ibid., p. 167. 29. Borden, D. The Business of Talk: Organi-

zations in Action. New York: Blackwell, 1995. 30. Ziegler, B. “Video Conference Calls Change

Business,” Wall Street Journal, October 13, 1994, pp. B1, B12. Reprinted by permission of Wall Street Journal, Copyright © 1994 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

31. Rankin, P. T. “The Measurement of the Ability to Understand Spoken Language” (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan, 1926). Dissertation Abstracts 12, No. 6 (1952), pp. 847–848.

32. Nichols, R. G. and L. Stevens. Are You Listening? New York: McGraw-Hill, 1957.

33. Wolvin, A. D. and C. G. Coakley. Listening. Dubuque, IA: Wm. C. Brown and Co., 1982.

34. Werner, E. K. “A Study of Communication Time” (M.S. thesis, University of Maryland, College Park, 1975), p. 26.

35. Kotter. “What Effective General Managers Really Do,” pp. 145–159.

36. Searle, J. R. The Construction of Social Reality. New York: The Free Press, 1995. See also Berger, P. L. and T. Luckmann. The Social Construction of Reality. New York: Doubleday, 1967.

37. Larkin, T. J. and S. Larkin. Communicating Change: Winning Employee Support for New Business Goals. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994.



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CASE STUDY 1-1 Odwalla, Inc. (A) Stephen Williamson’s worst nightmares were about to come true. As chief executive officer of Odwalla, Incorporated, he was at the helm of a company worth nearly $400 million whose products in the premium juice market were widely regarded by customers and competitors alike for quality and freshness. The company’s reputation was solid throughout the Pacific Northwest, but the press release on his desk was filled with nothing but bad news.

Williamson had just met with his corporate communication director, reviewed the crisis communication plan, and was now applying the last few corrections to a press release before faxing it to PR Newswire. The date was October 30, 1996, and less than an hour ago, the Seattle–King County Department of Public Health and the Washington State Department of Health had reported an outbreak of E. coli (0157-H7) infections that were “epidemiologically” associated with drinking Odwalla apple juices and mixes. More specifically, the public health physicians had uncovered a direct link between people who had the infection and those who had consumed Odwalla’s product. Some 66 people had become sick from drinking Odwalla juices in recent weeks.

E. coli Bacteria

Escherichia coli is a species of microscopic bacteria named for the German biologist who discovered it during the early 1900s. Virtually all large animals, including humans, benignly host some form of the bacterium in their large intestinal tracts. But a particularly virulent form of the organism, known specifically as 0157-H7, can sicken and kill those whose immune systems may be compromised.

E. coli 0157-H7 can grow quickly in uncooked food products, including meat, cheeses, fruit, dairy products, and juices. The bacteria may be completely destroyed, however, by heat or radiation. If meats are cooked to a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, or if juices and other potable liquids are pasteurized, the danger posed by such organisms is dramatically reduced or eliminated completely. For example, consumers can assume “frozen concentrate” juices are

free from bacteria because their preparation requires heating to 170 degrees.

Odwalla’s juice products, however, were not pasteurized. E. coli and other harmful bacteria were kept at bay with a multistep production process that selected only the finest fresh fruit, washed each piece twice, and then refrigerated the squeezings to slow the growth of microorganisms. Deliveries were made to retailers each day in refrigerated trucks, and products were displayed and sold from special Odwalla coolers. The process was repeated each business day, with the previous day’s unsold products gathered up by Odwalla’s drivers and returned to the plant for disposal. Thus, the product customers bought from Odwalla retailers each day was guaranteed to be fresh-squeezed that very day—a feature that loyal customers willingly paid premium prices to obtain.

The question remained: How could the lethal strain of E. coli bacteria get into Odwalla juice? How could the careful, meticulous production process have failed? Over the past 16 years, Williamson and the company’s founder, Greg Steltenpohl, and the Odwalla team had worked hard to establish a stellar reputation for the company and their premium, trendy products. Yet, all of their hard work was at this moment on the line. The future of their growing company would depend on how Williamson and his senior team reacted to events over the next few hours. Gathering the papers on his desk, he took a deep breath and began dialing fax numbers.

Odwalla, Incorporated

Greg Steltenpohl, his wife Bonnie Bassett, and a friend named Gerry Percy founded Odwalla in September of 1980. A backyard shed served as the manufacturing facility for three longtime friends, who used a $200 hand-juicer (purchased with borrowed funds) and one box of oranges to make freshly squeezed orange juice. They distributed the juice to local restaurants in a Volkswagen microbus, earning just enough profits from their first day of business to purchase two more boxes of oranges for the next day’s run. Thus, began this fruit juice empire.

Over the years, the Santa Cruz–based company had grown to become the leading Western United States supplier of freshly squeezed fruit juices. Currently, it markets more than 20 flavors of juice, smoothies, and



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vitamin-packed drinks. “If it’s not fresh squeezed, then it’s not part of Odwalla . . .” said Steltenpohl. In 1993, Odwalla went public and sales skyrocketed from $9 million in 1991 to $59 million in 1996. Odwalla had experienced approximately 40 percent annual sales growth during those five years.

Steltenpohl, Bassett, and Percy’s entrepreneurial inspiration was a suggestion drawn from a paperback tradebook entitled 100 Businesses You Can Start for Under $100. Based on their concerns about social trends and environmental issues, the founders decided to create a company with a social conscience. The name Odwalla came from a musical piece by The Art Ensemble of Chicago, in which the hero Odwalla

guides his followers from the gray haze. Similarly, during a hazy gray time in the processed foods business, this company could guide their customers, friends, and neighbors by providing fresh citrus alternatives.

The vision of Odwalla encompasses the idea of “nourishing the whole body.” The foundation of the company had been maintained through Odwalla’s dedication to providing superior fresh fruit juices, preserving the product. The environment, and fostering community relationships. This people-centered approach is focused both internally on employees and shareholders as well as externally on customers and the broader community.



A Diverse Product Line

The diverse product offerings of fruit juices, smoothies, all natural meal replacements, quenchers, and geothermal natural spring water comprise what Odwalla terms Nourishing Beverages. The core competencies of the organization involve the use of minimal production processes to deliver superior taste and nutritional value as compared with concentrate and artificially flavored substitutes. This is accomplished through strict quality production systems, selective agreements with suppliers and vendors, and the continued adaptation to changing consumer tastes and preferences. Moreover, the

nutritional value and flavor qualities are complemented by artful packaging.

The product line is distributed throughout California, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, New Mexico, Texas, and Nevada. Despite this large seven- state territory, a company goal remains to deliver “day of juicing quality.” Such stringent standards preserve both the nutritional and flavor integrity. Thus, the shelf life of the fruit and vegetable products is limited to between eight and seventeen days after retail purchase.

The fruity flavors, outrageous names, and all- natural ingredients have allowed the company to



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achieve tremendous success based on the health benefits derived from consumption of the product. Their products have attracted a loyal customer base of health-conscious adults seeking nutritious vitamin supplements but also are extremely popular among young children. Parents, aware of the nutritional goodness of Odwalla juices, see them as a healthy alternative to other commercially prepared fruit drinks.

Odwalla’s “All Natural” Production Process

Odwalla has strategically differentiated itself based on the “all-natural” composite of their products. The company uses strictly pure fruit extracts in the creation of their juices, smoothies, and vitamin supplements. However, the “all-natural” base of Odwalla’s products holds implications for virtually every aspect of the procurement and production processes. For example, the majority of their fruit is grown in the state of Washington. The seasonal nature of the fruit industry, however, necessitates a switch at some point in the season to less expensive California fruit.

As part of their purchasing agreement, Odwalla mandates that all of the fruit they purchase be handpicked. This reduces the number of bruised and rotten pieces received in the shipments. Aside from the actual procurement of basic ingredients, the company also maintains both a production and quality control division. The production division is responsible for overseeing the creation of the product. This division not only employs people to run the presses, mix the ingredients, and bottle the juices but also employs “sorters” whose main function is to determine which pieces of fruit are acceptable for production. The company uses a quality control division to monitor all processes and uphold strict safety guidelines.

Though 98 percent of the nation’s fruit juice went through a pasteurization process, Odwalla’s products were unpasteurized. Steltenpohl feared that the use of a pasteurization process and other cleaning agents would kill important nutrients and detract from the taste of the final product. “Absolute freshness,” he observed, “is a key component of Odwalla’s product offering.”

Production versus Quality

In mid-1995, juice makers in Florida were hit by an outbreak of salmonella in orange juice served at Walt Disney World. This outbreak sickened more than 60 children and adults. Consequently, the state of Florida drafted strict rules that required larger juice companies to take additional measures to ensure the safety of their production processes. As a California-based company, Odwalla was under no obligation to adhere to these standards, and very few juice companies outside of Florida actually did.

In early 1996, Odwalla hired two managers from the Florida juice industry. One of them, Dave Stevenson, who oversaw quality assurance, suggested that Odwalla add a chlorine-based rinse for precautionary measures. However, the other executive, Chip Beetle, feared chlorine would leave an aftertaste and was simply not necessary. Williamson agreed and Odwalla continued with their previous procurement, production, and distribution processes. By the summer of 1996, business was booming. In fact, sales were so strong that Odwalla was struggling to keep up with the demand for their product. Some former company officials say that production demands became more important than safety concerns.

Will an Apple a Day Keep the Doctor Away?

Throughout the 1990s, as consumers became more health conscious and supportive of environmentally sensitive causes, Odwalla’s sales exploded. In addition to being passionate about Odwalla juice products, Odwalla’s extremely loyal customers identified with the company’s wholesome mission and social values. During the three years preceding the crisis, Odwalla expanded rapidly and achieved 40 percent annual earnings growth.

As Steve Williamson returned to his office, he picked up the phone and dialed the director of corporate communication’s extension. When she answered, he simply said, “I sent the press release. What do we do now?”



16 Chapter 1 • Management Communication in Transition




1. What are the key communication issues for Odwalla?

2. How can the communication strategy focus on retaining consumer confidence?

3. Does Odwalla appear to have an effective crisis management system in place?

4. How should a company such as Odwalla go about developing guidelines before a crisis occurs?

5. Does a company such as Odwalla have a responsibility to change its production processes?

6. If the things Odwalla is saying about itself (in its advertising and its core values) are really true, what should they do? What’s their next move?


Please respond in writing to the issues presented in this case by preparing two documents: a communication strategy memo and a professional business letter.

In preparing these documents, you may assume one of two roles: you may identify yourself as an Odwalla manager who has been asked to provide advice to Stephen Williamson regarding the issues he and the company are facing. Or, you may identify yourself as an external management consultant who has been asked by the company to provide advice to Williamson.

Either way, you must prepare a strategy memo addressed to Stephen Williamson, President and Chief

Operating Officer of the company, that summarizes the details of the case, rank orders critical issues, discusses their implications (what they mean and why they matter), offers specific recommendations for action (assigning ownership and suspense dates for each), and shows how to communicate the solution to all who are affected by the recommendations.

You must also prepare a professional business letter for Williamson’s signature. That document may be addressed to Odwalla retailers or Odwalla retail customers. If you have questions about either of these documents, please consult your instructor.



Chapter 1 • Management Communication in Transition 117




This case was prepared from personal interviews and public sources by Research Assistants Suzanne Halverson, Kristan L. Rake, and Jay Gallagher under the direction of James S. O’Rourke, Concurrent Professor of Management, as the basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation.

Copyright © 1999. Revised: 2002. Eugene D. Fanning Center for Business Communication, Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without permission.

CASE STUDY 1-2 Great West Casualty v. Estate of G. Witherspoon (A) A. C. Zucaro, Chairman and CEO of Old Republic International Corporation, arrived at work on January 15, 1999, and picked up that morning’s edition of The Wall Street Journal, as usual. As he worked deliberately through his first cup of coffee, his well- honed business instincts told him this would be a good day: Interest rates were down, the market was up, and the many subsidiaries of Old Republic were performing well. For the moment, Mr. Zucaro was a happy man.

As he moved to section two of the Journal, his optimism sank. There, on the front page of the Marketplace section, was an article discussing a lawsuit involving a subsidiary of Old Republic, Great West Casualty Company. Nothing new for a company with $2 billion in revenues and nine operating subsidiaries. But Zucaro knew from the headline that this Friday morning would be less pleasant than most: “An Old Woman Crossed the Road, and Litigiousness Sank to New Low.”

The Events of July 1, 1998

On her way to work at 4:30 A.M. on July 1, 1998, 81- year-old Gertrude Witherspoon blew out a tire and careened into a roadside ditch. With her automobile disabled, Mrs. Witherspoon left her car and began walking along U.S. Route 71 near Adrian, Missouri. Still dazed from the accident, she attempted to cross the highway to reach help. At just that moment, two semitrailers traveling almost side by side spotted the small figure in the road as they passed under a bridge. Traveling nearly 70 miles per hour, the truckers were unable to avoid hitting her. According to the police

report, the driver of the rig slammed on his brakes and skidded more than 100 feet. Mrs. Witherspoon was pronounced dead at the scene.

Friends and relatives were stunned and saddened, particularly at Dave’s Wagon Wheel Restaurant, where Mrs. Witherspoon worked 50 hours a week as a waitress. No one took the news harder than Joyce Lang, Mrs. Witherspoon’s only daughter. “The family was crushed,” she said, “and I was determined to find out more about what happened that morning.”

A Relative Contacts the Insurance Company

In the days and weeks following the accident, Ms. Lang sought more information about the accident. She received only indifferent statements from the Missouri Highway Patrol and the truck owner, Rex Williams, of Vernon County Grain & Supply. Frustrated in her attempts to learn more about her mother’s death, Ms. Lang telephoned a claims adjuster at Great West Casualty Company to ask a few questions.

The adjuster at Great West Casualty explained that the police report and witnesses’ statements showed no fault on the part of the truck driver[s]. “Is that all you can tell me?” she asked.

“The case is closed,” the adjuster responded. “Well,” said Ms. Lang, “I can open it.”

Believing the family was preparing legal action against Great West Casualty Company, the claims representative moved to file suit on behalf of his company against Mrs. Witherspoon’s estate. “It was never my intention to sue the company,” Ms. Lang said later. “I did contact an attorney, but it was only to find out what our rights were. We filed no claims or lawsuits.”



18 Chapter 1 • Management Communication in Transition

About five months later—just a few days before Christmas—on December 18, 1998, Joyce Lang received notice of a legal claim filed against the Witherspoon estate for damages to the truck that struck her mother. Specifically, the claim sought $2,886 “on account of property damage caused to a vehicle due to the negligent actions of Gertie Witherspoon on July 1, 1998.”

The local news media first reported this incident on September 4, 1998, when Barbara Shelly, a reporter for the Kansas City Star and an acquaintance of Ms. Lang, wrote a brief article elaborating on the life of Mrs. Witherspoon. By coincidence, Ms. Shelly happened to be speaking with Ms. Lang on the day the claims notice arrived. “Seeing my mother’s name in print like she was a criminal,” said Ms. Lang, “I was devastated.”

Ms. Lang received the notice because she was serving as executor of her mother’s estate. “I’m not paying them for killing my mom,” she said. “I’ll sit in jail first.”

Amazed by the insurance company’s actions, Ms. Shelly wrote a second article discussing the accident and the insurance company’s response. Details in the second article appeared in the January 8, 1999, edition of the Kansas City Star. The story was then picked up by The Wall Street Journal and reported on January 15, 1999 (Attachment 1). It was at that moment that A. C. Zucaro sensed trouble. Covering the claim filed by Rex Williams was a fairly small matter. The more immediate problem for him would be the company’s response to the storm of media criticism.

Old Republic International Corporation

In January 1999, Old Republic International Corporation was a financially strong and efficient insurance enterprise with substantial interests in each segment of the insurance and reinsurance industry. Old Republic International was primarily a commercial line underwriter, serving many of America’s leading industrial and financial services companies as valued customers. For the year ended 1997, the company’s net income was $298 million on revenues of $1.962 billion.

Old Republic International had grown steadily as a specialty insurance business since 1923. The company was regarded as independent and innovative, which was

reflected in its growth. Most Wall Street insurance analysts thought the company’s performance reflected an entrepreneurial spirit, sound forward planning, and an effective corporate structure that promoted and encouraged the assumption of prudent business risks. At the time, Old Republic International had nine subsidiaries across four general business lines, including General Insurance Group, Mortgage Guaranty Group, Title Insurance Group, and Life Insurance Group.

Old Republic International’s corporate communication department consists of one individual who handled investor relations. All other forms of communication were outsourced to a large public relations firm in Chicago, Illinois, that reported directly to the company’s president. The work performed by the public relations firm was financially oriented and included such tasks as preparing annual reports and earnings announcements.

Great West Casualty Company

Great West Casualty Company was an independent subsidiary of Old Republic. Founded in 1956, the company served the special needs of the trucking industry. By 1999, it served 29 states and had regional offices in Boise, Idaho (Western Region); Bloomington, Indiana (Eastern Region); Arlington, Texas (Southern Region); and Knoxville, Tennessee (Southeastern Region). The corporate headquarters in South Sioux City, Nebraska, served the central and northern regions. Great West Casualty employed more than 600 professionals companywide. Their policies included automobile liability, cargo coverage, general liability, inland marine floaters, physical damage, property coverage, umbrellas, and workers’ compensation.

The Great West Casualty communication department also had just one employee, Ms. Leslie Bartholomew. As corporate information director, she handled all communications for the firm. Aside from an operational manual provided by Old Republic International, consisting mostly of general guidelines for handling corporate communication, Great West Casualty made virtually all communication decisions independently.

For Zucaro and his senior team at Old Republic International, the questions were direct and fairly



Chapter 1 • Management Communication in Transition 119



simple: What should they do, how soon should they do it, and how should their actions be communicated? Would they need professional help from a public

relations firm? And, more to the point, what did this series of events say to the company about its corporate communication strategy?


Please respond in writing to the issues presented in this case by preparing two documents: a communication strategy memo and a professional business letter.

In preparing these documents, you may assume one of two roles: you may identify yourself as a corporate officer who has been asked to provide advice to Mr. A. C. Zucaro regarding the issues he and the company are facing. Or, you may identify yourself as an external management consultant who has been asked by the company to provide advice to Mr. Zucaro.

Either way, you must prepare a strategy memo addressed to A. C. Zucaro, Chairman and CEO of Old Republic International, that summarizes the details of the case, rank orders critical issues, discusses their

implications (what they mean and why they matter), offers specific recommendations for action (assigning ownership and suspense dates for each), and shows how to communicate the solution to all who are affected by the recommendations.

You must also prepare a professional business letter for the signature of a corporate officer whom you think is appropriate. That document should be addressed to Ms. Joyce Lang. If you have questions about either of these documents, please consult your instructor.

This case was prepared by Research Assistants Eric Gebbie, John Nemeth, and Jeffrey White under the direction of James S. O’Rourke, Concurrent Professor of Management, as the basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation. Information was gathered from corporate as well as public sources.

Copyright ©1999. Revised: 2011. Eugene D. Fanning Center for Business Communication, Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without permission.

CASE STUDY 1-3 Domino’s “Special” Delivery: Going Viral Through Social Media

“We all have our secret ingredients . . . and in about five minutes they will be sent out on delivery where somebody will be eating these. Yes, eating ‘em. And little did they know that cheese was in his nose and that there was some lethal gas that ended up on their salami. Now, that’s how we roll at Domino’s!”1

Mondays are never anyone’s favorite day to be at work. But, for Tim McIntyre, VP of Corporate Communications at Domino’s Pizza, Monday, April 13, 2009, might rank as the worst Monday he had experienced in his 25 years with the company.2 While wrapping up his workday at the corporate office in Ann Arbor, Michigan, McIntyre received an e-mail alerting him that videos featuring company employees contaminating food in an unidentified store had been

posted on the online video sharing site, YouTube. What had been a quiet day following Easter weekend suddenly turned into the first day of a full-fledged communications and marketing nightmare.

The Nightmare Begins

At 4:30 p.m. on April 13, McIntyre received an e-mail from the webmaster of, a GLBT advocacy blog site, alerting him of the existence of a number of damaging videos the group had discovered posted on YouTube.3 (The GLBT site showed interest in the videos because the words “gay” could be heard several times in the narration.)

After just one viewing, McIntyre knew that the five amateur videos could seriously damage the Domino’s brand, not to mention putting the company at legal risk. He said, “You know what, this is a bad one— they’re in uniform, they’re in the store. We need to do something about it.”4 Each video, recorded by a current female Domino’s Pizza employee featured a male



20 Chapter 1 • Management Communication in Transition

employee performing various acts of food contamination. To make things worse, the director and actor are in full Domino’s uniforms, are at work during normal store hours, and imply in the narrative that the contaminated food will soon be delivered to unsuspect- ing customers. It wouldn’t be until much later that night that McIntyre and team would discover the identity and location of the people responsible for the videos.

Thankfully for Domino’s, Good As You felt obligated to quickly notify corporate headquarters as soon as the videos were found; however, to protect the public, the bloggers also posted the video links on their own site.5 (Refer to Appendix A for McIntyre’s response and correspondence with Good As You.) McIntyre said that this initial notification came about fifteen minutes prior to his corporate social media team discovering the existence of the videos online.6 Within that same hour, another popular consumer affairs blog site,, also posted the videos on their site. Within 24 hours, McIntyre would learn that the most popular video had received 250,000 YouTube views.7 And that was just the beginning—the videos were going viral before McIntyre’s eyes.

McIntyre scanned through the past experiences of his long tenure with Domino’s to recall a situation in which he had dealt with something similar—crimes, accusations, and brand problems—something to use as a reference point on how to proceed. When nothing similar came to mind, he realized that no plans, protocols or off-the-shelf solutions in a communications handbook could help remedy the situation before him.8 It was up to him to pull his team together to face this unprecedented threat. But what should his first step be? And what kind of irreparable damage might Domino’s suffer if he chose the wrong course of action?

The Vulgar Videos

McIntyre credits two savvy readers at The Consumerist who used clues in the videos and innovative geo- mapping and investigative tools to identity the location of the videos’ creators by 11:00 p.m. on Monday, just six-and-a-half hours after the videos originally

surfaced.9 The two culprits in their early 30s, Kristi Hammond and Michael Setzer, turned out to be full- time employees at a Domino’s Pizza franchise location in Conover, North Carolina.

Kristi Hammond Michael Setzer Director/Narrator Actor

Hammond’s “opus piece” is a two minute, twenty-six second video named, “Dominos Pizzas Special Ingrediants” (sic) in which the two employees joke about being lazy workers and mention that their manager is in the back reading a newspaper, as usual. The video shows Setzer in vivid detail passing gas on salami and stuffing cheese for sandwiches up his nose, all while Hammond laughs and jokes in the background about this being business as usual at Domino’s. The camera then pans to the overhead order screen, which Hammond says displays the name of the customer who will receive the delivery.

The other videos, called “Sneeze Sticks,” “Poopie Dishes,” and “Dominos Pizza Buger,” contain Setzer sneezing on cheesy bread, wiping his behind with a sponge and then cleaning pizza pans, and stuffing a pepper up his nose while making oven-baked sandwiches. The following are a sample of quotes transcribed from one of the videos:

Kristi: “Hello, this is Kristy back again. And here at Domino’s I like to be lazy . . . . You see Michael over there hard at work—yeah, not really. Did y’all see that? He just blew a booger on those sandwiches! Do you remember the time when you sneezed? [laughter] Do it again, do it again!”



Chapter 1 • Management Communication in Transition 221


Video 1: “Dominos Pizzas Special Ingrediants”

Video 2: “Sneeze Sticks”

Michael: “This is Michael’s special Italian sandwich.”

Kristi: “And on the sandwich it goes. Now, Michael, I think that these sandwiches are going to be full of protein. . . .”

Domino’s Pizza Background

Started in 1960 by Tom Monaghan as a single store, Domino’s Pizza quickly grew through a network of company-owned and franchise-owned stores. With more than 5,000 stores in the United States and 3,700 stores in international markets, the chain is now recognized as the world leader in pizza delivery, based on reported consumer spending.10 Domino’s employs. Management Communication A CASE-ANALYSIS APPROACH

125,000 team members in the U.S. and more than 60 countries around the world.11 These employees crafted and delivered well over 400 million pizzas worldwide in 2008.12

Domino’s Pizza is a publicly traded company on the NYSE under the symbol DPZ. In 2008, the company had global revenues of $1.4 billion. Sales were split with 55% in the U.S. and 45% international. Between 2004 and 2008, Domino’s experienced growth primarily from international expansion, with just 39 new stores opening in the U.S. and 977 stores opening internationally.13

Franchisees. While the network of Domino’s stores consists of company- and franchise-owned stores, the latter remain the primary driver behind the company’s growth. Over 90% of U.S. and 100% of international stores are franchise-owned. Franchise owners are required to operate their stores in compliance with written policies, standards, and specifications drafted by Domino’s corporate headquarters, but there are numerous of matters in which franchise owners have autonomy, including setting menu prices and hiring employees. The corporate headquarters provides franchisees with training materials, comprehensive operation manuals, and franchise development classes, but it is up to the franchisee to ensure operations and employees meet the standards of the Domino’s brand.14

Corporate Communications Team. Tim McIntyre began his tenure at Domino’s Pizza immediately after graduating from college. Twenty-five years later, as vice president of corporate communications, he now reports to the executive vice president of corporate communications, who reports to the company’s CEO.15 McIntyre’s long, successful tenure at Domino’s contributes to what he refers to as high levels of trust and “full support from the management team” on critical issues.16

McIntyre’s internal team handles all of the company’s public relations, but partners with two external agencies for advertising and new media strategy work.17 A new team focused specifically on social media formed at Domino’s about one month prior to the outbreak of the YouTube videos. This team had been planning to launch the company’s presence online through several social media



22 Chapter 1 • Management Communication in Transition

outlets just one week later—before Hammond beat them to it.

The Competitive Pizza Industry

Domino’s Pizza operates in the highly competitive food service industry in the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) sector. The QSR pizza category is large and fragmented and, at $33.9 billion a year, is the second largest category in the $230.0 billion U.S. QSR sector. Competition within the QSR sector is particularly intense with regard to product quality, price, service, convenience and concept. Within the U.S. there are approximately 69,000 pizzerias serving about 3 billion pizzas annually, but the main pizza delivery and carry- out competitors are Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Papa John’s. Together these three comprise 47% of pizza delivery in the U.S. Internationally, Pizza Hut is the principal competitor to Domino’s.18

In general, individual customers in the QSR sector do not comprise a large portion of sales. Instead, businesses rely on volume and repeat purchase. For Domino’s Pizza, no customer accounts for more than 10% of sales.19 If customers perceive a problem in product quality, price, service or convenience, the implications to future business success could be serious. For this reason, there is nothing more important or sacred to Domino’s than the trust of its customers.20

Social Media Players

Due to the growth of social media web sites on the Internet, individuals now have the ability to instantly share messages, images, and videos with a global audience. Once a posting is made, it can also be copied by other users and uploaded to other sites, thus compounding the impact of the posting. In this case, three sites were immediately involved. had the original posting by Hammond and Setzer, and two prominent blog sites, and, copied the posting and put it on their own web sites within hours.

In today’s technologically advanced world, the Internet instantly connects people all over the globe. In the United States alone, estimates of broadband Internet connection show that 84 million of the 119 million U.S. households, or 71%, had broadband connection to the

Internet by 2010.21 With the simple click of a mouse, Internet users can quickly access unprecedented amounts of information. Much of that information is posted by companies, news outlets, or other organizations, but increasingly, information is being posted and shared by common users on social networking websites.22

Some of the most popular social networking and content sharing websites in the U.S. are Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and YouTube.23 Facebook boasts a network of more than 350 million active users with an average of 50% logged on every day,24 MySpace has more than 100 million active users,25 and Twitter had the largest yearly growth of members at 1,382% when it hit 7 million members in February 2009.26 YouTube started in 2005 and is now the most widely viewed video service in the U.S. ahead of Fox Interactive Media, CBS Corporation, Yahoo! sites, and others.27 By January of 2009, YouTube claimed more than 100 million unique U.S. visitors.28 YouTube’s users, according to the website, watch “hundreds of millions of videos a day” on YouTube, and every minute, an additional 20 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube by users.29

The uploaded content by users on many social networking sites does not go through a formal review or approval processes by the website, so the users have great authority to post information they deem as appropriate. Once a posting is made, the content can easily be copied by other users and uploaded to other sites. This compounding effect of information being shared across websites is difficult to control and contain, so information can quickly spread and reach other users. “Viral” is a term commonly used to describe Internet content that is quickly popularized through sharing by users.30

In this situation with Domino’s Pizza, the videos posted by Hammond and Setzer went viral. YouTube had the original posting that was uploaded by Hammond and Setzer, but within hours, two prominent blog sites— and— copied the posting and put it on their own websites.31 Once this occurred, Hammond and Setzer, as well as Domino’s, lost the ability to control where the videos were posted and who was able to view them. This trend of everyday users posting and sharing information, and the impact of information going viral, is summarized



Chapter 1 • Management Communication in Transition 223

well by Tim McIntyre in a response to about the Domino’s video pranks. McIntyre said, “The ‘challenge’ that comes with the freedom of the Internet is that any idiot with a camera and an Internet link can do stuff like this—and ruin the reputation of a brand that’s nearly 50 years old, and the reputations of 125,000 hard-working men and women across the nation and in 60 countries around the world.”32 A single Internet user, according to McIntyre, can have an immediate impact felt globally.

Putting Out the Fire

Tim McIntyre knows that the most valuable asset of Domino’s is the unfailing trust of its customers. Because of the nature of the industry it is in—home food delivery—Domino’s customers literally invite the company and its delivery drivers into their homes at the same time they hand over home addresses, credit card information, phone numbers, and names as they place

an order. It was this trust that McIntyre was afraid would be forever damaged if this issue were not contained quickly and quietly.33

Instinct was telling McIntyre that the videos were most likely a hoax—a stupid prank pulled by two bored workers—but he didn’t know for sure. But, whether the videos were pranks or not, Domino’s customers would soon decide for themselves if he didn’t come up with a plan.

When talking about that first day, McIntyre said, “My first reaction when I saw it was anger. I was angry because I love this place, I love this brand, I love the franchisees that I work with. And I took it personally. . . we [the immediate response team] channeled anger into action.”34 Needless to say, Monday’s events were not a practice fire-drill for McIntyre and his team; the following weeks were going to need a lot of that action to contain this rapidly spreading media fire.


1. What appears to be the business problem facing Domino’s in this case?

2. Who are the key stakeholders? 3. What should Tim McIntyre and the

communications team do first? 4. What should Domino’s do about the employees

who made the video? 5. What should Domino’s do about the store where

the video was made?

6. What steps should Domino’s take to resolve this crisis?

7. How should Domino’s respond at the local, national, and/or global level?

8. Which media should Domino’s use to communicate its message?

9. How can Domino’s ensure a similar crisis does not occur in the future?

10. How should Domino’s work with franchisees?



Please respond in writing to the issues presented in this case by preparing two documents: a communication strategy memo and a professional business letter.

In preparing these documents, you may assume one of two roles: you may identify yourself as a senior communications manager for Domino’s Pizza who has been asked to provide advice to Mr. McIntyre regarding the issues he and the company are facing. Or, you may identify yourself as an external management consultant who has been asked by the company to provide advice to Mr. McIntyre.

Either way, you must prepare a strategy memo addressed to Mr. Tim McIntyre, Vice President for Corporate Communications at Domino’s, that sum-

marizes the details of the case, rank-orders critical issues, discusses their implications (what they mean and why they matter), offers specific recommend -ations for action (assigning ownership and suspense dates for each), and shows how to communicate the solution to all who are affected by the recom- mendations.

You must also prepare a professional business letter for Mr. Patrick Doyle, President and Chief Operating Officer, to sign. That document may be addressed to any of Domino’s key stakeholders, including customers, franchisees, investors, or others. If you have questions about either of these documents, please consult your instructor.




24 Chapter 1 • Management Communication in Transition

Appendix A

This case was prepared by Research Assistants Adam Peeples and Christina Vaughn under the direction of James S. O’Rourke, Concurrent Professor of Management, as the basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation. Information was gathered from corporate as well as public sources.

Copyright ©2009. Eugene D. Fanning Center for Business Communication. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without permission. Management Communication A CASE-ANALYSIS APPROACH

References 1. Direct quote from Kristi Hammond, narrator of

Domino’s prank video. 2. Personal interview with Tim McIntyre,

September 25, 2009. 3. Ibid. 4. Jacques, Amy. The Strategist, “Domino’s

Delivers During Crisis,” Summer 2009, page 7. 5.

2009/04/video-let-the-dominoes-appall.html. 6. Personal interview with Tim McIntyre,

September 25, 2009. 7. Ibid. 8. Ibid. 9. Jacques, Amy. The Strategist, “Domino’s

Delivers During Crisis,” Summer 2009, page 8. 10. Domino’s Pizza Corporate Website, About Us

section: Accessed 10/5/2009.

11. Domino’s Investor Relations. http://phx.

&p=irol-homeProfile&t=&id=&. Accessed 10/5/2009.

12. 2008 Domino’s Pizza Annual Report. 13. Ibid. 14. Ibid. 15. Personal interview with Tim McIntyre,

September 25, 2009. 16. Ibid. 17. Ibid. 18. Ibid. 19. Ibid. 20. Ibid. 21. Mintel report, “Social Networking and

Connectivity in the Digital Age – US – January 2008.” Section called, “Demographics and Trends.” _results/show&/display/id=294369.

22. Ibid. 23. Ibid.



Chapter 1 • Management Communication in Transition 225

24. “Press Room: Statistics.” Dec 2009. ?statistics.

25. “Fact Sheet.” Dec 2009. =/fact+sheet/.

26. Carlson, Nicholas. “Twitter Traffic Grows 1,382% In a Year.” 19 Mar 2009. Dec 2009. http://www. Business- year-2009-3.

27. Research by comScore. Posted by in the article, “YouTube Hits 100 Million.” 18 Mar 2009. Dec 2009. Article.aspx?R=1006981.

28. Ibid. 29. “YouTube Fact Sheet.” Dec


30. “Viral Internet Marketing: Why Viral Content is Great.” 22 Oct 2009. Dec 2009. marketing-articles/viral-internet-marketing- why-viral-content-is-great-1369574.html.

31. Personal interview with Tim McIntyre, September 25, 2009.

32. Letter to Jonathon Drake by Tim McIntyre on 14 Apr 2009. Posted by Chris Walters. “Consumerist Sleuths Track Down Offending Domino’s Store.” 14 Apr 2009. Dec 2009. 2009/04/consumerist-sleuths-track-down- offending-dominos-store.html#comments- content.

33. Ibid. 34. Jacques, Amy. The Strategist, “Domino’s

Delivers During Crisis,” Summer 2009, page 7.




Chapter 2

Communication and Strategy


In Chapter 1, we looked at the role communication plays in the life of a manager—we examined why managers communicate. In this chapter, we look much more closely at how managers communicate—we examine the process itself. Elsewhere in this book we will examine the products of that process: writing, speaking, listening, conflict management, and group interaction.

DEFINING COMMUNICATION First, though, a definition may be helpful. If you read enough books on this subject, you’ll find more definitions than you can understand or remember. Here’s one that is both easy to understand and easy to remember: Communication is the transfer of meaning.1

“I sent you an e-mail,” your manager asserts. “Didn’t you get it?” You got 40 e-mails that day. What did his say?

“We put out a memo on that subject just last month,” a junior VP claims. “Why aren’t the employees complying?” They get dozens of pieces of paper in their in-boxes each day. Are you surprised no one read it? For those of you who remember the memo, did you understand it? For those who think they understood what the vice president meant, what was your reaction? Wasn’t that just a backgrounder? An update of some sort, meant to provide you with information about the development and implementation of some policy that won’t really affect you? For those who received, read, understood, and remembered the memo: What was your incentive for complying with the vice president’s request? How does this affect you and, more importantly, what’s your motivation for getting involved?

“That memo is crucial to the future of this company,” your boss thunders. “It’s about the vision our senior team wants to see throughout the entire organization.” Gee, all that in one memo, and you just glanced through it and tossed it aside. Maybe it’s still around somewhere. When you get a few minutes, you really should read it. For now, though, there’s a lot more on your plate that seems much more urgent, and “vision memos” will have to wait.

Sounds familiar? It’s all too familiar in many organizations because people, particularly managers, confuse the act of communicating with the process of communication. They honestly believe that a message sent is a message received. And a message received would certainly be



Chapter 2 • Communication and Strategy 27

understood and complied with, right? For them, communication is mostly, if not entirely, about sending messages.

For managers who truly understand the process, however, communication is about much more than sending messages. It’s about the transfer of meaning.

When I understand a subject the way you understand it—with all of the intricacies, complexities, context, and detail—then you have communicated with me. If I am aware of not only what you know about a subject but also how you feel about it, then you have communicated with me. When I comprehend just how important a subject is to you and why you think it’s important to take action now, you have communicated with me. All of this may be possible in a memo to the staff, but it’s certainly not easy. Because communication is a complex, ongoing process that involves the whole substance of ourselves, it would be an unusual memo that could capture all of that. The transfer of meaning may take more than just a phone call or an e-mail message.

ELEMENTS OF COMMUNICATION To successfully transfer meaning, you must understand that every message you receive comes from a sender who encodes the details of its content and selects a medium through which to transmit what she knows or feels. That message may be impeded by noise, primarily because of the cultural context against which it will be delivered as well as the field of experience of the receiver. The effect of the message will also depend on the frame of mind or attitudinal set you bring to the situation, along with the system of ethics that governs communication in your organization, your industry, and your society.

If all of this looks complex, congratulations, you now have a firm grasp on the obvious: Human communication is intricate, delicate, difficult, and, above all, complex. The remarkable fact is, however, we do it every day, and, more often than not, we achieve some degree of success. Orders get placed, deliveries are made, customers are satisfied, people do what you ask of them, and the business you work for runs—more or less—the way it’s supposed to.

The real question here isn’t whether you can communicate. You showed that you can do that when you filled out a business school admissions application. The real question is whether you can get better at it. Can you impress your clients enough to keep them? Can you encourage a reluctant employee to give the best he’s got? Can you convince the boss that you are the one to take on those new responsibilities? We each have basic skills. What we need is a set of higher-level competencies that will serve the world-class organizations we will work for in the years ahead.

PRINCIPLES OF COMMUNICATION Communication is a process that involves several basic principles. They are things we know to be true about human communication across time and cultures, across organizations and professions, and across nations and economies. Above all, we know that communication is:

DYNAMIC Human communication is constantly undergoing change. One message builds on another; one experience adds to another.

CONTINUOUS Communication never stops. Even when you hang up the telephone, you’re communicating the message that you have nothing more to say. Silence, in fact, can be among the more powerful forms of communication. Simply said: You cannot not communicate.



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CIRCULAR Communication is rarely ever entirely one-way. We each take in information from the outside world, determine what it means, and respond. The cycle we refer to as feedback is nothing more than receivers becoming senders, and vice versa. When we stop speaking to listen, we join the feedback loop.

UNREPEATABLE Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher-mathematician, once wrote that “No man can step in the same river twice.” What he meant was that if you attempt to repeat an experience, the experience will be different—circumstances change and so will you. So it is with communication. Even if we say something again in precisely the same way, our listeners have heard it before. The same message delivered to two different listeners amounts to two different messages. That’s also true of the same message delivered twice to the same listeners. Once we have heard or seen a message, we have some notion of what to expect. Thus, it’s not the same experience as when we heard it or saw it for the first time.

IRREVERSIBLE Some processes are reversible—we can freeze water into ice and then thaw it back into water again—but not communication. We may wish we could unsay something, but we can’t. All we can do is explain, apologize, and say more—but we can’t ever get it back.

COMPLEX Communication is complex, not only because of the various elements and principles at work in the process, but also because it involves human beings. Each of us is different in a number of important and meaningful ways, which means that each of us will assign slightly different meaning to words, react in slightly different ways because of our background, education, and experience, and behave in slightly different ways around other people. Nothing is simple or entirely straightforward about the ways in which people communicate.2

LEVELS OF COMMUNICATION Human communication also occurs at various levels. The complexities of the process, particularly audience analysis and message construction, increase as the level of communication elevates.

INTRAPERSONAL When we communicate within ourselves, sending messages to various parts of our bodies, thinking things over, or working silently on a problem, we are communicating intrapersonally.

INTERPERSONAL When we communicate between or among ourselves, sending messages from one person to another—verbally and nonverbally—we are communicating interpersonally.

ORGANIZATIONAL When we communicate with one another in the context of an organization, sending and receiving messages through various layers of authority, using various message systems, discussing various topics of interest to the group we belong to or the company we work for, we are communicating organizationally.

MASS OR PUBLIC Occasionally, when we send messages from just one person or source to many people simultaneously, as in a newspaper advertisement, television commercial, or Twitter message, we are communicating publicly.3



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BARRIERS TO COMMUNICATION If we each understand the principles of communication and the levels at which it can take place, and if we each use and understand the same language, why don’t we succeed more often than we do? What’s holding back the transfer of meaning? Broadly speaking, two barriers keep us from communicating successfully.

PHYSIOLOGICAL BARRIERS Because all the information we receive about the world must come through one or more of our five senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste), we depend on those senses to report accurately on what’s going on around us. It is possible, though, for our senses to be impaired or for the source of the message to provide inadequate information (insufficient light to read a message, an announcement not loud enough to be audible, and so on). In sending messages to others, we must be sensitive to the fact that they may not see, hear, touch, smell, or taste in the same way we do.

PSYCHOLOGICAL BARRIERS Communication is much more than simply sending and receiving messages. It’s about understanding them, as well. Remember, communication is the transfer of meaning, and if I don’t know what you mean—even though I may see and hear you well enough— no communication has taken place. Everything from the culture in which we live to the norms or standards of the groups we belong to can influence how we perceive and react to the messages, events, and experiences of everyday life. Even individual mind-sets, including prejudice and stereotypes, can affect what we understand and how we react to others. We examine each of these barriers in greater detail in Chapter 4, “Speaking.”

COMMUNICATING STRATEGICALLY To communicate strategically means several things. First, it means that your plans for communication, your proposed messages, the medium (or media) you select, the code you employ, the context and experience you bring to situations, and the ethics you adopt will all have a direct effect on the outcome. Remember the elements of communication we discussed earlier? Those are the keys to successful strategic communication.

You should know, however, that those are all just tools; they are means to an end. You should first ask what end you hope to reach. What are your communication goals? If you are communicating strategically, those goals will be aligned with and will directly support the goals of the organization you work for. And, at each level of your organization, the ways in which you communicate will be consistent and aimed at the same objectives.

To develop a communication strategy that will help you and your organization achieve the goals you have set for yourselves, you first must ask yourself a few questions related to the elements of communication we’ve discussed:

SENDER Who should communicate this message? Will your signature compel people to action? Should you ask your manager or vice president to sign this letter? Should someone closer to the intended audience send the message?

RECEIVER Who is the intended audience for this message? What do you know about them? More important, what do they know about you and your subject? What feelings do they have about it and you? What’s their previous experience with this subject and this sender? What’s their likely reaction?



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MESSAGE What should your message contain? How should your message say what you intend for your audience to know? Should your message contain the bare minimum to evoke a reaction, or should you provide greater detail? Should the message focus on just one topic or should you include many issues for them to consider?

MEDIUM What’s the best way to send this message? Is one medium quicker than another? Will one medium offer your audience better opportunities for feedback? Will one medium carry more detail than another? Does one medium carry a greater sense of urgency than another? Will one medium cost more than another?

CODE Encoding your message simply means selecting the right words and images. Style and tone matter as you approach readers and listeners with new information. Will they understand the words you plan to use? Will they understand the concepts you offer them? For your audience, decoding is a more complex matter of assigning meaning to the words and images you have selected. Will they mean the same thing to your receiver as they mean to you? Do these words and images have multiple meanings for you and your audience?

FEEDBACK What’s the reaction of your audience? How will you know if you’ve communicated successfully? What measure will you use to determine whether they understand this subject the same way you understand it? Will the audience response be delayed? Will it be filtered through another source? How much feedback will you need before you decide to communicate again?

NOISE How many other senders and messages are out there? Whose message traffic are you competing with? Will others try to deflect, distort, or disable your communication attempts? How can you get the attention of your intended audience with all that they have to read, see, hear, and think about each day?

EFFECT To achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself and your organization, you must know how to motivate others. You must show them how the information or ideas you have offered are useful and worth acting upon.

SUCCESSFUL STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION Getting people to listen to what you say, read what you write, or look at what you show them isn’t easy. More often than not, people up and down the line have other interests that seem more immediate and other concerns to focus on. How, then, do you persuade them that paying attention to your message and cooperating with you is in their best interest?

Successful strategic communication usually involves the following six steps:

LINK YOUR MESSAGE TO THE STRATEGY AND GOALS OF THE ORGANIZATION What are the strategic objectives of your business? Chances are good that your organization has published a document outlining its vision, values, and beliefs. Of course, the corporate annual report to shareholders is a good place to look for business strategy. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, call corporate communication and explain what you want and why you want it.

Every division within a business should have a set of simple, easy-to-understand business objectives (e.g., “Increase cash flow by 10% during this fiscal year,” or “Increase market share by 15% within the next three years”). All of your communication—no matter what the audience, no



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matter what the medium, no matter what the purpose for communicating—should be consistent with and directly supportive of those business objectives. If your writing and speaking don’t fit that description, either you don’t understand the company’s objectives or you don’t agree with them. If that is the case, you should make an effort to learn and understand them or look for work elsewhere.

ATTRACT THE ATTENTION OF YOUR INTENDED AUDIENCE Appeal to basic needs or to the fundamentals of physiology to attract the attention of your intended audience. Basic needs would include the bottom rungs of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. This hierarchy explains the frequent focus on issues related to survival, food, water, sex appeal, and other needs.4 The fundamentals of physiology are simply activities designed to appeal to the sight, hearing, taste, touch, or smell capacities of the audience. Loud noises, bright lights, and similar devices can attract attention; the more important issue is whether you can hold that attention once the audience knows who you are and what you want.

EXPLAIN YOUR POSITION IN TERMS THEY WILL UNDERSTAND AND ACCEPT If your audience is willing to spend time and effort attending to your message but cannot understand what you intend, you’ll raise nothing other than their frustration level. As you will see in Chapter 5, using language they are likely to understand and accept will make comprehension and compliance that much easier. This implies knowing your audience: knowing who they are, how much they know about this subject, how they feel about it, and their level of sophistication.

MOTIVATE YOUR AUDIENCE TO ACCEPT AND ACT ON YOUR MESSAGE Several motivational appeals are available for you to reach and move your audience. First, consider an appeal to authority. If you are either in a position of organizational authority or an acknowledged expert on the matter, you may legitimately ask your audience to respond to those forms of authority. It is the equivalent, to some, of hearing “. . . because I’m you’re mother,” but it works more often than not. And, in some instances, you may have neither the time nor the patience to explain in detail why the audience should comply. Successful appeals to authority usually involve a follow-up stage in which the authority figure provides justification for the request.

Second, you might consider social conformity to move your audience, which is equivalent to the “celebrity endorsement” or “millions of satisfied customers can’t be wrong” approach. The vast majority of people don’t like to be out of step with other members of the society in which they live; they appreciate and value conformity and what it does for society. An endorsement to your intended audience from a person they respect (it doesn’t matter if you respect him or her) may prove helpful. If not, you can always resort to opinion polls (“Four out of five dentists who chew gum recommend our product”).

Finally, you might use rationality and consistency theory to motivate your audience. Just as the majority of people wish to conform to what others think is proper, so too do they want rational, consistent behavior in their lives. If they see what you are advocating as irrational or inconsistent with their existing beliefs, they won’t buy it. You must show them that it is consistent with what they already believe and—for those who admire logic—entirely rational.5

INOCULATE THEM AGAINST CONTRARY MESSAGES AND POSITIONS Persuasion theorists have shown that beliefs persist in the face of contrary evidence if the holder of those beliefs has been inoculated against counter-persuasion at some point. Several means exist to make those actions you advocate resistant to the appeals of your competitors. First, you can ask for a tangible commitment from your audience. If that commitment is public, or at least known to other members of the target audience,



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so much the better. Everything from signing a pledge card to wearing a campaign button will bolster the beliefs of your audience.6 A Los Angeles restaurateur dramatically cut the number of reservation “no-shows” by asking diners a simple question as they called for reservations: “Do you promise to call us if your dinner plans change?” The act of saying “yes” on the telephone committed them to a course of behavior that benefited the restaurant substantially.7

MANAGE AUDIENCE EXPECTATIONS People are disappointed in the service or the products you deliver only if their expectations exceed the quality of what they receive. The same is true of communication. Always deliver what you promise, never less. Always meet or exceed your audience’s expectations. Manage those expectations by cueing your audience about what to expect from your communications with them. If you deliver what you say you will, your audience will reward you with its attention and consideration for your message.

WHY COMMUNICATING AS A MANAGER IS DIFFERENT Communication is a fundamental skill central to the human experience. We each know how to do it; we’ve done it since birth and receive additional practice each day. So, why is it so difficult to communicate on the job? What does the workplace do to change the nature of communication? Several factors in business life alter the way we look at communication. These factors influence the way we write and speak with others, right down to word selection and format. They influence our willingness to listen or to devote time to the concerns of others. And they influence the way we think about our daily problems, responsibilities, and challenges.

LEVELS OF RESPONSIBILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY The higher your level of responsibility in an organization, the more you have to think about. If you spend the majority of your day focused on just one or a few fairly well-defined issues, your communication will tend to be much more keenly focused. If you have many problems, many challenges to address during the day, your communication style will be more fragmented and broadly focused. As you read in Chapter 1, time management and communication efficiency become core skills.

Additionally, as you become more accountable, you tend to keep better records. If you know you’ll be asked about particular issues, it’s to your advantage to update and maintain what you know about those subjects. A phone call from your boss, posing questions you can’t answer, is always a difficult experience.

ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE Some organizations have a very written culture. Procter & Gamble, for example, requires that every issue be written in memo form and circulated to team members before it can be raised as an agenda issue in a team meeting. Other organizations, such as 3M Canada, are more “oral” in nature, offering employees an opportunity to talk things through before writing anything down. Many companies rely on a particular culture to move day-to-day information through the organization, and to succeed in such a business, you must adapt to the existing culture rather than try to change it or ask it to adapt to you.

ORGANIZATIONAL DYNAMICS Organizations, like the humans who populate and animate them, are in constant flux. Businesses change with the conditions of the marketplace and the lives of the managers who run them. Your communication will have to adapt to the conditions in which you find yourself. Management Communication A CASE-ANALYSIS APPROACH



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That does not mean signing your name to a document that is false or passing along information that you know isn’t true, even if the organization presses you for time or will not give you access to information you really need to do your job. It does mean adapting your style to the standards and norms of the industry. It may mean greater concision or more detail than you might personally prefer. It may mean shorter turnaround times on requests than you think are reasonable. Or it may mean sharing or withholding information from those you work with each day. Each organization has its own style that is conditionally and temporally affected by a range of issues from market share to target-status in a takeover.

PERSONALITY PREFERENCES Finally, it’s important to acknowledge that each of us has his or her own preference for gathering, organizing, and disseminating information. Each of us also has a style for making decisions. You’ll have to accommodate those you work with and work for in order to succeed in business.

If the boss wants plenty of detail and plenty of time to think it over before making a decision, accommodate that. Provide an executive summary, but give her the detail in tabular or annex form if that’s what she wants. Meet or beat submission deadlines. And provide the information in the form your reader or listener most wants. If your client likes e-mail, learn to live with brief, typewritten messages and attached text files. If your client likes personal briefings, schedule the time it will take to go over the information in detail. It is counterintuitive, but if you put the information-gathering and decision-making needs of others—particularly your boss and your clients—ahead of your own preferences, you’ll get what you want faster and with much less pain.

CRISIS COMMUNICATION Crisis can come in many shapes and forms. Some crises unfold slowly over many months or years. Others arrive quickly or explosively, without notice.

The Coca-Cola Company’s mishandling of a product contamination crisis in Europe during the summer of 1999 is a case in point. A bad batch of CO2 found its way into Coca-Cola products bottled in Belgium and onto grocery store shelves in the cities of Bornem, Lochristi, and Kortrijk. When reports of school children feeling nauseous and seeking hospital treatment after consuming Coca-Cola products hit the local press, company executives dismissed the incidents as overblown and “hardly a health hazard.”8

CEO Doug Ivester, in fact, was in Paris at the time of the incident, yet chose to fly back to Atlanta rather than address it directly. He not only misread local sentiment regarding the company’s obligations but failed to grasp the larger cultural implications of the crisis. Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dahaene had been forced out of office because of a scandal involving contamination of the food supply, and others seized the opportunity to take cheap shots at the American soft drink giant. Sweden’s Svenska Dagbladet proclaimed, “200 Poisoned by Coca-Cola,” and Italy’s La Stampa declared, “Alarm across Europe for Coca-Cola Products.”9

Following a recall of the company’s products that cost $103 million over a six-week period and resulted in a drop of more than 20 points in Coca-Cola’s share price, the brand did recover. It took just less than a year for consumers in Europe to resume their pre-crisis consumption patterns and for the company’s stock value to return to the $75 per share level. The damage to the company’s reputation cost Doug Ivester his job, however, as key investors lost confidence in his ability to protect the brand.

Other crises are years in the making. On the morning of February 5, 1995, Jim Adamson arrived at the corporate offices of Flagstar Companies in Spartanburg, South Carolina. As the firm’s



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newly appointed CEO, his task was to reshape the future of a troubled company. His predecessor, Jerry Richardson, had struggled to keep the company alive with $2.3 billion in debt from a series of restructuring attempts. Despite those efforts, the company lost money for five consecutive years from 1985 to 1990.10

More ominously, Adamson had to confront the issue of racial discrimination. Flagstar was the parent company of Denny’s Restaurants, a chain of restaurants that had become a symbol for racism in the United States. He also had serious questions about the company’s business model as a holding firm for quick-service and convenience-dining restaurants. With few assets and no experienced management team at his disposal, Adamson was brought to Flagstar from his position as CEO at Burger King by Henry Kravis, the New York junk-bond buyout king from Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts. His instructions were clear: Turn this company around. Make money or make way for someone who can.11

Each of these events represents a crisis and a potential threat to the reputation, financial health, and survival of the companies involved. And while each executive responded in a different way to the threats, each was faced with a moment of decision. “What am I facing, and what shall I do?”

CRISIS DEFINED Let’s draw a line between business problems and a genuine crisis. “Problems,” according to author Lawrence Barton, “are commonplace in business. What differentiates crisis from the routine or even extraordinary management dilemma is this: a crisis is a major, unpredictable event that has potentially negative results. The event and its aftermath may significantly damage an organization and its employees, products, services, financial condition, and reputation.”12 Ordinary business problems can be addressed in a limited time frame without arousing public attention and draining the resources of an organization. By contrast, a crisis is more expensive and often takes considerable time to understand and react to. And, of course, a crisis is far more threatening.


TYPES OF CRISES Some professionals draw further distinctions within crisis management, observing that some crises are internal in nature. Think of the accounting scandal and misappropriations for which Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski was convicted. The problems were almost entirely internal, as were those created by William Aramony at United Way. By contrast, other crises are external or oppositional in nature. When People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals attacked Procter & Gamble and its Iams Dog Food division in March of 2003, alleging mistreatment of animals in a research facility, the crisis involved one organization opposing another.

PREPARING FOR A CRISIS When it comes to crisis communication, British physician Thomas Fuller got it right in 1732, when he wrote, “A man surprised is half beaten.”13 Clearly, it pays to be prepared.

“Preparedness planning is definitely not a waste of time,” says J. Adaire Putnam, Director of Corporate Communications at the Kellogg Company in Battle Creek, Michigan. “Because, when a crisis strikes, it usually strikes without warning, only giving you time to react and respond to whatever it triggers. Your foresight in getting ready for a crisis,” she says, “will get you 80 percent of the way at a time when—in the chaos a crisis unleashes—all you can afford is the time to go the additional 20 percent.”14

How an organization reacts to an incident or emergency can be a defining moment that can salvage or destroy a reputation. And it is often impossible to know when an emergency will occur. Arthur Andersen’s accountants, Firestone Tire’s executives, the makers of Tylenol, and Wendy’s restaurant officials certainly didn’t anticipate a calamity happening to them. But managers with



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responsibility for safeguarding the reputation of a product, a brand, or an organization can certainly prepare for communicating in a crisis.

Here are five rules that Adaire Putnam thinks all managers should consider as they approach crisis communication:

1. Develop a detailed crisis management action plan that includes detailed research. “Assess all potential issue-and-crisis vulnerabilities and plan accordingly,” she says. With a system in place, you’ll be less likely to waste valuable time trying to decide how to communicate. When cable-TV operator Cox Communications prepared for contract negotiations with broadcasters several years ago to carry their programs, the company asked Putnam and her former employer, public relations firm Ketchum, to help manage the issue because if the programming agreement were to fail, it would result in a “dark channel.” Careful research helped the company define their message points, audiences, and best position on the issue. When a crisis struck on New Year’s Day and Fox Television precluded Cox subscribers from watching college bowl games and the NFL playoffs, the crisis communications plan went into effect. Cox and their partners at Ketchum continuously reviewed media treatment and customer correspondence to determine the effectiveness of their strategy and message points.15

2. Set specific objectives and principles. The Cox Communications crisis-preparedness plan established three objectives: to motivate broadcasters to provide retransmission consent, to minimize customer defections to satellite, and to minimize the damage to the company’s public image. Those objectives each proved to be measurable and achievable.

3. Establish a crisis-control team and an outline of responsibilities and authority for taking action when a crisis develops. Decide who will comprise your crisis team, creating that team around the expertise you will need and the personalities involved. Assign at least one hands-on person, says Putnam, as the crisis-communications team leader and then choose a backup.

Additionally, you must select your primary and secondary spokespeople. Line up the outside experts and help you will need, possibly including outside legal counsel, an environmental cleanup expert, and mental health workers for trauma victims, among others. Develop a communications contact tree with everyone’s phone numbers on it, including cell phones, and make sure they’re updated regularly.

Contact a local hotel or motel and inform the proprietor that a day may arise when you will need all the rooms and you’ll pay what he or she wants. Establish a “war room” or conference facility where the entire team can work. Make sure there are enough phone lines there and that those in the room will have cell phone service.

Also, establish a separate press room away from the “war room” so that the media won’t know who is there and demand access to other potential spokespeople.16

4. Speak with one voice. Create a communications plan that ensures all of your stakeholders— employees, customers, suppliers, community, regulatory officials, and others—receive the same clear, valid information. Consider making your Web site or even a special crisis Web site the place to get crisis-related information.

Your Web site can prove invaluable for responding to a crisis, explaining the company’s position, or rallying public support behind an issue. In September 2004, when the pharmaceutical firm Merck & Company made the decision to pull its important pain-killing drug Vioxx from the market, company vice president Joan Wainwright realized she would have to reach millions of concerned patients, physicians, pharmacists, and others. More than 100 million prescriptions had been written for the drug. Within 60 hours of the initial announcement, she and her communications team launched a Web site at and established a toll-free telephone number to answer questions and address concerns.17. Management Communication A CASE-ANALYSIS APPROACH