Multilingual Business Communication

September 22, 2008

Welcome to the Multilingual Business Communication blog

Filed under: Uncategorized — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 7:21 pm

Welcome to the MTB blog. In this blog students and staff of the postgraduate programme of Multilingual Business Communication at Ghent University present their latest research, media and web finds in the fields of marketing communication, employee communication and crisis communication.

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Filed under: employee communication — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 8:22 am

The phrase “corporate downsizing” raises a red flag in the minds of employees who work for U.S. corporations. In recent years, companies have eliminated thousands of jobs to remain competitive. Downsizing enables companies to increase profits, lower costs, operate more efficiently, and improve a company’s overall financial status. Depending on the situation, downsizing can also decrease productivity, destroy employee loyalty, contribute to high unemployment, and label the company as lacking social responsibility. Differing interpretations of downsizing and of its ethical implications carry over to the ways in which companies handle layoffs.

In August 2006, about 400 RadioShack Corp. headquarters employees received an email notifying them that they had been let go, effective immediately. According to Chairman and Chief Executive Julian Day, the company wanted to cut costs and restore earnings growth to improve the chain’s “long-term competitive position in the marketplace.” Soon after sending the e-mail, employees were instructed to attend a meeting to receive information about their severance and outplacement services.

For organizations that routinely communicate important news electronically, notice of a layoff via email is normally viewed as an appropriate channel for sending this type of negative news. However, executives need to be careful not to “dehumanize” employees, according to Derrick D’Souza, professor of management and associate dean at the University of North Texas College of Business Administration. He notes that from an employee’s perspective, this type of corporate action “tends to dehumanize this important and delicate activity.” Employees who have put in years of service with a company may resent the fact that all they get is an email notifying them that they no longer have a job.

See also the article on Radioshack by Landy, H. (2006, August 30). Employees learn of layoffs via e-mails. Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

BTW: This case was selected for the ABC 2009 student writing contest. The contest is open to undergraduate business students who work independently to write a response to this year’s case and whose entries are submitted by their instructors.

(Ellen Van Praet)

September 18, 2008

Watching the president

Filed under: crisis communication — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 4:33 pm

www.whitehouse.gov/news is a real treasure-house for those interested in the nitty gritty of public relations. You can scrutinize the president’s each and every answer at a press conference on the damage caused by Hurricane Ike (false starts, hesitations and mid-sentence repairs included), you can watch him shake hands with President Valdas Adamkus of Lithuania and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy (any body language experts out there?), you can read and re-read transcripts of what he said exactly at a roundtable on Health Savings Accounts or in a speech commemorating the victims of 9/11. (Geert Jacobs)

Corporate blogs: Coca-Cola Conversations and Dell’s Ideastorm

Filed under: marketing communication — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 4:30 pm

More and more companies are pushing the social media. Here are two very different corporate blogs from two very different consumer goods manufacturers that illustrate what the latest addition to the wide range of e-media can do in terms of organizational communication. One is called Coca-Cola Conversations. It’s a blog with a human face – Phil Mooney’s face: the man is said to have served as the historian/archivist for Coca-Cola for the last 30 years. The blog is meant to help consumers share information on topics ranging from Coke’s role in pop culture to brand history and collectibles. Interestingly, Mooney insists he wants “two-way dialogue” and so he says he looks forward to “chatting with the consumer”. But the chat turns out to be slightly less relaxed than you might have expected. The blog’s house rules include reviewing and possibly editing all comments before they go live as well as not posting any that are inappropriate or offensive. Of course, only comments that relate to Coca-Cola are posted.

Dell’s Ideastorm is a very different story. No Phil Mooney to say hello and tell us about the rules here. Instead, consumers are simply invited to post their wildest ideas for a new product or service – and to promote or demote the ideas that have been previously proposed by others. In one and a half year’s time, over 10,000 ideas have been proposed and 200 have been implemented – that’s a massive 2%. CEO Michael Dell remains modest, though: “Having conversations with customers is fundamentally not a new idea”, he says in a recent interview with The Economist. (Geert Jacobs)

It’s professional to be personal

Filed under: employee communication — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 4:20 pm

Does the applicant’s communicative style in a job interview really matter? According to research carried out by Danish linguist Jann Scheuer it does. And here’s how. Successful applicants produce more words than unsuccessful applicants, and their turns are substantially longer. A job interview is a performance, really: the successful applicant is the one who is able to take the initiative, select topics, tell stories, come up with jokes even; the unsuccessful applicant remains stuck in school discourse (using student idiom, pronouncing names of courses far too quickly), turning the interview into a banal exam, with frequent questions and control firmly in the hands of the recruiters. Scheuer concludes that successful applicants are those who manage to deformalize the interview, to make the event more personal; in the end, he says, it turns out professional to be personal, which is in sharp contrast with the widely held view that workplace discourse involves depersonalization. (Geert Jacobs)

Jann Scheuer (2001). Recontextualization and communicative styles in job interviews. Discourse studies, 3(2), 223-248.

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