Multilingual Business Communication

November 20, 2008

The age of transparency: blog your layoffs

Filed under: employee communication, Lana Robignon — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 12:49 pm

Blogging has become a force to be reckoned with. Its popularity can be mainly attributed to the fact that it gives a voice to pretty much anyone who has an opinion about something. It has proven to be a useful tool in promoting products and services, building relationships and creating buzz. But blogs have also created some new challenges, especially for managers.

Professional bloggers (yes, they do exist) are closely monitoring companies and their blogs. Combine this with the fact that the Internet is filled with sites that encourage employees to sound off about their employers and share workplace rumours, and you have a recipe for communication leaks. Where layoffs were mostly a private affair in the past, times are indeed changing. In the age of transparency, layoffs are now being blogged. Bad communication you say? Certain CEO’s claim to have no other choice but to blog their layoffs. In order to counteract inaccurate information, they prefer to blog about it themselves, even if this means that certain employees have not yet been told they are going to lose their jobs.

To me, this seems to be a cop out by the management. Our lives have become so intertwined with the Internet that we see it as an answer to everything. It is true that companies can’t dig their heads in the sand and stubbornly ignore the age of the Internet. Nor can they control what bloggers are saying about their company. But, companies can control how they react to rumours and if and where they get validated. Decency and corporate culture should remain the focus of business communication. When faced with rumours, personal communication with employees through the management team still remains the most effective mode of operation in my view. Sharing information by using internal channels such as phone, e-mail or even personal meetings (gasp!) before posting layoff news on a blog, engages employees and shows that you respect them.  

(Lana Robignon)

Source: “In Era of Blog Sniping, Companies shoot first” (Claire Cain Miller, 4/11/2008)


November 3, 2008

Carrefour fails to communicate

Filed under: business communication, crisis communication — Tags: , , , , — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 2:52 pm

Recently, Carrefour Belgium opened a new department store in Bruges, which is referred to as a hypermarket, since it is one of the hugest supermarkets Carrefour now owns in Belgium. On Carrefour Belgium’s website, an important communication tool, the emphasis is on the efforts that the company makes to score better on the scale of sustainable development – better known as the three P’s: Planet, Profit, People. However, trade unions stress how Carrefour failed to meet the needs of the third P (People). As long as those needs are not met, they call out on strike and prevent local Carrefour supermarkets from opening. Carrefour thus failed to keep those promises that are uttered on the website.

Trade unions complain about the fact that the employees in Bruges would earn 25% less and would have to be more polyvalent and flexible than their equals in other Belgian Carrefour supermarkets. The trade unions blame Carrefour for having found an egress to have its personnel work under different salary conditions. Carrefour’s answer to these industrial actions is that they respect the right to strike, but much to their regret the right to work and the right to shop are not respected by the trade unions. I, personally, think Carrefour fails to communicate in this crisis they are in. They keep hammering on the fact that they created 150 new jobs in a time of worldwide economic regression, that the employees in Bruges are glad to work there and that they act in accordance with law, but I would suggest they come up with new proposals and start the dialogue instead of calling the kettle black. Because Joe Sixpack now only hears the voice of the trade unions, which will not strengthen Carrefour’s image.

Ironically, this entire crisis has been good for some People (the third P), namely the poor. Some products in the Carrefour supermarkets that are prevented from opening are sent to Poverello, a charity organisation, because otherwise they would expire…


Website Carrefour
Website De Morgen September 30th
Website De Morgen Octobre 16th
Website De Morgen Octobre 16th
Website De Morgen Octobre 17th
Website De Morgen Octobre 22nd
Website De Morgen Octobre 24th
Website De Morgen Octobre 28th

November 2, 2008

Halloween gives birth to anti-smoking ad

Filed under: Anja Peleman, business communication, marketing communication — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 9:24 pm

The National Health Service (NHS) has already made a lot of hard-hitting advertisements to discourage smoking. The newest one was a TV campaign, timed especially for Halloween. All these ads are part of the NHS’ Smokefree campaign, which was kicked-off in June this year. This was set up because numbers of the NHS showed that over a fifth of adults still smoke.

 In this anti-smoking ad, created by advertising agency Miles Calcraft Brigingshaw Duffy (MCVD), an obvious link with Halloween has been made. With this Halloween-ad, the NHS wants to promote the NHS Stop Smoking Service.  The NHS also set up a complete website for this. It is also not the first time that the NHS mimics smoking habits of parents: there was already an advertisement set to the famous kid song ‘On Account’a I Love You’ from Shirley Temple.

Even though the NHS tries to be original with this ad by anticipating Halloween, we can ask ourselves the question if linking the anti-smoking action to one event in the year will have enough impact? How long can this ad be broadcasted without losing its clear topic link to Halloween? In my opinion, this ad can surely be called very original, but I doubt whether the impact will be bigger just by producing an ad for this one event in the year. Even though, I can understand that the NHS searches new ways to convince smokers that smoking is bad for your health. But unfortunately, many studies have already shown that the impact of overall anti-smoking ads stays very negligible. A very important aspect for an anti-smoking campaign to be effective is that it must be a prologonged campaign, like McVey and Stapleton found in their study. So it seems to me that a good idea for the NHS could be to maintain this original way of making advertisements. An anti-smoking ad that is linked with Christmas for example, or with the celebration of New Year. Things like that could be the perfect way to catch the eye from smokers in my opinion.  

When talking about anti-smoking ads, a particular blog must be mentioned:  this blog was especially set up to collect different anti-smoking ads from all around the world. And there it is obvious again: producers of this kind of advertisements search their inspiration everywhere!

Anja Peleman

Mister Clean rocks your house!

Filed under: marketing communication, Séverine De Ryck — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 8:34 pm

Encouraged by the upcoming American presidential elections, ‘De Standaard’ has dedicated an entire quire of its weekend newspaper (1-2/11/’08) to the way of life in the US. In the section ‘Made in the USA‘, some famous Belgian athletes and artists are asked for their favourite American product. When they pose the question to Wim Delvoye, the successful visual artist, he expresses his respect for brands that really became ‘icons’, when he mentions Harley Davidson, Starbucks and Coca-Cola. He likes them for their artistic logos, which make them extremely recognizable. But still, his favourite American product is quite an unexpected one: Mister Clean. According to Delvoye, this guy has it all: ‘he has something Afro-American, but he is still white. He is somewhat homosexual, but he is definitely straight.’ Delvoye claims to know the story behind Mr. Clean’s earring: in the fifties, psychologists decided to make the guy somewhat homosexual, so that the (desperate) housewives didn’t have to feel guilty for being helped by a beautiful, strong man. He was every woman’s friend, without being a threat to her marriage, just because of his earring! Marketing can be a simple issues, but it becomes even more successful when there is a strong strategy behind it. 

Delvoye is sure about the fact that American brands like Coca-Cola and Mr. Clean will always be successful, even if the American global power will decrease steadily in the future. These brands will adjust themselves to the continuously changing market. I agree on Delvoye’s point of view, bacause bad news is quickly banished from our minds. Although some Belgian Coca-Cola bottles where polluted in 1999, soon no one doubted anymore about buying a Coke in the supermarket. Or when I would want to buy an Opel within a year, I won’t bother anymore about the problems GM suffers today. We live in a fast moving world, but strong brands will always survive.       

De Standaard, Oost-Vlaanderen (31 October, 1 & 2 November 2008) p. 37

Financial crisis affects second-hand buying

Filed under: crisis communication, Febe Corthals — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 7:12 pm

Websites offering second-hand things have become extremely popular nowadays. Never have these websites had so many visitors. In the last few months, people have put up 30% more wanted ads on internet sites such as and eBay. This is one of the implications of the financial crisis. According to Carolien Chausteur from, people now realise that their old things can still bring in some money. “Especially used clothes, toys and cars are offered”,Chausteur says.

Owners of these second-hand websites have discovered a way to turn the consequences of the financial crisis into a good thing for them. eBay, for example, places advertisements with a direct link to their website on search engines such as Google. Each ad contains a message that cannot be misunderstood: save money by shopping on eBay.

Sales of luxury goods, such as champagne, foie gras and caviar, on the other hand, are less affected by the financial crisis. Some products are even sold more compared to last year. Vranken-Pommery, a champagne producing company in Liège, concludes that families continue spending money if they are not affected by the crisis. Yet, families who do need to tighten the belt buy less luxury articles, but are obviously still willing to pay more for superior quality.

(Febe Corthals)








Tintin and The quest for funds.

Filed under: business communication, crisis communication, Jana Mahieu, marketing communication — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 6:05 pm




After months of failed negotiations, the movie “Tintin” planned by the directors Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson may find its funds in a partnership between Sony Pictures Entertainment and Paramount Pictures.  The two-film series will be based on the Belgian comic strip written by Georges Remi (better known as Hergé) about the globetrotting young reporter we all know as Tintin. The first “Tintin” movie will be based on “The Secret of the Unicorn” and “Red Rackham’s Treasure”.

As the New York times states, Universal and Paramount were originally to fund the $130 million budget for the Tintin movies. However last month Universal announced to the press that they were going  to pass on the project, because they were concerned about the profitability of the films. In fact Spielberg and Jackson want a third of the movie’s gross receipts and in these financially difficult times this was just too much for Universal.

Today, Sony is in the middle of negotiations with  Paramount to co-finance the films.  The electronics giant offered to take the movie under a deal more to the filmmakers’ demands, but Paramount wouldn’t let go entirely and began discussing a partnership. For Sony, a deal would be the first time SS has worked with the studio as a director since 1991, when he made the movie “Hook”. For Paramount, a deal would be a good step in the readjustment of its relations with Mr. Spielberg and his new DreamWorks company.

Let’s hope this deal comes through so we can enjoy our Belgian hero and his dog (‘Snowy’ in English) on the big screen.

(Jana Mahieu) 




Like a little risk? Lie on your CV

Filed under: employee communication, Vanessa Vanleene — Tags: , , , — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 5:50 pm




A survey by consultancy firm The Risk Advisory Group (TRAG) discovered that 1 in 5 CVs contains lies.



Applicants for a job try to get ahead on the highly competitive job market by adding mistruths to their CV. This trend has lead to employers checking each detail more thoroughly. Indeed, a research by has found out that almost fifty percent of employers discovered misrepresentations in applicants’ forms. Applicants are especially creative when it comes to reporting on their academic qualifications, previous experiences, job titles and salaries.



The price for this lying turns out to be very high, as half of the alert employers interviewed by, immediately dismissed the untruthful candidate. Another forty percent postponed the decision before realizing the relapsing in lies was too great a risk. In the end, a meagre ten percent did recruit the job applicant who was found guilty of ‘cosmetic CV writing’.


It seems that on the job market, you can gain ground on your competitors by simply telling the truth. It suffices to take care that editing your CV to offer the most relevant information, does not turn into unflinchingly inflating your past experiences.



Vanessa Vanleene




(“cv’s staan vol leugens” Jobat 31 October 2008, p. 13)

When marketing strategy and crisis management merge – Let’s learn judo with Vladimir Putin

Filed under: Ankie Dees, marketing communication — Tags: — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 4:30 pm


The media-apparatus behind Russia’s Prime Minister is putting in extra effort when promoting Putins masculine image.


Only weeks after the Russian news channel “Vesti” reported that the prime minister had saved a news crew from a wild tiger, the remarkable video “Let’s Learn Judo With Vladimir Putin,” was released in St Petersburg in which we can see the white-robed prime minister body-slamming opponents.



At the moment, the video is only available in martial arts schools throughout the country, and it will only later be available to the public.


In contrast to his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, the media portrayed Putin during his eight years as President like a man who drank little and kept in good shape.


“Without sport,” Putin said at a recent news conference, “it is impossible to speak about a healthy way of life or the health of a nation as such.”





Interested? – for further reading:

How Tom Boonen defused a crisis

Filed under: business communication, crisis communication, Nina Vermaesen — Tags: , — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 2:37 pm


 When Belgium’s favourite cyclist Tom Boonen was busted for the use of cocaine last summer – in the middle of the cycling season nonetheless – the entire country was in a state of uproar. Therefore it was of vital importance that Tom Boonen and his entourage held a press conference if they wanted to defuse the crisis. How you talk to the press in such a situation is of major importance. More than anything effective crisis control would want to prevent a crisis. But if you fail to prevent a crisis – as is the case here – crisis communication is necessary to minimise the potential negative outcome or even to turn it into something positive.

Given the circumstances Boonen  did a great job. In fact, his ready-made announcement was completely in line with the rules of good crisis communication:


1.      “Admit the problem”: Boonen was wise enough to admit his mistake instead of denying that he had taken drugs. Fortis, on the other hand, recently illustrated the most striking example of bad crisis communication when they kept on denying that they were having problems.

2.      “Adjust your body language”: by reading out his text with downcast eyes, his body language screamed that he had done something wrong and had to be punished for it. The popular cyclist usually comes across as someone triumphant and flamboyant, but his usual bravura – which he still had when he was criticised for speeding – was now completely gone.

3.      “Do not blame others”: in a crisis situation, it is tempting to put the blame on somebody else, but Boonen did the right thing by bearing the responsibility.

4.      “Do not isolate yourself and reach out”: Tom Boonen did not only draw his family and team into this by saying that they stand by him, he also reached out to his supporters. And again, he did so in a modest way. He did not set a date or stipulate conditions for his return. Instead, he put his fate in the hands of his supporters and in a way asked them for help and support.


If you would like to know more, go to Whyte Corporate Affairs is a Belgian company with expertise in crisis communication. They even have a crisis hotline (+32 16 271 370)!


What’s in a name?

Filed under: crisis communication, Ruth Broekaert — Tags: , , , , , — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 12:34 pm

The top of the Fortis bank is considering to change the name ‘Fortis’ once the merger with BNP Paribas will have been completed. This was announced last week by top man Peter van de Kerckhove. Up until  now the Fortis-board has insisted that their name shouldn’t be changed because they felt it was still a strong brand, but apparently they have now altered their opinion on the matter. I think this is less of a  home made decision  than they make it seem, considering the  influences of the media.

Next to the overall reporting on the financial crisis, and the role of Fortis therein, several newspaper articles and internet sites have been popping up concerning the strength, or better, the weakness of the brand itself.

Some articles focussed on the discontent of Anderlecht, a Dutch football team which is sponsored by Fortis. Anderlecht’s chairman, Roger vanden Stock announced that the team doesn’t want to play with the brand, nor the logo, on their shirts anymore. They find that the name ‘Fortis’ now has gained a ‘loser’-connotation, which of course isn’t exactly flattering out on the field.

Fortis has also stopped using their slogan ‘Here today… where tomorrow?’ because the slogan has widely been made fun of on the internet. ‘Here today…gone tomorrow!’ has become a well known internet joke.

A particular YouTube-film has also received some media attention during the last couple of days. The film portrays in a humorous way the weak financial state of Fortis and its liquidity issues.

So… what’s in a name? I guess it depends on what’s cooking in the media…

Ruth Broekaert

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