Company Examples for Chapter 8: Bad-News Messages

Medium CEO Announces Layoffs and a New Company Direction (March 2017) Medium post image

If you're looking for emotional appeal in a layoff announcement, Ev Williams' post on Medium about Medium is a good example. He uses plenty of emotional language and balances the bad news with optimism for the company going forward. He's also forthcoming about past failures.

Ralph Lauren CEO Leaves the Company (February 2017)

In a clear, honest press release, Ralph Lauren announces the departure of a CEO. Stefan Larsson was hired from Old Navy, but he and the company company founder couldn't agree on a way to boost revenue and stave off declining sales. The statement is a refreshing change from other announcements that give no reason or invent reasons for a CEO departure, for example, "to pursue other interests."


Ten Thousand Villages Announces Store Closings (January 2017)

Non-profit fair trade organization Ten Thousand Villages sent an email to announce store closings and downsizing at the corporate office. The message covers the basics, but the main point is in the second paragraph, and I wonder how enthusiastic people will feel about the organization's future.  


Nestlé Recalls Drumsticks (October 2016)

This is a typical recall notice-one of many each year. 


The Secretary of Education Tells Students  About ITT Closing (September 2016)

Sadly, students can relate to this situation. When ITT decided to close its campuses, the secretary of education sent this message to affected students.


Data Breach Affects Hotel Properties (August 2016)

Here's a typical data breach notification-also one of many each year. This one affected hotels owned and operated by HEI. 

I have distributed several security breach emails and asked students to compare them. They notice subtle differences based on the situation and company culture.


Carrier Announces Layoffs (February 2016)

A painful, but important video showing Carrier executives telling employees their jobs are moving to Mexico. The situation became politicized when President Trump negotiated with the company to save some of the jobs, although the number is in question.


Older Examples

Written Messages

Layoff memo and email examples:

Emails to customers about email security breach.  Download 14 versions of this communication. Useful to show different companies' approaches to the same message (e.g., formatting, differences in tone, to what extent each is customized to the audience, level of detail, whether "Epsilon" is mentioned and how the company is described, etc.). I have asked students to work in small groups to compare three examples that I assign. 

Sprint termination letter. Read more here: "Sprint breaks up with high-maintenance customers."

Fresh Direct explains service delivery failures following a snow storm.

Charles Trywhitt (British retailer) apologizes for a late order.

Agatha Christie refuses a request to speak. Background information here.

Three responses to an employee suggestion (written by students). Useful to discuss tone.

Messages from former UBS CEO: about the $2.3B loss and his subsequent resignation.

American Airlines communicates bankruptcy in a press release, memo to employees, and email to AAdvantage club members.

Lacoste responds to false coupon code issue.

World's longest rejection letter. Background information here

Best Buy press release announcing CEO resignation.

Hostess bankruptcy letter.

Asiana Press Releases about the July 2013 crash.

Daily Voice email scheduling a conference call where layoffs would be announced. Great example of a style that is too indirect. Read more here.

Groupon CEO's farewell email to employees.

Yahoo's controversial email calling remote employees to the office.

Malaysia Airlines' statement about missing flight.

Emails about Heartbleed virus, 2014

Sears explains store closings, 2014.

More company responses to data breaches, 2015.

Blue Bell Creameries' news release about product recalls and news release about layoff decisions, 2015. (See also the CEO's video message.) 

Video Examples

Opening scene from the movie Up in the Air (download). Useful to demonstrate the challenges of communicating bad news (layoffs).  Beware of obscene language.

Another scene from Up in the Air: Ryan Bingham discusses his philosophy of communicating layoffs (download).

Geico commercial demonstrating a deceptive buffer.

Videos from the "United Breaks Guitars" incident, United Airlines' refusal to pay for a broken guitar and the disgruntled passenger's response: 

News conference about Ebola in NYC, 2014.

Virgin Galactic news conference about the SpaceShip Two crash, 2014.

New McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbook admits performance issues, and the stock loses ground, 2015.

A French investigator discusses the Germanwings flight crash in a news conference, 2015.

AirAsia CEO apologizes to families of lost flight, 2015.

Blue Bell Creameries CEO announces layoff decision after recall, 2015.