Monthly Archives: May 2015

Bad-News Assignment

Delivering bad news has five goals: (a) Explaining clearly and completely (b) Projecting a professional image (c) Conveying empathy as well as sensitivity (d) Being fair and (e) Maintaining friendly relations.

This assignment will allow you to put the indirect vs. direct strategy to delivering bad news to the test. You will select one of the two scenarios below, and write both an indirect and direct bad-news letter using the principles outlined in the textbook. You will then show both letters to three different people asking them which approach they believe is most effective and why. Next write a 3-5-page paper relating your findings and finally your assessment. At least two of your three people should be working professionals. One person can be a friend or family member.

This task will give you practice with formulating bad-news messages and assessing people’s reactions to indirect vs. direct strategies. Choose either scenario and complete the required tasks. The assignment is worth 75 points (15 points for each letter (inductive and deductive), 10 points each for feedback (three people) and 15 points for your summary.

Scenario #1 – Rising Costs Hit Bakery Deliveries

As the owner of La Boulangerie Bakery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, you have a devoted clientele savoring your delicacies. Your salty caramel cupcakes offer an irresistible salty-sweet flavor combination using fleur de sel crystals hand harvested from the pristine seas off Brittany, France. These salt granules complement the sweet buttery caramel that flavors both the cake and frosting. Although your cupcakes are a trendy hit, you also feature delicious cakes, squares, cookies, and breads. Your bakery has a medium-sized storefront; however, most of your business comes from supplying local restaurants and coffee shops with your tantalizing treats. You own two trucks that make deliveries to customers throughout the Baton Rouge metropolitan area.

Although LaBoulangerie is financially successful, rising costs have severely undercut your profits over the past few months. You know that you are not the only business owner dealing with rising prices. Many of your suppliers have raised their prices over the past year. Specifically, the higher price of wheat and sugar has resulted in a drastic increase in your production costs. Previously, you did not charge for deliveries made to your wholesale clients. However, you now feel that you have no choice but to add a delivery charge for each order to cover your increased costs and the rising price of gas.

Your Task:

  • As the owner of La Boulangerie Bakery, write a bad-news (indirect) letter to your wholesale clients in which you announce a $20 charge per delivery. Try to think of a special offer to soften the blow. Address the first letter to Mr. Emil Broussard, Café Broussard, 2013 West Lee Drive, Baton Rouge, LA 70820.
  • In contrast, write a direct style letter to your wholesale clients
  • Choose three people and show them both letters. Ask them which letter they feel is most effective, and why.
  • Summarize, assess, and report your findings.

Source: Guffey-Loewy, Essentials of Business Communication, 10e (2016, Cengage Learning).

Scenario #2 – Home Depot Delivers, But it’s Bad News

On September 8, 2014, Home Depot experienced a widespread security breach in its payment data systems, which affected customers using payment cards at U.S. and Canadian stores. The malware used in the breach was eliminated on September 18 when Home Depot completed a major payment security update that provided enhanced encryption of payment data at the point of sale in retail stores. This enhanced encryption offers significant new protection for customers.

Home Depot does not believe that either debit card personal identification numbers (PINs) or checks were compromised. Further, no evidence suggests that stores in Mexico or on-line shoppers at HomeDepot.com were affected.

Home Depot will be offering affected customers free identify protection services for one year to those customers who used payment cards at a U.S. or Canadian Hope Depot store between April 1 through September 19, 2014. A hotline was set up to answer customer questions and address customer concerns: 1-800-HOMEDEPOT

Your Task:

  • As the public relations manager, you have been given the responsibility of customer communication on this issue. Determine the communication channel (letter or e-mail) you will use and write both an indirect and direct letter/e-mail to customers in which you communicate the situation.
  • In contrast, write a direct style letter to your wholesale clients
  • Choose three people and show them both letters/e-mails. Ask them which message they believe is most effective, and why.
  • Summarize, assess, and report your findings.

Source: Guffey-Loewy, Business Communication: Process & Product, 8e, 2015