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Archive for the 'Hall of Fame' Category

WeeblyAnyone who has lived through an iteration or two of Web technology can appreciate how easy it is to set up and maintain a blog or website these days. Thanks to readymade blog themes, drag-and-drop website builders, and other user-friendly tools, what once required days of hair-pulling coding can now be accomplished by total neophytes in a matter of hours.

However, there are still some occasional dark alleys in this new online paradise. One of these involves managing domain name records when your domain name is registered with one company but your blog or website is hosted by another. (Not all domain registrars offer hosting services, and not all hosting companies offer domain registration.)

If you’re split between service providers like this, you have to act as the intermediary between the two whenever you need to update your domain records. At this point, blissfully nontechnical web users can stumble into a world of DNS control panels, A records, CNAME records, root domains, and the like. If this information had any long-term value to most bloggers and website owners, it might be worth learning, but this truly is disposable knowledge for most people.

The actual steps involved aren’t terribly complicated, but various companies have different terminology and different ways of presenting the steps required so it’s easy for the uninitiated to get lost. Hosting companies can’t access records held at a domain registrar; they can only tell you what needs to be done, then you can try it yourself or email your domain registrar to ask for help. Even if you can ask the registrar to modify your records for you, you need to know what to ask for.

This is where an audience-oriented approach to communication can make all the difference. Rather than simply listing the technical information its customers need to pass along to a registrar, the webhosting company Weebly took the extra step of pre-writing an email message for them. Customers who want to create a site on Weebly or move an existing site to Weebly without changing registrars can simply copy and paste the email message, with one easy change of inserting their domain name. They don’t even need to understand what the message says.

The attached slide has a copy of the Weebly email template, and you can read the entire article here.

Bovee and Thill blog – Hall of Fame – Weebly Email Template


WPPLong and complex reports, such as corporate annual reports, can place a heavy burden on readers. Publishing these reports online presents an additional set of challenges, because readers can no longer just flip printed pages to skim content or establish context. Fortunately, the Web also provides new opportunities for structure and navigation that can make online reports easy to consume, if reports are crafted with readers' needs firmly in mind.

The London-based holding company WPP Group is the world’s largest marketing communication services firm, with more than 150 component companies involved in every conceivable aspect of advertising and related business activities. All together, WPP companies have nearly 180,000 employees in more than 100 countries. Trying to report on the annual progress of an organization this complicated is no easy task, but WPP’s intelligent, reader-friendly choices make its online annual reports easy to navigate and read.

The attached slides show eight screens from WPP's 2014 annual report, along with helpful annotations and lecture notes.

You can view the full report at 
(When the 2015 report is eventually published, we assume it will be found at

Download Slides Here: Bovee and Thill Blog – Hall of Fame – WPP annual report

Cemex Shift logoThe “social” label in “social networking” and the consumer-entertainment origins of some of the most popular platforms can sometimes create the impression that these systems aren’t really professional-grade communication technologies. However, if one looks past the fun and frivolity of social media, it’s fascinating to see how some heavy-duty industrial and high-tech firms are putting these tools to use.

Two of our favorite examples are Cemex and VMWare. Both are about as far as you can get from the consumer/retail/entertainment arena, but both companies make extensive use of social networking and related technologies.

Cemex: A century-old company leaps into the 21st century with social innovation

Cemex is a Mexican concrete and cement giant, with 44,000 employees in more than 50 countries. After a period of worldwide expansion that began in the 1990s, it now operates quarries, cement plants, and other facilities on every continent except Antarctica. Facing a triple challenge of innovating materials for demanding building designs, operating more efficiently to preserve profitability, and reducing its environmental footprint, Cemex realized it needed to tap the expertise of all its people in new and better ways.

The company’s response to this multilayered challenge was an award-winning online collaboration platform called Shift, which combines social networking, wikis, blogs, a Twitter-like microblogging system, social bookmarking, videoconferencing, a trend-spotting tool called Shift Radar, and more. A custom mobile app lets employees access the system wherever their work takes them.

Ninety-five percent of Cemex employees now use Shift and have formed nearly 3,000 online communities based on technical specialties and shared interests. That level of engagement is paying off in numerous ways, such as launching a new global brand of ready-mix concrete in one-third the expected time, nearly tripling the company’s use of renewable energy, and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by almost 2 million metric tons.

VMWare: Hundreds of social media accounts, groups, and forums keep a half-million customers connected

VMWare is a $6 billion software company whose specialty is virtualization, a software technique that lets a single computer act like multiple, independent machines. Virtualization is a critical technology behind cloud computing and much of today’s information technology (IT) infrastructure, but it’s not exactly the sort of trendy topic that blows up on Twitter or prompts a million “you have to see this” shares on Facebook.

In spite of being far removed from the consumer sphere, VMWare is social through and through. Its community portal is perhaps the most extensive we’ve ever seen, with hundreds of official social media accounts and groups focused on specific technical or business issues, including nearly a hundred Twitter accounts alone.

As an example of the company’s commitment to social media, VMWare was one of the earliest adopters of social recruiting. After a simple experiment with Facebook job postings proved successful, the company realigned its entire recruiting strategy around social networking. Two key benefits of the new approach are establishing contact with high-value software talent the company hadn’t been in touch with before and giving the company and job candidates the chance to learn more about each other outside the narrow confines of the screening and recruiting process.

The social recruiting effort has been so successful that VMWare continues to expand it. Moving forward, the firm is focusing on expanding its use of mobile recruiting apps and in helping employees become effective “brand advocates” for the company in their own social networks.


Adapted from current and forthcoming editions of Bovée and Thill’s business communication texts. To see more examples of how today’s companies are applying fundamental communication skills in the context of new technologies, request examination copies.

Red Ants PantsSarah Calhoun founded Red Ants Pants because she was frustrated by the lack of hard-wearing pants for hard-working women. Her passion for meeting the needs of her customers shines through in the company's communication efforts—along with her zeal for making work fun and meaningful. Not many firms could tell their founding story in goofy rhyming couplets, but Red Ants Pants pulls it off perfectly.

Bovee and Thill blog – Hall of Fame – Red Ants Pants

HailoHailo is a popular taxi-hailing service operating in London, New York, and other major cities. With a quick tap on a smartphone app, passengers can hail any Hailo-registered cab in the area, without waving in the street or hunting for a place where taxis are likely to be found.

The system does have a potential downside for drivers, however. They have to spend time driving to the passenger's location and waiting up to five minutes once they arrive—time during which they aren't earning any income. If drivers suspect that a potential passenger will want only a short ride, they are more likely not to respond to the request because the short ride won't compensate for the time they have to invest.

This phenomenon can be troublesome for the system as a whole during peak hours, when more passengers are trying to use the system. To keep its app users happy, Hailo wants as many drivers as possible to participate during peak times. To encourage participation, it guarantees drivers a minimum amount of revenue for every Hailo rider they pick up.

The Hailo service in London recently raised its peak-time minimum fare and announced the increase in an email message to app users. The message is a model of how to present negative news in a positive way. It is also a great example of using the indirect approach for organizing a message.

We've included the message on a set of annotated PowerPoint slides so you can share it with your class.

Bovee and Thill blog – Hall of Fame – Hailo


EdisonThe timeline feature in Facebook is a great tool for visual narration, particularly if a company has a rich library of compelling photos and other visuals to use. And as GE demonstrates, if you're telling a story of innovation, it helps if you can start the story with an image of one of the most famous inventors in history!

This PowerPoint slide shows the beginning of the GE timeline story.

Bovee and Thill blog – Hall of Fame – GE on Facebook

GamesRadarOne of the most effective business uses of Twitter is as a "headline-announcement service," alerting readers to new blog posts, new pieces in online magazines, and other fresh content. However, writing effective Twitter teasers for any given target audience is a bit of an artform. The videogame review site does a good job of this, enticing game fans with cheeky and provocative prompts.

Here's an annotated snapshot of the company's Twitter account with several examples: Bovee and Thill blog – Hall of Fame – GamesRadar on Twitter

This post offers an overview of teasers and the other compositional modes that students should be comfortable with when writing for electronic media. The post also includes a link to a new video on the Bovée-Thill YouTube Channel that explores these modes.

Gregg Fraley is a highly regarded expert in the field of creativity and business innovation, but because his services are intangible, potential clients can’t “test drive” those services before making a purchase decision. His website shows the care he takes to build credibility as part of his communication efforts.

Bovee and Thill blog – Hall of Fame – Gregg Fraley

The ability to explain complex topics in clear terms is one of the most important skills a business communicator can have. This example from the Creative Commons website, explaining three levels of content licensing, demonstrates the power of plain language.

Bovee and Thill blog – Hall of Fame – Creative Commons website

Within minutes of its release as part of an operating system upgrade on Apple mobile devices, the Apple Maps feature began to generate howls of protest. Compared to the Google mapping feature it replaced, Apple Maps had numerous problems, from egregious errors to missing functionality.

Users accustomed to finding just about anything through the Google app flooded the Internet with examples of mapping blunders. A railway station in Helsinki showed up as a park in Apple Maps. A farm in Ireland appeared as an airport. The Washington Monument was misplaced by several hundred yards. Driving directions steered one user down a railroad track. A search for the huge John Lewis department store in central London yielded nothing, even when the user was standing on the sidewalk outside the store. (This Tumblr blog offers dozens of examples—some amusing, some frightening.)

Beyond the errors and omissions, the removal of real-time mass transit schedules upset people who had been relying on this feature to plan journeys.

Two responses from Apple caught our eye during the aftermath. The first merits our Hall of Shame award, but the second gets into the Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Shame Example

An article on highlighted the many problems Apple Maps was displaying soon after launch and quoted this response from Apple’s Trudy Muller:

Customers around the world are upgrading to iOS 6 with over 200 new features including Apple Maps, our first map service. We are excited to offer this service with innovative new features like Flyover and Siri integration, and free turn by turn navigation. We launched this new map service knowing that it is a major initiative and we are just getting started with it. We are continuously improving it, and as Maps is a cloud-based solution, the more people use it, the better it will get. We’re also working with developers to integrate some of the amazing transit apps in the App Store into iOS Maps. We appreciate all of the customer feedback and are working hard to make the customer experience even better.

There are five major problems with this response:

First, there is no acknowledgment of any problems, even though people all over the world were having problems and sharing them all over the Internet.

Second, there is no element of apology. Many users were furious, particularly given that they had no choice in the switch from Google to Apple Maps. (Of course, you can’t apologize if you don’t admit you even have a problem.)

Third, the upbeat tone adds insult to injury. Yes, companies need to put a positive spin on things whenever they can, but when customers are angry, they really don’t want to hear that you’re “excited to offer” the very service that is driving them nuts. Yes, Flyover and Siri are cool features to add to mapping, but if the map sends you astray, they aren’t all that helpful. And promising to make customer experience “even better” is tone deaf in this context. Something has to be perceived as “good” before it can get “better.”

Fourth, angry customers also don’t care that it’s a “major initiative” or that you’re “just getting started with it.” They care that a major feature on their expensive phones was suddenly replaced with one that was unreliable and in many instances simply unusable. Plus, this aspect of the message risks coming across as “give us a break; this is really hard and we aren’t finished yet.”

Fifth, with “the more people use it, the better it will get,” the message comes close to blaming users, or at least suggesting that they share the responsibility for fixing the problems. And what are people supposed to do the meantime, keep driving down railroad tracks or walking across lakes?

All in all, it’s a classic. But not the kind of classic any company wants to be known for.

The Hall of Fame Example

About a week later, Apple CEO Tim Cook responded with an open letter to Apple customers that acknowledged the extent of the problem, apologized for the frustration Apple created, and, most impressively, explained how to put alternative mapping capabilities—including Google—on affected Apple products. (Click here for an annotated slide.)

Cook’s letter does repeat the “the more people use it, the better it will get,” which we believe is an ill-advised message point. Mapping is an important feature on an expensive product, and it is Apple’s responsibility to fix the problem, not customers’, even if customer input can help. However, the letter has enough other helpful information conveyed in a respectful way that we still think it offers a worthy example.