Essentials of business communication by jennyyingdi


									      Lecture 1

      Essentials of
Business Communication

      1. The communication process

      2. Strategies of BC

      3. Categories of BC

      4. Internal and external BC

      5. Formal and informal BC
                 Why is
   communication vital to your career?
 practitioners in Big Six accounting firms: spent 80% of their
  work time communicating with others
 William Schaffer, international business development
  manager for Sun Microsystems: “If there’s one skill that’s
  required for success in this industry, it’s communication skills.”
 500 managers in a wide range of industries: oral
  communication skills as the top factor in hiring decisions (see
  “Importance of Competence in Hiring Decisions” on Page 1)
 subscribers to the Harvard Business Review: “the ability to
  communicate” as the most important factor in making an
  executive “promotable”
 a 20-year study on the progress of Stanford University MBAs:
  the most successful graduates shared such personality traits as a
  desire to persuade, an interest in talking and working with other
  people, and an outgoing personality
      Knowledge is power,

but communication is everything!
1. Communication model

-- proposed by Ronald. B. Adler, professor of Santa
   Barbara City College; also called the “Interactive Model”

                     Communication model
    Source: Adler & Elmhorst, Communicating at Work, 2005: 9.
Elements of communication:

 sender: the one who sends the message
 message: verbal (oral or written) vs. nonverbal
 encoding: choosing words or nonverbal symbols to
  send a message
 channel: the method used to deliver a message
 receiver: the one who receives the message
 decoding: attaching meaning to the words or symbols
 feedback: the receiver’s reaction to the sender’s
 noise: factors that interfere with the exchange of
 context: the overall setting where the communication
  takes place
Act it out: Nonverbal messages

  You celebrated your promotion in the pub
  with your team members last night, and got
  up very late this morning. Now you are
  hurrying to your office for the talk with the
 When you arrive at a cross-section, a car slows
  down to let you pass (the car window is closed).
  What would you do?
 As you are about to step onto the elevator of your
  office building, a young lady who you have never
  met before (probably a new colleague? A client?)
  is also walking in that direction. What would you
  do? And what do you expect the lady to react?
 On some occasions, nonverbal messages can be
  more economical and timely than verbal ones.
Case study: The plumber’s three letters

 Read the plumber’s case on Page 2-3.
 (hydrochloric acid 盐酸)

 The poor plumber took three letters to get
 a plain answer he should have received
 much earlier. What is the cause of this
 ineffective communication?

 The bureau officers didn’t put themselves
  in the receivers’ shoes when encoding the
  message.                            back

-- one of the greatest sources of communication
external noise: the babble of voices in the next
   room, the annoying ring the someone’s cell
   phone, an overcrowded room, a smelly cigar
physiological noise: illnesses, disabilities,
psychological noise: egotism, defensiveness,
   hostility, preoccupation, fear, stereotype

physical context: the physical setting
social context: the nature of the relationship
 between the communicators, as well as who is
chronological context: the ways in which time
 influences interaction
cultural context: both the organizational and
 the ethnic and/or national background of the
Case study: Physical context

 When asking our boss for a raise,
 under which of the following physical
 contexts are you more likely to
 receive a positive result?
In you boss’s office.
In your work area, with others observing
 the conversation.
Over lunch at a local restaurant.
At a company picnic or party.
Case study: Social context

  When asking our boss for a raise, under
  which of the following social contexts are
  you more likely to receive a positive result?
 You and the manager have been friends for
  several years, or you and the manager have no
  personal relationship.
 You are the same age as your manager, or
  he/she is 15 years older/younger than you.
 You and the manager have gotten along well in
  the past, or you have had an ongoing personality
  conflict with the manager.
 You and the manager are alone on a trip, or your
  only change to ask for the raise comes with
  other employees around.
Chronological context:

some time-related considerations in
What time of day is it (first appointment in the
 morning, or last in the afternoon)?
What are the communicator’s personal
 preferences for time (a morning person or a late
Is it before, during, or after work hours?
Is this a busy time of year (holiday season, tax
 time, annual report season)?
Has there just been a major layoff, downsizing,
 or profit loss?
Cultural context:

 some cultural differences that might
  influence communication:
 baby boomers and generation Y-ers
 post-60’s and post-80’s
 Euro-Americans and Hispanics
 local Cantonese and migrants
 New Yorkers and Californians
 Beijingers and Shanghaiers
 Americans and Japanese
2. Strategies of business communication

      You may communicate and receive a random
  response, which might be to ignore, misunderstand,
   or disagree with you; but if you intend to receive
      desired response, you need to communicate
2.1 Sender strategy
 What is your objective?
  general objective – action objectives – communication
  objectives (see “Examples of Objectives” on Page 4)
 What communication style do you choose?
  tell – sell – consult – join (see “Examples of Objectives
  and Styles” on Page 5)
 What is your credibility (initial & acquired)?
  rank, goodwill, expertise, image, common ground (see
  “Factors and Techniques for Credibility” on Page 6)
2.2 Receiver strategy
   You not only need to know where you want your audience to be,
            but also need to know where they are right now.
 Who are they?
  primary audience (familiar or unknown), key influencers (decision-
  makers, opinion leaders, gatekeepers), secondary audience (“hidden”
  but not to be overlooked )
 What do they know and expect?
• identify and define the jargon/metaphors
• simplify the information
• deal with mixed background needs (provide background information for
  novices, acknowledge the experts, and aim your message toward the
  key decision-maker)
 What do they feel?
• What is their current emotional level?
• How interested are they in your message? (high/low)
• What is their probable attitude towards your ideas? (positive/negative)
• How much efforts should they exert to do your desired action?
2.3 Message strategy
    A data dump is easy for you, but hard for your audience.
 emphasize your conclusion:
•    never “bury” important conclusions in the middle of your
•    state your main conclusions emphatically – at the beginning
     (direct approach) or at the end (indirect approach)
•    use the direct approach whenever possible (though opposite
     the thought process: audience-centered, easy to follow, time-
•    use the indirect approach with caution (though most of us do it
     by habit or academic training), unless: (1) a highly sensitive or
     unpopular idea, (2) a negatively biased or hostile audience, (3)
     an analysis-oriented decision maker (4) against cultural norms
•    keep your audience’s attention in the middle of your message
     by using intermediate conclusions
The Audience Attention Curve
organize your message:
-- choose an organizational pattern of your main ideas
for informative message (the “tell” style):
• key points

• key questions

• steps in a process

• alternatives to compare

for persuasive message (the “sell” style):
• list of recommendations

• list of benefits

• problem and solutions
choose your design cascade:
-- the way you show the organization of your message
   to your audience on your document or slide

•   How do you place your title, main headings, subset
    headings, and example headings? Centered, flush
    left, indented, or run-in?
•   Which size do you choose for headings, tables,
    labels and the text?
•   Which font style do you use? ALL CAPS, boldface,
    italics, underlined, or regular text?
             (see “Choices for Design Cascade” on Page 7)
2.4 Channel strategy
If channel choice was difficult before the Internet, it
  is exponentially much more difficult today.
 written channels: hard copy (letter, memo, report, bulletin),
  fax, Webpage, blog, microblog, wiki, email (blast), email
  (individual), TM, IM
 oral-only channels: telephone, voicemail, conference call,
  podcast (online broadcasting in audio)
 blended channels: face-to-face conversation, TS (tell/sell)
  presentation, CJ (consult/join) meeting, teleconferencing,
  Webcast (online broadcasting in video)
                 (see “Channels of Communication” on Page 8)
Guidelines for channel choice:

take the time to choose the best channel, instead
 of always using channels you prefer and feel
 comfortable with
if you don’t have a choice, think about how you can
 overcome its shortcomings
if possible, blend both oral and written channels:
 e.g. provide hard copy along with your oral
 presentation, follow up an email with a face-to-face
 conversation to minimize the possibility of
 misunderstanding, send a report or proposal and
 then make appointment with your superior to
 discuss it
for highly detailed but not urgent information:
 hard copy (to create a formal tone), email
to reach a public audience immediately:
 Websites, blogs, wikis
for fast transmission of brief messages to a
 targeted audience: telephone, email, IM, TM
for complicated decision-making process: face-
 to-face conversation, CJ meeting,
ideas that have a strong need for visual support:
 TS presentation
  (see “Considerations in Choosing a Communication
  Channel” on Page 9-10)
2.5 Culture strategy
What are the cultural attitudes toward:
 communication style: group-oriented (CJ),
  individualistic (TS), autocratic (T), democratic (C)
 credibility: age, wisdom, rank and social class valued in
  relationship-oriented culture, youth, innovation, expertise
  and individual achievement valued in task-oriented
 message structure: indirect structure for cultures
  valuing slow, ritualistic negotiations, direct structure for
  cultures valuing fast, efficient negotiations, direct
  structure downward and indirect structure upward in
  authoritarian cultures
 channel choice: oral channels for cultures valuing
  personal trust, written channels for cultures valuing hard
  facts and efficiency
 time: relaxed and past-oriented, or precise and future-
 fate: believing in deterministic fate, or believing in
  human control over fate
 posture and gesture
 eye contact and direction of gaze
 facial expression
 touching behaviors
 silence
 space and objects
 greetings and hospitality
 more …
3. Categories of business communication

5 dimensions:
 within the organization or between different
  organizations: internal communication vs. external
 serious and prepared, or casual and unprepared: formal
  communication vs. informal communication
 with feedback or not: one-way communication vs. two-
  way communication
 using words or not: verbal communication vs.
  nonverbal communication
 within a culture or between different cultural
  backgrounds: innercultural communication vs.
  intercultural communication
4. Internal and external communication

 4.1 Internal communication

 -- takes place within a given organization

 downward communication 下行沟通
 upward communication 上行沟通
 horizontal communication 平行沟通
4.1.1 Downward communication

-- goes from the top to the bottom, from the management to the
 one-way in nature
 often carries instructions, decisions, suggestions,
    announcements, adjustment, coordination, etc.
 authoritative and influential, plays the leading role

Which channel to use?
-- inside the office: memo, bulletin, report, newsletter, telephone
    talk, presentation, speech, video conference
-- outside the office: walking talk (MBWA, or H-P Way), on-the-
    site inspection, MBC
 the manager’s preference
 the actual situation
 the consideration over the efficiency
Communication practice: Which channel
to use?
 If the top management wants its new
   decisions to be implemented by all its
  company meeting: impressive and influential, but
   one-way and less personal
  oral directive through the hierarchy: might be
   distorted not even partially lost, but two-way and
   richer in information
  printed bulletin/email: lean, but clearer and more
   consistent, better for understanding and digest
  memo: lean, but would serve as a reminder to the
   target receiver
4.1.2 Upward communication

-- goes from the a lower level to a higher level, from the
   subordinate one to the managerial one
 may come at the request of the manager, or from the
   subordinate’s own initiatives (if the leadership style is
 one-way in nature
 reliable and valuable only when it is of the
   subordinate’s own will, but seldom the case
 measures to foster true and desired messages:
   cultivate a sense of mutual trust; reward productive
   opinions and suggestions, and make it a model to
Communication practice: Which channel
to use?

If the GM wants to know the situation
  of an imported production line…

ring and talk with the production
ask him to come to his office for a talk
send a memo to him requesting a report
invite him to have a walking talk after
4.1.3 Horizontal communication

-- at the same level in an
informality, closeness,
two-way in nature
informal in form, but
   serious in content
sometimes neglected by
   the managerial level
4.2 External communication

-- takes place between the organization and the
   outside persons and institutions concerned
with public: media communication,
with individuals: with customers and
with other organizations: with government
   departments, banks, suppliers, distributors,
   investors, rivals, Chamber of Commerce 商会,
   Commercial Counsellor’s office 商务参赞
4.2.1 With public: media communication

 The No. 1 principle: In business it is impossible to
   manage the media.
  Don’t expect to control the media so that only
   positive stories are carried.
  Do seek to assist the media and offer the information
   and access that will allow your organization to be
   seen in a positive light
 Which channel to use?
 (1) press release 新闻稿:
  include essential information, i.e. the W’s
  be relevant
  be brief
  include the contact details of someone who can
   provide further information
(2) press conference 新闻发布会:
make sure that everyone involved, within the
  organization and within the media, understands
  the purpose
prepare a careful checklist of organizational
  details: the venue, press invitation and
  registration, staff allocation, the stage and seating,
  the public address (and interpretation) system,
prepare materials to distribute: a press release,
  background papers, photographs/illustrations
provide as clear information as you can; don’t
  expect all reporters are specialists in the field
(3) press events 公关宣传活动:
 options: a factory visit, a familiarisation visit, the opening
  of a new facility, a major donation to charity, a sponsored
  sport event, celebrity endorsement signing ceremony
 as creative as you like, since the more interesting news
  angle, the happier the reporters are to attend and to report
 make sure that there is a staffed desk where reporters can
  register, collect information and ask questions; the staff as
  the desk must be completely familiar with all the
  arrangements for the event
 give reporters a separate room with desks and chairs, so
  that they can write up their stories, or carry out interviews
 tell over-eager security personnel not to obstruct media
  representatives; make them clear that the media are
  welcome and to be assisted
(4) the big interview 重要专访:
   prepare in advance:
•   cultivate and maintain media relationships
•   analyze two audiences: the reporter and the readers/viewers
•   think of questions; if possible, communicate with the reporter to
    know the topics he/she is most interested in
•   plan your response
   bring with you sufficient materials
   dress appropriately: avoid plaids, patterns, prints, and the color
    of the backdrop; keep accessories decent and simple
   listen carefully and mind the tricks
   use “bridging” to move from the reporter’s question to the
    message you want to convey
   bring your points to life by using short anecdotes, analogies
    and simple statistics
(5) bad press/crisis communication 负面报道/危
What is a crisis? – unpredictable and negative
 a explosion in one of your factories that results in loss of
  life and destruction of property
 a food poisoning incident in your staff canteen
 a crime that is reported to concern a senior executive or
  the big boss
 a very negative article on the quality of your products in a
  major newspaper
 action against a production facility for breach of health and
  safety regulations
 a protest by a large group of workers as a result of a
  downsizing program
           Communication in a crisis is vital.
         Communication in a crisis is difficult.
Ten golden rules in crisis communication
 Prepare in advance. -- Crisis Communications Plan
 Make sure everyone knows his/her role.
 Accept responsibility (not liability).
 Act quickly.
 Communicate your position clearly and immediately.
 Communicate regularly.
 Tell your staff what is happening.
 Integrate communications into the management
 Watch out for exhaustion.
 Keep records.

    (see “Ten Golden Rules in Crisis Communication” on Page 11-21)
Case study: Making looking bad look good

 A reporter has telephoned you from a major
 local newspaper, saying that “We’ve had a
 call from a woman who claims that your
 fruit juice made her son ill. She says that
 she has noticed that he feels sick whenever
 he drinks your orange and mango juice. She
 says that she has spoken to several other
 mothers and their children say the same
 thing. ”
 The reporter wants your comment right away:
 not in half an hour, an hour, or the next day.
 You have to say something. What do you say?
Here is what you could say:

      We are very concerned about this report. We
  produce millions of fruit drinks every day with the
  highest quality and safety controls rigorously
  enforced. We fully comply with all national,
  regional and local laws on food safety. We have
  received no other complaints like this. However,
  we treat all complaints seriously, and we feel
  regretful for the mother and other mothers who
  have the similar trouble. We would like your reader
  to contact us urgently so that we can investigate,
  and we are willing to offer any possible help. You
  can call me anytime to my mobile number ****, and
  please give me your number so that we can follow
  it up.

 You have given the reporter an immediate
 You have used the opportunity to restate the
  quality and safety message of your company.
 You have made it clear that you have had no
  other similar complaints.
 You have extended your compassion and
  understanding to the mother.
 You have offered to investigate further and to
  help, which shows a concerned and responsible
 You have conveyed the message that you are
  available anytime.
 At no point have you admitted liability, or
(6) inward communication 反向沟通
For effective media communication, it is vital
  that organizations listen as well as speak.
media monitoring: regular reading of media
 reports to know:
what the media is saying about them
what is being said about rivals, and relevant
 business environment
recent crisis in the industry and the impact
4.2.2 With individuals

(1) with customers:
 personal selling
 after-sales service: supreme customer service to
  achieve supreme customer satisfaction
(2) with shareholders:
 often take place at the shareholders’ annual meeting
 start-and-finish policy: common practice in the past,
  but not working today as shareholders are taking
  more and more active roles in communicating with
  the firm
 open-door policy: offer more access to
  communication at the yearly meeting
5. Formal and informal communication

 5.1 Formal communication
 -- e.g. a business talk, a speech at a meeting, a product
    presentation, a business letter, a memo, a report
  should be planned and prepared
 To prepare for a product presentation to a prospect:

                  choose            collect          prepare
 set your           your         information      visual aids &
  goals            focus                            materials

  should be serious and exact: you have to take all the
   responsibilities for whatever messages you send,
   and that is why you have to weigh each word over
   before you actually speak or write it
5.2 Informal communication
-- also called “grapevine” (see “The Network for
   Grapevine” on Page 22)
 negative impact: spread rumors and weakens
 features: unpredictable, cross-level, thrived by
   active “messengers”, highly selective, speedy
 motive: the formal communication fails to satisfy
   employees’ demand for information
What the management should do to minimize
   the negative impact of grapevine:
 have direct communication with employees
 listen sincerely to their suggestions or complaints
 care about their welfare benefits
 give earnest explanations about any bad news
What employees can to do to network, i.e. to
  strategically meet people and maintain
  contacts to get career information:
 view everyone as a networking prospect (see “Sources
  of information from personal networks” on Page 23),
  and treat everyone you deal with respectfully
 get referrals to further connections: “Can you suggest
  someone who can help me?”
 seek a mentor: Rule 1: Keep it professional; Rule 2:
  Keep it confidential; Rule 3: Don’t expect extra favors.
 become a bridge: “You are looking for a financial
  analyst? I know someone who would be perfect for
 ask questions: “What is going on here?”
After-class assignments
1. Communication practice: Standard
Charters’ press conference

  You are the public relations assistant for the
  Standard Charters Bank, and your bank is
  about to open five new branches in
  Guangzhou. This represents a considerable
  development for the bank in the Mainland
  market, and it is part of its expansion in the
  retail-banking sector.
  You are asked to organize a press conference to
  announce the opening the new branches. You
  have two weeks and RMB10,000 as budget.
  What would you do? Make a list the tasks and
2. Case analysis: Ikea’s customer

  Read the IKEA case on Page 24-25.
  You are the newly-arrived Customer Service
  manager of IKEA. As soon as you arrive, you
  hear the whole matter. What do you think of this?
  And what action would you take to handle it?

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