This assignment is a fictionalized case study based on the blog post “American Apparel apologizes for use of Challenger explosion photo” by Brian Braiker
Here is some background on the Challenger spacecraft explosion. Content warning: Please note that the following article contains sensitive information about a fatal explosion
Imagine that you are a communications expert working as an independent consultant. Once the scandal involving the social media post broke out, you have been hired by “Rob Jones” (not based on a real person) a senior management employee at American Apparel, to offer your analysis of the situation and the company’s options. Rob Jones has asked you for this analysis because he is going to participate in a senior management meeting in order to discuss the media disaster caused by the post and the next steps the company needs to take. Since the Tumblr post was posted by one of the
company’s social media workers, Rob Jones felt that he should ask for some input from an independent expert rather than talking to anyone from the company’s social media department.
You realize that this is a great opportunity for you to demonstrate your expertise to secure future collaborations with Rob Jones, but you know that your task won’t be easy. The problem has no easy solution, and the company will have to work diligently to reduce the impact of the incident and restore its reputation. You will have to help your reader to understand that there is nothing to be done to completely eliminate the effects of the incident, and that restoring the company’s reputation will take time and money. This is clearly not good news, and it will have to be delivered in a cautious, sympathetic, and persuasive way.
Format your response as an indirect pattern letter addressed to Rob Jones. Control your tone carefully throughout – avoid negative phrasing as much as possible in this difficult situation, and discuss the company’s responsibility in cautious terms. (For example, avoid phrases such as “the post has caused a media disaster”; say, instead, that “the post has been interpreted as offensive by a large number of readers and the company has received large amounts of negative coverage as a result.”) Again, make sure you go over the materials on positive phrasing included in earlier modules, as well as any stylistic/formatting suggestions included in earlier modules before you complete this assignment.) You don’t want your reader to think that you are trying to take advantage of the situation – that you are implicitly suggesting that you should be hired to replace the employee who posted the offending post. Besides, as a senior management employee, Rob Jones might have been one of the people responsible for hiring the person who made the post and/or promoting him or her. You don’t want him to think that you think he made a mistake and is, in part, responsible for the current situation.
Try to come across as kind but lucid – you are not interested in “throwing stones,” but you can see that there is serious damage to be fixed. Impress your reader with your persuasiveness and sophistication.
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