Communication Writing Portfolio

Purpose: In working with clients or colleagues, it’s imperative to strike the right balance in tone and content. In BCOMM, we want to guide you through the process of learning to communicate effectively in common communications with both clients and colleagues. The communication portfolio is your opportunity to demonstrate effective business writing through at least six examples of your everyday business communication.

Audience: Your team members; your client; and (for one item) your BCOMM instructor

Length: 100-500 words each. No document may exceed 500 words!

Because these documents are so brief and address such specific situations, student examples are not provided. However, BCE Chaptes 7, 8 and 9 will provide useful models for format and tone.

The following communication examples are possibilities for your portfolio:

  1. Email information request(s) from your potential client–Examples include Request for Information and Letter of Recommendation (see more info on letters of rec here). Select one
  2. Deny request(s) three Samples Scenarios. Select two
  3. Delivering Sensitive Information
  4. Formal Thank you letter
  5. Evaluation of colleague or organization member
  6. A memo (500-word maximum) to your BCOMM instructor in which you provide an analysis of the content of your portfolio.

Combine your emails, texts, etc. and convert to a single Word document. Remember to keep formatting and document design. Upload as a single file to ANGEL. 

Scenario #1: Request for Information (email)

You are going to contact an organization or student group for your work in BCOMM. However, before you “pitch” your idea to that group, you want to find out more about the group. Write an email in which you request information from the business that you analyzed for the Company Profile assignment. (You may revise actual emails that you did write in order to get information for the Profile.) In your email, you should not pitch your idea or present yourself as a student begrudgingly completing a class assignment but as someone (a business student) who is genuinely interested in knowing more about the organization. Consider: What information do you still need to collect about this organization? Do you think the organization will give you that information? Do you just want more information from the company or do you want to explain that you might help them? Do you also want to suggest a time to meet to discuss a possible collaboration in this email or wait for their reply?

Scenario #1: Letter of Recommendation Request (email)

You are going to contact an instructor or professor to write a letter of recommendation for you to (a) participate in Penn State’s study abroad program, (b) an internship or job, or (c) scholarship or leadership academy with President of University.  The instructor has only known you for a period of one semester-two years. (This might be a short time to some.)  What information will you include in your request?

Scenario #2: Deny Request- Negative (email)

Organizations often have unrealistic expectations for what BCOMM students can accomplish in just a few weeks, or they assume that you have expertise that you do not. For example, one common client request is for BCOMM students to design a new company Web site. Few BCOMM students, however, have professional web design experience, and most students do not have the expertise to help companies user test, technology trouble-shoot, and host their websites. Besides, you cannot design, test, and launch a full Web site in just a few weeks. In this scenario, your client has asked you to build an entire company Web site from scratch. In a polite but clear fashion, write an email to your client and explain why you cannot accomplish the Web site redesign and suggest an alternative plan. How do you politely deny a request that seems simple to your client? How do you maintain your client’s trust in your expertise? What alternative would be feasible in such an instance?

Scenario #2: Deny Request- Negative (email)

You are the head of human resources at SimuTech, a company that produces software.

You have been assigned the unenviable task of informing employees of the company that expected holiday bonuses will not be distributed this year because of an unexpected downturn in company profits. This is the first time this has happened since the bonus program was created ten years ago.

This is a sensitive message because it will likely disappoint employees and may additionally cause them to lose confidence in the future of the company. Your challenge is to offset this initial reaction and reaffirm their commitment to SimuTech.

Scenario #2: Declining a Job Offer or Letter of Resignation

After all your interviews, you may find that you need to write a letter declining a job offer. Using the techniques for negative messages (see Chapter 8): Open warmly; state the reasons for refusing the offer, decline the offer explicitly, and close on a pleasant note that expresses gratitude.  Take the time the write a sincere, tactful letter, in order to leave the door open for future contact. Letter of Resignation–If you get a job offer while employed, you can maintain good relations with your current employer by writing a thoughtful letter of resignation to your immediate supervisor.  Follow the advice for negative messages and make the letter sound positive, regardless of how you feel.  Say something favorable about the organization, the people you work with, or what you’ve learned from the job.  Then state your intention to leave and give the date of your last day on the job.  Be sure you give your current employer at least two weeks’ notice.  (see pg 404)

Scenario #3: Delivering Sensitive Information (memo)

You are still playing the role of the H.R. head at SimuTech, but this time you have been assigned to compose a memo describing a change in policy.

Last week one of SimuTech’s employees, Craig Wilson, was terminated after support personnel discovered illegally downloaded content on his computer during a systems upgrade. Wilson was a well-regarded worker of SimuTech who had just recently been commended by the company for his high achievement. However, administrators at SimuTech terminated Wilson because they feel the use of office equipment for these purposes leaves the company vulnerable to legal action.

Your challenge in composing this memo is three-fold. Employees are curious and concerned about Wilson’s dismissal, so part of the purpose of your memo is to calm fears and confusion about his termination.

Secondly, you have been instructed to remind employees that the use of office computers for personal and/or illegal purposes (such as illegally downloading copyrighted material) is against company policy and grounds for termination.

Finally, managers have decided to perform random searches on company computers to make sure this kind of activity is not taking place; you have to inform employees of these forthcoming searches and attempt to discourage negative reactions.

Scenario #4: Thank you (letter)

You got a chance to work with a great client for your Profile. You finished the project on time and it turned out well. Send a thank you letter to your client. How can you make the thank you letter specific (not a generic “thanks”)? Should you and, if so, how might you use the letter to invite further work from your client—perhaps even the Deliverable?

Scenario #5: Narrative Performance Review

Instead of assigning a rating to competency areas, by simply answering written questions about an employee’s performance you will write a narrative performance review and cite specific examples to support your observations.

Your employee (or alter for organization member) Tom, has worked in the office for four years. He is well liked and knowledgeable about the history of the office and University systems. There is no past history of performance issues that you can see from looking at past performance reviews. What you have observed is that Tom regularly shows up late, (office opens at 8:30am, Tom usually comes by 9/9:15am), takes longer than an hour for lunch, and often is heading out the door by 4:30pm (office closes at 5pm). You notice that this type of behavior seems to happen once in a while for other employees in the office, but seems like a daily practice for Tom. He never records any of this time on his time card as official time off.  A few employees and managers describe Tom as unapproachable and curt at times. Write Tom’s evaluation.

Scenario #6: Memo to your instructor (memo)

You must include this item: Now that you’ve written (or revised) several communication samples, convince your BCOMM instructor that you’ve made good communication decisions with respect to audience, genre expectations, and content. Write a memo (no more than 500 words!) to your BCOMM instructor in which you provide an analysis of the content of your portfolio. Your goal here is to give your instructor confidence that you can think strategically about business communication. In your memo, carefully explain your rhetorical choices: what challenges did you face and how did you meet those challenges? Also, as you review your writing, what do you think are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer (invention, organization, tone, etc.)?
***You will submit this portfolio (one document with 7 samples) in the assigned dropbox. See schedule for due dates.

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