Starbucks has a section of its website entitled, “Starbucks Stories & News,” where the Executive Vice President, Rossann Williams, updates the company’s stakeholders about how the company is navigating through COVID-19. In the first letter, written on March 4th, 2020, Williams addresses the company’s partners’, customers, and communities, on the precautionary steps Starbucks has taken during the pandemic. There are five steps listed addressing cleanliness, consumer’s personal cups, travel, large meetings, and reporting/supporting someone impacted by the virus. The five steps make it quick and easy for readers to grasp.
Not only is the company taking steps to increase the cleaning and sanitizing of all stores, but they are paying their partners additional profits to perform these CDC recommended and time-consuming tasks. Also, the establishment is still honoring the 10-cent discount to customers who bring in personal cups, even though customers are unable to use them during this time. The restrictions on large meetings and travel and the examples listed above, prove the company is taking steps to protect their employees, partners, and customers. The post effectively addresses everyone employed by the company and the public transparently and compassionately. Williams writes with a positive tone to give the audiences, listed above, peace of mind and encourage their continued support of Starbucks.
Method of Communication
The letter posted on Starbuck’s website ensures their partners, employees, and community are informed about how the company is addressing COVID-19. Also, a letter is a professional way of communicating with both a large and diverse audience.
The letter has a plain appearance. Its simplicity makes readers focus solely on the content rather than on design elements that take away from its intended purpose. Also, minimalism gives the letter a professional look that balances with its serious content pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic.
EVP Williams leverages all three rhetoric appeals as communication tools in the letter. She employs ethos or an appeal based on the character of the company by stating, “we quickly initiated a regular cadence of communications with our store partners to ensure they have the support they need. We’ve already taken a series of precautionary steps in response to this emerging public health impact…” Also, the last few paragraphs begin with, “we are also,” and “we will continue.” This reveals the company’s trustworthiness as it pertains to taking action in response to the pandemic. Also, Williams uses buzz words like, “transparency” to further emphasize the credibility of Starbucks.
The author also used logos, or logic, in detailing first the company’s two key priorities, “caring for the health and well-being of our partners and customer and playing a constructive role in supporting local health official and government leaders….” She describes in detail the precautionary steps the company is taking to meet those objectives.
Finally, Williams engaged pathos, or an appeal based on emotion, to connect with her intended audience. She writes, “First and foremost, the health and well-being of our partners and customers remains top of mind and our highest priority” and “Our focus remains on two key priorities: Caring for the health and well-being of our partners and customers and playing a constructive role in supporting local health officials and government leaders….” In doing so, Williams connects emotionally with the audience by expressing care and compassion. Towards the end of the letter, Williams writes that the company hopes that partners will look back on how Starbucks handled this pandemic and see how much they cared for their people, customers, and community. Using all three forms of rhetoric makes this a very powerful letter.
The letter has two communication issues. For one, it has a lot of text, which can prevent the audience from reading it fully. Adding photos that relate to the letter’s content will not only make the letter more visually engaging while emphasizing the company’s credibility. For example, photos capturing the stores getting cleaned and sanitized would prove that Starbucks is taking the pandemic seriously. Also, part of the letter is vague, leaving readers without pieces of information. The author mentions gaining lessons from their leadership team and partners in China, she does not share what those learnings included. Also, Williams concludes the letter by stating, “Guided by our Mission and Values, and a commitment to one another….” She failed to explain the company’s mission and values, leaving less of an impact and opening the doors to misinterpretation. To further support connecting emotionally with her audience the author might have stated how often she intended to provide communication updates to her audiences. In this way, she would be demonstrating the extent the company truly prioritizes both their partners and customers.
Overall, Williams clearly communicated how the company is navigating through the pandemic. Williams connects with the audience by writing compassionately and transparently. Adding photos and greater detail around some vague statements, as well as setting expectations of the timing and frequency of future communications will enhance the letter’s effectiveness. These improvements will better educate and engage the intended audiences while also building the company’s credibility.