What’s at the core of apple’s PR?

Let me get one thing out of the way right from the start – I own a Mac, I never leave home without my ipod,  the new ipad is the next thing on my wishlist, and the only reason I do not have an iphone is my conscious decision to steer clear of smartphones (I’m already way too connected)….I am a big Apple fan (not to be confused with the “Big Apple” which I am also a fan of and enjoy visiting for shopping!)

So, what gives?

Well, I am always preaching to clients about creating and managing wow experiences where I’d often site Apple as an example but lately I’ve been noticing a very disturbing trend.

Let’s start with the most recent iPhone 4 antenna mess. I won’t rehash the whole thing but apparently there is a design flaw with the internal antenna that causes calls to get dropped when the phone is held a certain way. After the monster launch, reports of the problem started popping up all over the web. My initial response was “okay, people…nobody’s perfect, things happen so just get over it.”

That was until I saw Apple’s PR machine kick into high gear first disputing the problem existed, then claiming it was a software problem, then claiming it was a minor issue with the antenna that you can easily ‘buy’ a rubber bumper fix for. That didn’t stop the chatter or the media so Apple held a special event where Steve Jobs himself admitted the problem and offered to give away free rubber bumper fixes. THIS from a company whose very reputation is staked on creating a new standard for mp3 players (the ipod), an intuitive operating system that just works (OSX), a computer anyone can use in minutes (Macs).

Here’s what gets me – he spent a good portion of his time talking about how other companies have worse problems!  The company that is head and shoulders above the rest when things are good is willing to hide in the crowd when things hit the fan!

He cheapened Apple’s apology to its customers by leaning on a “we suck less than the other guys” PR spin.

I may be an Apple fan-girl but I’m sorry, I expect more from this company and I really think they blew an opportunity to really set themselves apart from other companies.

Imagine for a moment if when reports came in the responded with “I’m sorry you are having this problem, we’ll look into it right away”.  Then when they confirmed the problem they came out and said “Oh man, this antenna thing is a problem…we are so sorry and we’ll take immediate steps to make it right! We’ll do this and this and that!”

Do you really thing their followers would hold that against them?  What about folks thinking about making the switch to Apple?

Of course not, they would be heroes!

That it?

Nope. I wish the iPhone fiasco were the only example, but Apple has demonstrated this behavior over and over from not admitting their Macs had heating issues, screen problems, etc. to deleting negative comments from their forums (seems like a maneuver more fitting of Microsoft, no?).

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – for better or worse, the internet is forcing transparency upon us. It redefines “managing your reputation”

Plausible deniability may be useful in court but it wont wash with your customers where it smacks of deceit or being oblivious. So, either you are a liar or you’re incompetent. By the way, I’m not really too sure that deniability really helps in a legal sense after seeing all the class action suits that are popping up.

What is a company to do?

My answer is be responsible. Take ownership of your successes AND your failures. Do the right thing when you mess up (isn’t that what you’d want from a company?). The public is extremely forgiving when you demonstrate a willingness to make things right. My favorite printer isn’t my favorite because he has never screwed up but because he has always taken care of things when they did go wrong.

If you have claim to perfection, people will search for the blemishes. If you admit being human, they’ll say you are being to hard on yourself. Know what I mean?

I’ll say it again – I am still an Apple fan but lately the company’s policies with regards to problems has left me a bit sour!

Do you think I am being too harsh on Apple and Steve Jobs? I’d like to know what you think.

4 Responses to “What’s at the core of apple’s PR?”

  1. Joanne Fritz says:

    You’re right on, Pamela! Job’s tepid and dodgy response is hard to understand. A simple, swift apology and a real fix would do wonders. What is wrong with all these companies? This is just a shadow of BP’s troubles and horrible handling of its crisis, but it is a sign that CEOs are just not listening to their customers and still not tuning into the zeitgeist of transparency. And Apple has been part of that revolution. So what gives?

  2. I too was deeply disappointed in Apple’s response. It’s hard to describe the tone taken with disappointed customers as anything other than “arrogant” – something no company can afford to be these days: even a market dominator like Apple. Perhaps the remarkable success they’ve enjoyed to date has gone to their heads?

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rebecca Leaman, Joanne Fritz. Joanne Fritz said: What’s at the core of apple’s PR? by @PamelaGrow http://bit.ly/d4UE4R grt dissection of Apple's bad crisis response […]

  4. John Lepp says:

    Like you Pam – I am a through and through Apple fan and supporter. I know I’m not the only one who has shaken my head at how Apple runs Apple. From the secrecy, to the “our way or the highway”, to the lack of response in times where a response is needed – Apple does all the things that are the total opposite of we teach our clients is good business.
    Apple’s core strength is in its products and engineering. Steve has earned himself the right to be a bit holier than thou and egotistical.
    And I doubt the latest fiasco will sway many from wanting to get their hands on the new iphone…