Archive for July, 2010

Partners Inc – WomenEntrepreneur

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Partners Inc. Married entrepreneurs make things work at home and at the office–and learn a little about each other, too. WomenEntrepreneur

Rotten Apple

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

I know it’s not a particularly creative title for a story, but it just happens to be totally accurate in this instance. Of course, I’m talking about Apple the company, and the recent brouhaha over the iPhone 4. For those of you without access to the outside world, the swanky new iPhone 4 has been selling like no other smartphone has ever sold but the Apple groupies aren’t entirely happy. At issue is the unusually high number of dropped calls, even with perennial whipping boy AT&T available as the convenient scapegoat. Seems that when you hold the phone in a certain way, quite normally in fact for us lefthanders, calls are routinely dropped even when the signal bars appear to be strong. The only conclusion, say the techies, is (gasp!) a design flaw.

Before I go any further, a word of disclosure. I’m not a particularly huge fan of Apple products. I have an iPod that’s so old that my family refers to it as a DinoPod (perhaps because of the content I’ve downloaded rather than the product itself). But mostly, I resent being told what the next cool thing is by some guy my own age, and I am further horrified by the lemmings that follow him over the cliff. Now, of course, Apple is bigger than Microsoft, so all these Apple geeks have to grapple with the fact that the cool upstart is now bigger than the beast itself. Does that make Apple yesterday’s news? That’s for another column.

Anyway, I digress. This is about the incredibly poor management of this “crisis” by the arrogant communications team at the big Apple. I’ve been around the crisis communications block a few times in my 25 years in PR and I can smell a “crisis management” strategy a mile off. This was a fairly transparent example, and not very well thought out. Two common principles in crisis management were on display here: first, “widen the circle of guilt,” and secondly, “blame the media.” Let’s take a closer look. Mr. Cool was on stage last Friday telling the world that AntennaGate was indeed an issue, but it’s not Apple’s problem alone, others suffer from the exact same problem. To illustrate his point, he embarked on one of the tackiest pieces of PR I’ve witnessed in a long time. It was pathetic watching Jobs on TV trying to widen the circle by saying Blackberrys have the same problem rather than saying what I was dying for him to say which is, “Hey, we’re Apple, you love us, we love you, but sometimes even we screw up and here’s what we’re going to do to fix it.” Did he really have to show (unsubstantiated) video of other manufacturers’ problems? Tacky in the extreme, and more importantly, most un-Apple like. Great leadership brands lead partly by ignoring the competition. Then, blame the media? Jobs said this issue has been “blown way out of proportion.” Oh really? Seems to me that the master of media manipulation may have lost his playbook for a second. He who lives by the media frenzy can also be hurt by it (just ask Tiger). This flaw was not created by the media. It was not brought to his attention by the media but rather by the legions of loyal followers he so covets. (As as side note, take a look at Dennis Kneale’s great piece called “Apple’s Core Problem: Credibility” on about the truth, lies and antennagate. Again, bad crisis management strategy, and of course, the ironic vision of Jobs on stage trying to manipulate the very people he’s partially blaming for his little crisis.

So, what would have been the best approach? As with most things in life, the best path here would have been the truth. All Apple needed to do was admit to the problem, offer a solution and move on. Letterman’s strategy vs. Tiger’s? But when you have an ego the size of Apple’s and have drunk so much of your own Kool-Aid, the truth can sometimes be a hard thing to locate. What’s truly sad about this tale of poor communications is that Apple will have learned nothing from it. This week, the company reported blow out earnings with the Showman back on stage saying he could have sold more iPhones if only he could manufacture them fast enough.

Not sure what’s sadder in this tale – the blatant arrogance and deceit of a great American icon brand, or the continued stupidity of the great American public. Probably a tie, and no doubt both will continue to do what they do best.