Friday, July 16, 2010

Apple's iPhone 4 antenna response: a PR model for crisis

Have you watched Apple’s press release about the iPhone 4’s antenna issues?  Apple, the company widely revered by its passionate customer base for its innovative products, has also been known for its hubris and occasional PR trip ups.  With all the hype around the incredibly successful launch of iPhone 4, there has been an abundance of press around problems with the phone’s antenna.  Gotta love it when media companies ride the coat tails of highly popular products and tear them down as a means to generate press.

This time Steve Jobs and Apple fought back and did a great job!  As I watched, I noted the structure and response to the current public outcry.  Steve Jobs took the opportunity to turn what’s been a PR nightmare and turn it into a promotion for what’s been done with the phone and how it compares to previous generation iPhones and other popular smart phones.  This is basically the outline of what he said:
     •    This is the hard data / These are the facts (they ultimately said there is an issue but its tiny)
     •    We love our users
     •    This is what we’ve done in development and design and the resources we’ve put into this product (spent millions of dollars and have lots of PHDs on staff)
     •    Acknowledged the  problem
         o    Problem is inherent in all smartphones
         o    We will continue to work on this issue
     •    We are being completely transparent (acknowledging these problems)
     •    Put the scope of the problem in perspective with competitive products and previous gen iPhones (the iPhone’s  antenna issues is virtually the same as all other phones)
     •    These are the actions we are taking to address the issue (we want EVERYONE to be happy)

It was clearly a carefully engineered response but my impression was that they nailed it! 

This framework can serve as a model for many other situations when companies need to respond to a crisis.  Take note, BP!  If there’s an issue, acknowledge it.  Provide the facts.  Promote what you’ve done.  Explain what you will do.  Tell your customers you love them.  Sounds like a fairly simple communication plan.

While I was at we received an onslaught of criticism and accusations that ranged from misleading pricing structures to our CEO having ties to organized crime to SEC investigations.  We didn’t respond to all of them because doing so would have helped fuel the critique and given validity to those voices.  In the ones we did respond to we fell short of this model and (perhaps) as a result, had less than stellar success. 

Ultimately, you hope you don’t come across a crisis our public outcry where you need to respond.  But, when you’re pushing the edge, beating the competition, or have huge success or failure, critiques are bound to arise.  Hopefully this helps when that time comes.

To watch apple's video, click here .


  1. Nice article. Probably a little harder for BP to gain this level of acceptance when their "customers" consists of every living thing on the planet :) Here's my take on this whole thing...

  2. So Apple loves its users so much that it lied to them? And their users should believe them now? A month ago Apple claimed that their iPhone was like no other mobile phone out there. It was a game changer and unique. Now it's just like every other phone? Wow, talk about wanting to have your cake and eat it too.

    The author's bias is clear and apparent. He wants to believe and in doing so is taking sides instead of actually analyzing he reporting the issues.

    Apple doesn't love its users, Apple loves its users money. And seperating their users from their money is their only goal. Watching Jobs torturously state that Apple was going to give "free" bumper covers to iPhone 4 customers was entertaining in that it looked like he was drinking vinegar. His face got contorted and his voice became strained -- he obviously didn't want to do that.

    And none of this addresses the apparent dishonesty of Apple and it's statements apparently since the first iPhone was released. Either Apple is the most incompetent software provider ever -- or they purposefully lied about he iPhone's capabilities. Either way I'd be hard pressed to want to do business with such a company.

  3. "This time Steve Jobs and Apple fought back and did a great job!" - he did good to hypnotize apple zombies that there is no problem.... you just actually took his word for it and didn't even bother to use even a small percentage of your God given brain in analysing the PR circus? roflmao!


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