PR Crisis – Steve Jobs takes a bullet for Apple

Is Steve Jobs trying to protect Apple’s public relations image by deflecting negative PR attention towards himself?

As public relations crises go, Apple’s iPhone 4 launch is up there in second place behind BP’s oil leak.

The product launch has been besieged by negative press and PR coverage regarding the product’s aerial and connection.

Recently, many bloggers have focused on an email from Steve Jobs, in which he emailed a customer and allegedly said that the phone worked perfectly well and claimed customers are holding the handsets incorrectly.

Steve Jobs has a track record of replying to people personally by email, as illustrated by this Steve Jobs’ blog. As you can see, often his emails are short and terse.

Now, the latest public relations issue is revolving around whether these emails were real or fake.

This made me ask myself the question: is this email exchange an intentional PR tactic-come-stunt by Apple? It sounds like a crazy PR strategy to cook up a stink for your brand in this way. Or does it?

Are people now talking about the incredible failings of Apple’s New Product Development team, or is the focus on the crazy public relations style of Steve Jobs? Or, put more accurately, is Steve Jobs deflecting some of the negative attention away from the brand?

Engadget, Erictric, Gawker, 9 to 5 Mac, Mobility Site, Electronista, Gizmodo, everythingiCafe and Techcrunch have all published the email story. What is more, Steve Jobs’ email is the number two story on Techmeme and a top ten story on aggregator Popurls.com.

There are other famous examples of this tactic working to great effect. Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, is also expert at this type of crisis management.

When his team is in trouble, he will pick a crazy fight with a referee, another club manager etc, just to take the heat off the team. Just read a few of these perfectly executed PR and press sound bites if you don’t believe me.

It wouldn’t surprise me if this was what Tony Hayward at BP was trying to do in the US (but badly). Most CEOs have shares in the business, and the last thing they want to see is their investment being hit.

If push comes to shove, a CEO can get another job fairly easily. Of greater importance to them is the value of the business and the return to their shareholders.

It is very easy to measure PR sentiment and other public relations objectives, like public opinion and a move like this can be carefully stage managed.

A large corporate like Apple can control their PR communications in many ways and a brave CEO won’t mind taking a bullet for the corporation, as long as it’s not a terminal blow.

Tags: , , , , , Posted by
  • Jonathan Welsh

    Jobs is the Mourinho of technology.

  • Jonathan Welsh

    Jobs is the Mourinho of technology.

Get in touch