Posts Tagged ‘Apple’

If the iPhone 4 Drops a Call in the Forest, Will Anyone Notice?

July 12th, 2010

In the wake of Consumer Report’s recommendation to not buy the iPhone 4, Apple is in a rare predicament – backed into a corner by a trusted product-review entity.  Instead of repeated cycles of fawning tech-relevant press, Apple has played defense to the massive chorus of complaints about the iPhone 4’s antenna woes.

Who knows what miracle Apple will attempt to pull when it releases the much-anticipated iPhone 4 software update.  No doubt Apple’s stakeholders desperately want the update to fix the reception problem – or, at a minimum, stems the tidal wave of bad PR.

With the strongest rumors yet of the iPhone leaving its GSM cage, other wireless providers are understandably loathe to disturb the beast, given that they may have the chance to carry Apple’s products in the future.

That being said… to Apple’s hardware competitors, we’re wondering – where the hell are you?

Why aren’t Motorola, Google, and RIM, which all manufacture alternative smartphones, running 24/7 PR and media operations to reinforce the bad reaction to the iPhone 4’s (current) fatal flaw?  Can you imagine the viral buzz that would generate from an aggressive campaign with a smart and witty ad at its core, one that pokes fun at the iPhone 4’s problematic reception?  Maybe a twist on the “I’m a Mac” ads, where the iPhone 4 keeps dropping calls while the rival Droid/Nexus One/Blackberry works just fine?

Simply put, a reliable tech behemoth like Apple is rarely going to have a product fail on this scale.  When it does, the competition must jump fast and go for the kill.  And, that’s effectively what a PR strategy is all about.

If you think that doesn’t matter, consider the recent obituary of the Microsoft Kin.  Had Apple stumbled closer to the death knell of the Kin, who knows what, ahem, reception that phone would be getting now?

Forget iPhone 4 Antenna Problems — Apple Needs Better Message on Conflict Minerals

July 2nd, 2010

Apple laid down the gauntlet to the PC in its infamous 1984 commercial announcing its new Macintosh.  Thirty years later, Apple now dominates Microsoft as world’s most valuable technology company.  Apple’s almost religious adherence to branding has paid tremendous dividends (with that customer loyalty helping CEO Steve Jobs and his company slide past PR scandal after scandal).

As part of its hip, edgy brand, Jobs has taken to answering customers’ questions over rapid-fire email.  It’s seen as yet another way that Jobs outclasses the erratic Steve Ballmer of Microsoft – whose spastic on-stage appearances are far more interesting than whatever Microsoft product he’s peddling at the time.

Recently, Jobs responded to a question about “conflict minerals” and whether Apple responsibly sources the minerals in its products.  For companies not paying attention, conflict minerals are the next blood diamonds.  There is an international movement afoot, led by activist groups in the UK and US, that is going to name and shame companies sourcing minerals primarily from the Democratic Republic of Congo – home to the world’s bloodiest ongoing conflict since World War II.  A special report by a UN group of investigators took the extraordinary step of outing several US tech companies with links to the DRC.  And even New York Times influential columnist Nicholas Kristof has moved on from Darfur to make conflict minerals and the DRC his new cause.

Perhaps Jobs is unaware of this movement, as the answer he gave a customer on this issue is not going to cut it:

“We require all of our suppliers to certify in writing that they use conflict few materials.  But honestly there is no way for them to be sure.  Until someone invents a way to chemically trace minerals from the source mine, it’s a very difficult problem.”

In Jobs’ defense, he’s technically correct.  There is no international certification for the sourcing of conflict minerals such as the Kimberly Process for blood diamonds.  However, there are groups that can help Apple and other companies clean up their supply chain and practice proper CSR.  Perhaps more importantly, Jobs could at least act like he cared more about the issue beyond calling it “difficult.”  And then there is the strange use of the word “few” rather than “free.” Conflict-few may be a concept Jobs is pioneering but the global pressure campaign will not be centered on achieving “conflict-few” minerals – it will call for an outright ban on minerals from DRC and start linking specific companies to the ongoing bloodshed.

With his inadequate response to a very serious question, Jobs stumbled into a major international issue and Apple is now square in the sights of activist groups.  As with any major global crisis, smart messaging on conflict minerals requires a concerted, ethical, and engaging PR effort to explain a company’s positions.  Quick emails won’t suffice.

The Tale of the Notorious J-O-B and iPhonegate

April 21st, 2010

The story surrounding the leak of what may possibly be the next iPhone has all the elements of new media intrigue – a company notorious about keeping secrets; sexy, cutting-edge gadgets; payments for story contributions; rumors of conspiracy; possible crippling lawsuits – and that’s just what we know now.

Overall, the question that anchors the debate is whether this is good or bad public relations for Apple.  Some say that “iPhonegate” dials up loads of free positive publicity for the company, while others argue that the leaked 4G phone makes Apple look sloppy on product control.  (While there is speculation about Apple purposely “planting” the phone to be lost and found, that doesn’t seem plausible – this is a company that doesn’t participate in amateur hour PR, and this situation seems no exception.  Besides, the company will never admit that they lost a prototype anyway.)

Here’s a better way to look at the ordeal – maybe Apple is pissed that they lost total control of the public relations narrative.  Gawker effectively unraveled and undermined Apple’s tight grip on the PR pipeline by releasing the prototype photos.  And, as we know about the control-prone company, nothing could possibly irritate Apple more than not scripting the media storyline on their own terms.  We can argue about the ethics of Gawker’s actions all day, but what can’t be denied is that Apple has no effective way to lead the story anymore.

So about that lawsuit… how about the odds on Apple pulling the trigger?  They’re probably pretty good.  Remember that Apple sued into nonexistence after that site published leaked Apple trade secrets.  Add to that the fact that the Gawker platform has been a relentless critic of Steve Jobs for quite some time.  Add again to that the incredibly disrespectful manner in which Gizmodo responded to Apple’s request for the leaked phone to be returned, taunting the company that its gadget “was burning a hole in our pockets.”  Add again to that the potential lost value to Apple, at least via legal calculations, can be made out to billions (as in B).  It’s safe to say that Gawker can’t cover that bet.

What the Publishing Industry Must Do in Advance of the iPad

March 31st, 2010

As fanboys, tech media and the chattering class anticipate the Apple iPad’s retail availability in four days, much discussion has focused on the device’s impact on book publishers, and what the publishing industry’s public relations plans are.  The iPad is anticipated to be more popular than rival gadgets, and will leverage e-books as a prime digital offering.  Seeing as how the iPod turned the music industry upside-down, the iPad could have similar impact on the book industry.

But, as the New York Times points out, the iPad’s adoption by consumers will also affect the book industry another way.  Authors and publishers enjoy the benefit of indirect marketing and endorsement when readers are seen enjoying a particular book in public.  The visual appeal of a book’s cover also helps other potential readers clue in to the book and make a note to purchase later.

Thus, the common marketing tactic of a book cover’s visual appeal will start to take a back seat when there’s no physical book in sight.  In turn, a random reader’s endorsement will now gravitate toward other platforms, such as a Facebook fan page (or “like” page, if the interface is tweaked).

This is where publishers must step up their game and make sure they have calibrated their marketing strategies to leverage social media.  Any public relations plan must account for the shifting dynamics of book sales and promotion, and capture new opportunities available for online marketing.  The publishing industry must recognize the weight of authority that brand ambassadors will carry online, win their hearts and minds with strong material and appreciate that the digital swipe truly is the best way to turn the page.

RIP, Adobe Flash: Why Adobe Needs PR to Stop Apple From Killing Its Products

February 2nd, 2010

Why hasn’t Adobe, the software powerhouse that created PDF, Photoshop and other widely used computer programs, offered a more robust public relations defense against attacks from Apple?  Does the company even care about its online reputation?

Some background: Along with introducing high-profile gadgets regularly, Apple also has a stellar niche practice in making common-place personal computer technologies obsolete.  More accurately, Apple appears extremely clairvoyant in predicting the demise of various technologies, all by dropping those same technologies from new products.  Remember floppy disks?  Apple caused a massive uproar by eliminating floppy disk drives from its computers ten years ago.  Critics claimed that people found disks “more convenient” to transfer files, instead of through email, a network etc.  We know who won that fight.  Apple also dropped dial-up modems from its computers in 2005, and even started ditching FireWire two years ago.

Now Apple has trained its sights on software and Adobe’s ubiquitous media product, Flash, by continuing to omit the Adobe product from all of Apple’s mobile gadgets, including the new iPad.  Most computer users experience Flash when watching YouTube videos.  Flash also powers many annoying elements online, like those Mafia Wars ads that pop up on Facebook.

In a dramatic display, Steve Jobs told a recent gathering of Apple employees that Adobe is “lazy,” that Apple won’t support Flash because it is buggy on Macs and that Flash is quickly becoming an obsolete standard.

Adobe has smartly stood up for its baby/product, but its stance also has been defensive and reactionary.  Why don’t they have a more creative public relations response?  Perhaps a “world without Flash” type of advocacy campaign, or something similar?

We’re only going to hear more about the absence of Flash when the iPad goes on sale.  The product is sure to saturate the media with many “wow factor” stories on consumer delight.  Adobe needs to have a strong public relations rebuttal that minimizes the impact of the iPad media rollout, otherwise Flash may quickly be a thing of the past.

Obama v. Apple: Who Do You Think Will Win?

January 18th, 2010

Next Wednesday brings us Apple’s long-rumored/awaited tablet – or some other magical device, a time machine maybe?  Nope, they already got that!  In all seriousness, on January 27 Apple will hold a press event to announce new products.  As is customary, Apple’s events are huge PR bonanzas, dominating coverage well beyond traditional tech and trade media.  With speculation running wild on the tablet’s specifications, this likely will be a massive news story.

The press has been reporting the date of Apple’s event for the past several days.  So why is Obama delivering the State of the Union that same day?  Think about this from the public relations perspective.  With important announcements, it’s wise to plan around anything else that may steal the publicity spotlight.  Obama’s team had to know that Apple’s event is on the 27th, and the Constitution doesn’t require the President to give the State of the Union on a specific date.  Now that Obama has to make the final sell on health care, discuss Haiti and other pressing topics, why in the world would you want to compete with what some say is the biggest tech announcement since the iPod?

And it’s not just the tech companies facing enormous impact, as a tablet could entirely up-end the print media industry.  Apple’s already transformed the music industry radically so it’s not a stretch to think that a new product could do the same for newspapers and magazines.  If such a revolutionary product is announced that day, it hurts Obama’s ability to get his own message across.

That is, unless he video-streams his speech to the new tablet?  Just sayin’…