Crisis expert gives Apple a 'C' for iPhone 4 response
News conference gets an A- or B+, but slow reaction to three-week event less impressive
Computerworld - Apple's news conference last week on the iPhone 4 antenna and reception fiasco gets an A- grade, but its overall response rates just a C, according to a crisis communications expert.
"For the test, I'd give Apple a B+ or A-, but for the entire semester, they get just a C," said Patrick Kerley, senior digital strategist with Levick Strategic Communications, a Washington, D.C.-based firm that specializes in situations where companies are backed against a wall.
Although Kerley gave Apple CEO Steve Jobs high marks for the way he handled last Friday's press conference, during which Jobs defended the iPhone 4's antenna design and announced all buyers will receive a free case to improve reception, he knocked the company's slow response to the three-week incident.
"Apple got caught flat-footed," said Kerley. "By waiting as long as they did, they created a vacuum of news, and others stepped in, like Consumer Reports, to fill that vacuum."
Kerley was referring to the consumer testing and rating magazine that spurred the debate about the iPhone 4's antenna design on July 12 when it said it could not recommend the new smartphone -- something it's done with every previous model produced by Apple -- because it dropped calls and lost signals when users touch the external antenna.
Although complaints from consumers about the iPhone 4 dropping calls surfaced within hours of the smartphone's June 24 launch, media attention reached a crescendo last week after Consumer Reports first said it would not recommend the phone, then added that a case seemed to solve the problems.
Kerley applauded the way Jobs kicked off last week's press conference. "That was a good way for him to walk into the conversation," said Kerley of Jobs' defense of the iPhone 4. At the beginning of his 40 minutes on stage, Jobs showed how BlackBerry, HTC and Samsung phones also lose signal strength when held. "All smartphones have weak spots, this is not unique to the iPhone 4," Jobs argued.
"That's a pretty classic way to try to talk about a situation," said Kerley. "The idea is to soften the focus on Apple."
Kerley said other companies have used the same tactic, notably Johnson & Johnson nearly 30 years ago when it reacted to murders committed using cyanide-contaminated Tylenol. "They pointed out very clearly that everyone was using the same [bottle] technology," said Kerley of the 1982 incident. "But they were the ones who came out and said, 'We are going to be the best.'"
Apple should have done more earlier, though. "This wasn't a model for other companies to follow," Kerley said. "Not a lot of other companies can wait weeks to respond."
While Apple quickly acknowledged that holding the iPhone 4 could diminish the signal, its initial advice -- "avoid gripping it in the lower left corner" or "use one of the many available cases" -- struck some customers as insulting. A week later, Apple muddied the water by admitting that the iPhone 4's signal strength formula was flawed, a clear misstep, according to Kerley.
"Their message was different from one week to the next," Kerley said.
- Apple will 'set the world on fire' with iPhone 6 sales
- The other Apple economy: $2B in devices on eBay
- Apple sends users scrambling for OS X Yosemite
- Apple grows Mac sales by 18% on the back of the MacBook Air
- What to listen for during Apple's earnings call today
- Timeline: How Apple's iOS gained enterprise cred
- Apple and IBM: A winning combo for IT
- IBM and Apple ties go way back
- Apple quickly counters China claim of iPhone spying
- China calls the iPhone and iOS 7 threats to national security
- Big Data, Big Mess: Sound Risk Intelligence Through Complete Context This paper examines the insecurity of the small businesses in the supply chain and offers tips to close those backdoors into the enterprise.
- Using Cyber Insurance and Cybercrime Data to Limit Your Business Risk This paper examines the challenges of understanding cyber risks, the importance of having the right cyber risk intelligence, and how to use this...
- 5 Tips to Secure Small Business Backdoors in the Enterprise Supply Chain This paper examines the insecurity of the small businesses in the supply chain and offers tips to close those backdoors into the enterprise.
- Confront consumerization with convergence Virtualization expert Elias Khnaser spotlights the security, compliance, and governance issues that arise when enterprise users "consumerize" with shadow IT and public cloud...
- NSS Labs & Cisco Present: Evaluating Leading Breach Detection Systems Today's constantly evolving advanced malware and APTs can evade point-in-time defenses to penetrate networks. Security professionals must evolve their strategy in lockstep to...
- Will the Real Endpoint Threat Detection and Response Please Stand Up? This webinar explores new technologies & process for protecting endpoints from advanced attackers as well as the innovations that are pushing the envelope... All Macintosh White Papers | Webcasts
Our new weekly Consumerization of IT newsletter covers a wide range of trends including BYOD, smartphones, tablets, MDM, cloud, social and what it all means for IT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!