prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Apple PR v Student Journalist

Posted by prof e on October 27, 2010

An online spat with Apple may have contributed to a student journalist’s invitation to cover the release of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7. Chelsea Kate Isaacs, a journalism major at Long Island University, received a class assignment that involved finding out more about an initiative at her college to buy iPads for all incoming students. As any good journalist, Chelsea contacted Apple requesting a quote about using iPads in an academic setting. But after the Apple PR department failed to return multiple phone messages, she sent an email to Steve Jobs…who, in hindsight, probably wished he hadn’t responded. But he did respond, leading to a back-and-forth that quickly deteriorated. A final email from Jobs reportedly said, “Please leave us alone.” You can read more about the reported email exchange here.

That might be the end of the story, except that Microsoft saw an opportunity to promote its Windows Phone 7 by selecting Isaacs to travel, all expenses paid, to the Microsoft launch event. According to CNET news, “Despite two radically different experiences, Isaacs said she has no plans to cover either company any differently.
Read more.

What corporate PR lesson, if any, should we take away from this incident?


26 Responses to “Apple PR v Student Journalist”

  1. AJ Dome said

    Rule number one of being a corporate leader: don’t be a jerk to the people who report on your actions. It’s just not a smart move. In a short time, these e-mails will be viral and everyone will agree that Steve Jobs is, in fact, a total prick. It IS possible to run a successful company and be respectful and classy. Acting rude to a student journalist in e-mails is far from those things.

    Microsoft is on the ball, and I applaud them for stepping in. As a company, they have always been more journalist-friendly, avoiding the elitist stamp that Apple has garnered over the years.

    From Microsoft’s point of view, it’s just competitive business, and they stepped in where Apple fell on their face. Steve Jobs didn’t have to be a jerk, yet he was. Why? I don’t know, and neither will Miss Isaacs. If she is a good journalist, she will remain fair and honest in her approach.

    PR advice to Steve Jobs: BE NICE. You don’t publicize your personal e-mail address just to be jerk to your customers. It doesn’t matter how much money you sleep with at night; one well-placed news article could ruin your business.

  2. Alex Timmons said

    No big story here, just another student who thinks the world revolves around them. This certainly wasn’t a well-placed article that could ruin a business — not any business. This is just a dreadfully unimportant dramatization, and Apple will surely treat it like a fart in the wind.

    It’s easy to argue that Apple could have acted more strategically, but that’s a narrow, marketing view. In other words, Apple could have gained some positive free publicity for its new product just like Microsoft… blah-blah-blah, instead of the haughty email story. But I doubt Steve Jobs desires publicity simply from an opportunistic media whore’s perspective. Access to private sources of information is a privilege journalists earn in time with reputation. There are certain types of information sanctioned under the U.S. FOIA, which journalists and citizens should expect access to, but FOIA doesn’t apply in this case. Isaacs made the mistake of expecting something she had no intrinsic right to.

    Jobs probably read her email and thought she was already a bit scornful or too lecturing once her request reached him, and so he just snubbed her. Isaac’s seems a bit stupid and inconsiderate herself, as she was sure to prod the PR team and Jobs by complaining how she was on deadline and that not receiving the quotes could impact her academically. She tried to guilt Apple into responding to her.

    Imagine being a working journalist and running to your editor the day your article is due and whining to him/her that your main source refused to comment so you couldn’t finish your piece. Only the dumbest Editor in the world would say, “Well, then let’s make that the story!”

  3. Corey Caves said

    i can see the points of both Steve jobs and Chelsea Kate Isaacs. one defending his argument and company and just trying to have another satified customer. Miss Isaacs also was just trying to get a story and she did get a story but not the one she was loking for. i think it was wrong that she said it would affect her academically if she did not get an answer, but if you think about it she did get an answer and her strategy did work. so tell me, did saying it would hurt her academically work or not? i believe she got an answer and many exchanges of e-mails. i also think that Steve Jobs should have been kind and respectful even if the worst of customers, journalists, or reporters would confront him.

  4. Alex said

    If you read the email exchanges between Jobs and Isaacs, it’s not credible to claim that Jobs was egregiously rude to her. The PR team at Apple declined comment for her initial requests. She sent a lot of bothersome emails to Apple and her tone grew increasingly demanding and scathing with each email. Steve Jobs asked her to leave them alone. That’s it. He didn’t disrespect her.

    The story itself seems like more of a PR plant, rather than a newsworthy article written by a real journalist. In fact, the person who wrote it works for CNET, which is a corporate sponsored tech site, and maybe, she’s a “liaison” to Microsoft. She’s not a hard news journalist — she’s just a writer. This feels like a soft smear story instead of an article about new technology. If you even bother to read everything that’s available, then you’ll find out that Microsoft caught wind of Isaacs grievance with Apple and then Isaac received fancy treatment. Yeah, Isaacs got a story, but it’s not available for any of us to read. So we really have no clue what she wrote. The only thing we’re given are a few ignorant quotes from Isaacs herself, who clearly knows nothing about technology, but ends up liking Microsoft’s new gizmo just because it seems more “personal” — right?

    If you’re too stupid to realize that the Isaacs VS Jobs hype is PR writing and not journalism, then you must drop out of college immediately and beg for your money back.

  5. Amanda Donnell said

    After reading the article as well as the email exchange between Steve Jobs and Chelsea Isaacs, I can somewhat understand both sides of the story. Isaacs is a college student looking for a quote to help her grade for an assignment. She followed the chain of command by contacting the PR people first before reaching out to Jobs. However, she should have been aware that since Jobs is the CEO, although he could have handled the situation more professionallhy, there is nothing that says he has to. That is what the PR department is for. However, being that Jobs is the CEO of a very large company and he is most likely very busy, he probably wouldn’t devote his spare time to answering to every single complaint that a person has with his company. For this reason, if he was going to respond to Isaacs’ emails than he should be aware that as the head of such an established business, bickering back and forth with a potential client is always a bad idea. That is why PR firms are established. Let them handle the clients and he should remain in the background. As for the lesson behind all of this, one of the jobs of the PR department is to deal with customers and answer as many questions as possible. The least they could have done was respond back saying they are unable to provide a comment at the time. Allowing one person to leave several voice messages before contacting the CEO directly shows a poor job and a weakness within the company. They should really work on the “public relations” part of their business.

  6. Chelsea Brigham said

    It’s ironic to me how one, if not the most successful technology company today, Apple, handled an inquiring question so poorly. It was not one that would expose any negativity about the company, nor would it hinder Apple’s PR outlook. Apple is known for its strong support system, one who is accommodating to all people, no matter their level of intelligence in computers. However Jobs response and almost sarcastic remarks portray otherwise. PR firms are established to deal with questions such as the inquiry of student journalist Isaacs. They are created so that they can effectively represent the company, both professionally, and appropriately. Though their lack of response lead to the poor outlook on Jobs after his lack of help with Isaacs’ duty as a student journalist.

  7. Matt Porter said

    I knew Steve Jobs was a jerk. Apple is all about making money in the end and I think they handled the situation in a non business way. I thought Apple was friendly to the community but i was wrong after hearing Jobs respond. The thing about Apple products is either you love them or you hate them and this just gives the people more likely to hate them. I love Apple and don’t use anything else and this wont make me stop using the product but in the end Steve Jobs should have never replied.

  8. Jordan Jones said

    Apple certainly missed out on a big opportunity to promote their iPads. The iPad mostly appeals to students in college anyways. So Apple could have spat many wonderful quotes at the journalist that she could have used in her article to help promote the use of Apple iPads in her university. Thus Apple would have more money in their pockets and Chelsea’s school would have had new computers.
    Windows on the other hand did an excellent job in picking up the pieces that Apple left behnid. Using their negativity in a new light.
    However Jobs hurt himself and his company. He lost himself what could have been a potential client and something that could have led to further advertisement of their product.Especially the fact that Chelsea is a student, he should have been happy to aid her. This would have shown that Apple cares about its consumers, and maybe has a heart. It’s never a good idea for a company to get in a dispute with a consumer, and one who is a jouranlist at that.
    I personally love Apple products. I use them everyday, so this doesn’t change my view of them at all. I think that Steve should have just left it alone, or sent a kind reply, and that’s it.

  9. Austin Begay said

    the lesson we should take from this is do you job as a professional, regardless of the journalist and to not take a personal bias and to be fair and just to what you are reporting. Although apple’s PR firm is taking flack for not taking this student more serious, would microsoft done a better job had they been the focus of the topic. this seems to be a problem related to issues management for apple at this point, finding out why this person was not given resources on the brand in the first contact, and get mr jobs to make a formal apology as to keep the integrity of the brand whole, alfter all a company should be transparnt with their communication to its consumers. as for microsoft, it does seem like a key opportunity to attack apple with this type of publicity, offering the student who was shunned by apple the grand tour to promote its new operating system. The student i believe is going to report on brand reality instead of what image she was shown, obviously microsoft wanted to send a certain message with their use of the student, but at the same time this very tactic could fail if it’s product is not up to par with the leading brand in apple. in reality, if apple has the better product, no matter the personal experience, the report will still favor apple.

  10. Annessa Martinez said

    It doesn’t surprise me that Issaac didn’t receive her answers within her time limit. Apple is a huge worldwide company, so they don’t have time to respond to thousands of emails or calls that they get as soon as they come in. But that doesn’t excuse the way Steve Jobs treated a customer. Your customers are the reason your business does so well. Now apple is a well respected company so losing Issaac as customer won’t hurt Apple in any way but if they continue to answer calls and emails the way that they do it could lose a customer here and there and that will all add up in the end and could hurt the reputation of Apple. Apple doesn’t have to worry about that happening however because there are too many loyal customers out there that even if they get bad customer service, they are still going to use the products. Apple products are top rated and no matter what people always want the best. Even if that individual has to wait through a long line and a employee who has a bad attitude with them, they are still going to get that Ipod or other product. The one thing that is getting hurt the worst here in Steve Jobs reputation.

  11. Marcus Dabney said

    I understand if apple didnt reply to her messages right away because they are a large global company dealing with millions of customers. Although the attitude that Jobs gave Issaac was unexcusable. In his position he should be helping the company not hindering it. The kind of company he is working for is a customer based company and the customer always comes first whether its helping them to fixing a broken product. The repsonses he gave her clearly dont show that at all. In my opinion Jobs should be given an assist to reply to his emails and let him worry about his other duties since he doesnt know how to help people via emailing.

  12. Daisy Mendoza said

    Apple is a very big and prestigious company, but they way they treated this young journalism student was very unprofessional. Isaacs wasn’t asking for something that they didn’t have the answer to; therefore, there is no excuse for the PR department not to get back to her. As professionals, the way they should deal with Isaacs was to treat her like they should any valued customer and help her out. As for Steve Jobs, it wasn’t a good idea to be so rude to Isaacs, especially when he knows that their conversation can be leaked out. This was a very bad move and it give the company as a whole a bad reputation, especially when it come to showing that they actually care about their customers.

  13. Beau Martin said

    I thought this was very interesting, especially with Windows taking the opportunity to select Isaacs to go to the launching event. They will look for every way to gain an edge over apple, and even though this may, or may not help their help their cause, it shows the true competition between these two companies. I agree that Jobs should not have responded to the email, but at the same time I can understand the tough position that he was in. He does not want to let his fans down, but the bottom line is, he has to handle the emails with a great deal of class and respect.

  14. Greg McWilliams said

    Apple really dropped the ball there, or should I say Steve Jobs did. I’m surprised Jobs responded to that at all. Really it seems there are two lessons to learn here, one, in our globally connected community everyone can have a big voice if they try hard enough. So try and treat everyone with the same level of respect/importance. And secondly… your competition will do anything to make you look bad when you screw up, especially when it comes to the costumer.

  15. Courtney said

    I think the PR lesson to be learned here is responding to a possible promoter for your product should always be a thing. Denying this student a simple quote shed a negative light on the entire Apple company. Also, the denial of prospective who are treated badly are only susceptible to a better offer by another company. Keep it customer service friendly or not at all.

  16. Darci Powers said

    Wow. That was so unprofessional. I can’t believe that they would treat them like that. I have had similar situations in getting responses back from Apple as well. They don’t seem to use their customer service online. I do agree with Issaac, it’s not good to talk to a customer that way, and it’s very disrespectful. I think that with this, Jobs has lost more than one potential customer… He’s probably lost many. The way that you respond to a customer and a problem has a direct effect on the way they respond to your company and whether or not they choose to buy from you.

  17. Alex Miller said

    I agree with Darci. I think that the article was extremely unprofessional. Apple is a multi billion dollar corporation that should have the corteousy and at least the proffesionalism needed to provide a young student journalist with a simple quote. Some people just look out for a business and don’t have any respect for the world. Apple was very wrong for not responding in the first place.

  18. Jacob Chavez said

    Apple is a very big company and it was wrong for them not to respond and to say that to the jornalist but what do they care they are getting paid money to make things for apple and No matter what people say or write they are still recieving a check. I dont agree with them I treat everyone with respect even if they Disrespect me I still be nice to them because being nice makes people even madder. So apple being jerks aint good but they still will have people buyn there products.

  19. Tyler Shomaker said

    This strikes me as funny because even though this is a pr problem I don’t understand Apple’s position. It seems to me this was a simple request for some quotes about their product and what it could be used for in an academic setting. This student is a major of journalism and they accepted the the trip from microsoft? This seems to break the code of ethics set by SPJ. This story is being told so Apple’s image is being tarnished while Microsoft is being heightened. I think this was a stupid choice by Apple but an even more stupid one from Microsoft. All this event says to me is about Microsoft is “my product is not as good as Apple’s but I will try bribe people to buy it” I think this is a terrible story for the profession of journalism.

  20. Savannah Thompson said

    I understand both Steve jobs and Chelsea Kate Isaacs and to be a P, you shouldnt be rude to anyone, especially when a store and a bunch of products. In my opinion I would want the iPad, but since he was being a jerk about the whole thing, I wouldnt want to write anything good about apple. I also believe that Windows is a decent product to use for college. Although we always here about Apple, I would try out Windows too. I also think that when you are competing against another product and company, anything you say or do will result in consequences.

  21. Dakota Mason said

    This article makes me have mixed feelings about apple. I feel that apple products are the way to go when looking for college use but for steve jobs to do something like this makes me lose respect for apple. I am an apple user and am partially satisfied with their products, but am thinking about exploring the windows products. I think when two companies are competing it should be about trying to convince people to use their product but this shows that steve jobs and apple dont want people to know everything there is to know about their products. That is just a personal opinion.

  22. Ian Walker said

    I am going to be aggressive here and say this is not important.

    One person’s experience with a company will not spark a sweeping change that will totally alter things. Some people may get riled up that Apple and Jobs were so dismissive, but it’s not a big deal. I am relatively certain they have more pressing issues to deal with than a student reporter.

    Microsoft was pretty good to snatch her up for the Windows Phone launch, but apparently the journalist is professional enough not to let the behavior of the companies alter her take on their actual products.

    As far as a corporate PR lesson, I’d say there isn’t anything to walk away with.

  23. Deontrae Cooper said

    its apples choice if the want to give them a quote or not…PR just has to move on with what it is that is taking place. it shouldn’t be any hard feelings, people have to realize its only business.

  24. Brad Valdez said

    I’ll be honest; I chose to comment on this post because of its short length. However, I did not plan on associating its content with the excerpt from “Trust Me I’m Lying,” by Ryan Holiday.

    To illustrate this association let me first give a brief summary about the “Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of Media Manipulator” excerpt. Essentially, it describes how author Ryan Holiday, manipulates the media through a strategy which he developed, known as “Trading Up the Chain.” This strategy involves exploiting the enormous influence that blogs have on publishing media (i.e. newspapers, magazines, etc.) to create an impeccable national news story. To quote Holiday:

    “I can turn nothing into something by placing a story with a small blog that has very low standards, which then becomes the source for a story by a larger blog, in turn, for a story by larger media outlets… creating a ‘self-reinforcing media wave.’”

    This self-reinforcing media wave happens to be a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. In short, this is what the PRSA defines as public relations. A small story “trades up the chain” through a unique anecdote, benefits bloggers with views, and eventually gains the status as a national news story.

    I think I’ve seen this somewhere …

    With this definition of “Trading Up the Chain” coming straight from the media manipulator’s mouth, and its affiliation with what the PRSA considers to be public relations, it is possible to see the association that I have made between this post and Holiday’s work. You have a small story involving a girl (Chelsea Kate Isaacs) who has been rejected by a boy (Steve Jobs) which circulates from an insignificant blog to such blogging juggernauts as Gawker and CNET, eventually reaching major news sites such as ABC and Fox News.

    It appears as if this post on the prof. e. blog was just another link in the chain, trading up.

    Trust Me I’m Lying:

  25. Gabrielle Nelms said

    According to the PRSA website, public relations is defined as, “a strategic communication process that builds a mutually beneficial realtionship between organizations and their publics.” Apple, in this case, missed out on a good opportunity to have this relationship. For Apple, it would have been wise to send back a simple statement as to how iPads are useful in an academic setting. It would have been a simple message that could have made a long lasting relationship between this college and Apple. It would have showed that they cared about pleasing people, and could have even brought in other business from other colleges. Instead, Apple sent a stupid response that got this small story a lot of attention. This directly relates to the Trading Up the Chain slide show. A small story grew to such lengths, that it got the attention of Microsoft. Microsoft then took the right track and used PR to reach out to the student. Even though in this case it probably didn’t change their minds into switching to Microsoft, it might have had that effect on other places. This just highlights that Microsoft made a really good PR decision. Apple could really learn something from them.

  26. Nicholas Jones said

    The outrage that Chelsea Kate Isaacs felt towards Steve Jobs seems a little bit too personal rather than an actual problem. Of course, Apple’s PR department did not meet the basic definition or main purpose of their department being, “[Public relations is] a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics,” as stated by the PRSA website. This did not create a beneficial relationship for either parties involved; Apple did not receive good publicity and quite possibly may have lost a customer, while, Chelsea did not receive the answers and help she was looking for. However, I feel that this is a personal problem of her becoming offended and suddenly back-lashing onto what could have been perceived as a perfectly blunt and straight up answer, especially when she comes off as a bit badgering and maybe too strong to begin with. Now this story itself is an example of Ryan Holiday’s, “Trading Up The Chain.” What was a small college story, suddenly became a headlining story. It was traded up small local channels, to be picked up by larger blogs, and carried on nationally. The fact that it appears on Gawker is a great example of how it may have been “Traded Up.” Even blogs like this are still contributing towards this story’s popularity, continuing its way up the chain.

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