Monday, January 5, 2009
Transparency at Apple
Transparency at Apple
Clearly, Plan A didn't work. Few bought Apple Inc.'s insistence that Steve Jobs taking a pass on Macworld had nothing to do with his health. Check out the stock price and the rumors of Jobs' declining condition in the days following last month's announcement. Plan B - Jobs acknowledging a hormone imbalance for which he is undergoing a "relatively simple" treatment - appears to be more reassuring. At least judging by the 4 percent rise in Apple shares on Monday, and the generally favorable reception to Jobs' public statement on what heretofore had been a strictly "private matter."
"He did an excellent job, striking the right balance between his personal privacy and the need to be open with consumers and investors," said Sam Singer, president of Singer Associates Inc., a San Francisco public relations firm.
The episode may also provide an object lesson in transparency, a quality neither the company nor its iconic leader are especially known for. Especially when it comes to the latter. One earlier example: The Apple PR department's claim that Jobs' diminished appearance, when remarked upon last summer, was merely the reaction to a "common bug."
(Not) speaking truth to power: Then again, that's most likely what the PR people were told to say about that, and about Jobs' nonappearance at Macworld. "At companies like Apple, PR people get their hands tied. Management gives the marching orders," said Steve Simon, president of SS/PR in Palo Alto. Given his well-known predilection for controlling all things great and small, Jobs was probably the one slapping on the ropes.
"Could this be seen as a failure of PR, that he's now backtracking (on the original Macworld explanation)? Absolutely. But Jobs lives by his own rules," said Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5W Public Relations in New York. Jobs' thinking in the Macworld turnabout, speculates Torossian, went something like this: " 'I tried to get away with it a few weeks ago, I didn't, so here's what we're going to do now.' "
"Sinatra's song, 'I did it my way' - that's Steve Jobs. The days and weeks ahead will tell whether it's going to work," said Torossian.
Honesty, the best PR policy: No reason it shouldn't be, according to Ben Bajarin, consumer technology analyst at Creative Strategies in Campbell, which focuses on Apple and other Silicon Valley companies. "If it was anything more serious and Steve was not in a position to run the company, the board would immediately make it known." That's not likely in the foreseeable future, Bajarin added. "Apple doesn't have anything to worry about, and Steve doesn't have anything to worry about. I don't see him going away."
But Bajarin did acknowledge Apple could pick up some pointers from the current brouhaha. "We've never seen the health of a corporate leader be such a big deal. We're treading new ground here and perhaps Apple didn't realize what a public figure (Jobs) had become," he said. "With such intense public scrutiny, it's probably best to err on the side of complete honesty, even if it's something bad."
"He's become a victim of his own success," said Torossian. "Because now he's being watched."
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This article appeared on page D - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
source : http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/01/05/BU17153SRV.DTL
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