Apple CEO Tim Cook’s banana skins: U2, ‘Bendygate’ and iOS 8.0.1

“Oh, to have been a fly on the wall in Apple’s PR department over the last week. A company that is legendary for obsessive control over its message has watched helplessly as things have spun out of its grasp,” Rory Cellan-Jones reports for BBC News. “First, there was the kerfuffle over the stunt which saw U2’s new album given away free to every iTunes user whether they wanted it or not. That provoked a wave of anger and derision from people who saw the provision of a free download as a massive assault on their freedom and an insult to their taste in music. Then came ‘Bendygate’ with reports emerging that the iPhone 6 Plus, with its ‘dramatically thin anodised aluminium design,’ could warp after being placed in a pocket for some time. Now this looks to be the very definition of a ‘first world problem’ – who, but a very sad hipster, would stuff a huge phone into his impossibly tight jeans and sit on it? But, as with all Apple stories it quickly went viral, with the first video showing the apparent problem, hitting 18 million views by this morning.”

“Finally, and far more seriously, came the botched update to the iPhone and iPad operating system iOS 8,” Cellan-Jones reports. “There had been a few annoying bugs in last week’s release – notably a problem integrating apps with the new Health Kit – so the moment the update was released many users rushed to download it. And within minutes iPhone 6 users found that it introduced a whole new set of bugs, including preventing their phone from connecting to a mobile network. Now while actually making calls is a relatively minor feature for some modern smartphone users, this caused an instant wave of anger and panic. Providing millions of users with software which effectively turns their phone into a brick is hardly a good PR move.”

“Apple has looked surprisingly accident-prone over recent days. The company is adept at building expectations before a launch, and at trumpeting the brilliance of its products in polished presentations and adverts,” Cellan-Jones reports. “It has never been as good at dealing with problems – indeed, it has been arrogant about the need to engage with its consumers and the media.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Once again, as we’ve been saying for years:

Apple’s PR department couldn’t get out in front of something if it were standing still, much less firing at the speed of light around the globe. In some ways, regardless of what’s FUD (“Bendygate”) and what’re actual screwups (iOS 8.0.1, Maps), Apple deserves the bad press they get simply for fielding a colossally inept, largely mute PR effort for, literally, decades. Anyone studying public relations and damage control should look at Apple’s history as an example of how not to do it.

This Jobsian vestige of “let it fester, clam up, hope it goes away, and only deal with it when it becomes unbearable” is not effective damage control. It’s also bad for your health, as Steve Jobs would tell you today, if he could.

For a week or so, Apple was perfectly on message, killing it with rip-roaring iPhone 6/Plus sales and then, of course and as should be expected since it happens every damn major product release, multiple shitstorms hit — some of Apple’s own making (iOS 8.0.1 just stupidly poured gasoline on the already-raging FUD fire), some ginned up by jealous rivals — and Apple Public Relations (a misnomer if there ever was one), as always, stands there “shell shocked,” like deer in the headlights, unable to properly respond.

Someday, we’d like to see an Apple with a modern, effective, responsive, well-staffed, competent PR department. It would be a sight to see.

We gave you the recipe for iPhone FUD yesterday. By now, Apple should know the recipe inside and out. Apple should have a proactive PR team with a wide range of responses ready-to-go weeks before launch. Apple should immediately begin preparing for the inevitable FUD storm that’s coming with the Apple Watch launch. Not days or weeks after it hits.

All that said, Apple’s products and services are, for the most part, so good — assuming iOS 8.0.1 is a one-off brain-fart — that soon enough, none of this will matter.

Related articles:
U.S. government warns of Bash flaw affecting Apple’s OS X, other Unix-based systems – September 25, 2014
Apple CEO Cook goes from record sales to iPhone stumbles – September 25, 2014
Apple: iOS 8.0.2 coming ‘in the next few days’ – September 25, 2014
Rush Limbaugh: How did Apple miss the iOS 8.0.1 bugs? – September 24, 2014
How to get rid of iOS 8.0.1 and revert to iOS 8.0 – September 24, 2014
iOS 8.0.1 fiasco: Apple exec responsible for catching bugs before release has a ferocious door-slamming temper – September 24, 2014
Apple pulls iOS 8.0.1 after users report major problems – September 24, 2014
ALERT: Do not install Apple’s iOS 8.0.1; breaks cellular connectivity, Touch ID support for ‘large number of users’ – September 24, 2014
Apple releases iOS 8.0.1 – September 24, 2014

42 Comments

  1. Apple of yesterday never needed PR, so the company never properly developed it. We, the legions of loyal users, were its PR. Apple had the best PR money can’t buy: thousands of megaphones in front of devoted users. Back then, Apple was a small underdog, so any mishaps were ignored and quickly forgotten.

    Today, Apple is the biggest company in the world, and most of their staff (including senior management) still aren’t aware of the consequences of this fact. Their usual PR strategy (relying on loyal fans to spread the message) simply doesn’t work when they are under a microscope, and fierce competitors (with plenty of cash for their own disruptive PR efforts) are pounding away at the shiny Apple image.

    Apple should really carefully review what they are doing wrong with their PR. The time has come (actually long ago) to build some internal PR operations, rather than relying on us.

  2. It’s almost as if the person responsible for the live stream stumbles is responsible for the iOS 8.0.1 update stumble. Clearly theres a few folks not doing their job.

    About the iPhone 6 bending issue, yes it’s an aluminum phone so eventually it will bend with enough force. But it shouldn’t happen so easily or be an issue that arises within the first week. Even a close friend of mine now has a bent iphone 6 plus. Clearly the structural integrity of this new design and its durability (specifically the plus) was overlooked. I’d of imagined a company like Apple, with all of its fortunes would invest immensily in R&D to test such “What If” scenarios so a product won’t be a failure r embarrassment.

    1. Wait! If an aluminum phone will eventually bend then what does it mean to say it shouldn’t happen in the first week? Are you saying that pressure over time is needed for the aluminum to lose rigidity? That’s pretty silly, actually. If an aluminum phone will eventually bend, bending in the first week is actually more likely because the user base is still operating based on their experience with thicker phones and aren’t retraining their habits to adapt to the new phone.

      1. One should not have to retrain themselves to not putting their phone in the pocket. How may people were saying large phones are hopeless as they do not fit in a pocket (even though they did and comfortably!!!!!). Now pocketabilty is not important anymore?????

        Millions upon millions of people have been using phones in their pockets for years, if Apple cannot make a phone that can survive there it is crazy!

    1. Yes, they do. And can you imagine what it’s like to work there?
      Your company is famously secretive.
      Your company has more money than most countries.
      The legal system does not give you justice.
      Everything your company is perceived as doing wrong is immediately held to be truth and reverberated across the media endlessly.
      Everything your company does right is considered hyperbole, marketing and reality distortion field.
      The folks “out here” expect instantaneous response to any challenge to your good will, good products, good practices. Lack of instantaneous response is considered “clamming up” — when in truth you’re consulting with team management to find out what’s really going on, the lawyers are figuring out what verbiage is possible without exposing the company to greater risk, product marketing is weighing responses for risk/reward to their carefully crafted message.

      Do you ever notice that Apple’s “response” never comes from the PR department? They have to take what is given to them and distribute it to the media. That’s not what this blogosphere — who’ve never run a company with all the attributes listed above — wants though.

    1. You need to try reading what MDN actually wrote. Here, I’ll lay it out for you:

      1. Apple PR today is a vestige of the Steve Jobs era.
      2. Apple PR operates in the “let it fester, clam up, hope it goes away, and only deal with it when it becomes unbearable” fashion.
      3. Steve Jobs admitted, with his health, he operated in the “let it fester, clam up, hope it goes away, and only deal with it when it becomes unbearable” fashion and that he deeply regretted it. From the link MDN provided (that you obviously ignored):

      Walter Isaacson, whose much-anticipated authorised book on Mr Jobs’s life is to be released later this month, said that before he died the 56-year-old had come to realise that he had made a mistake.

      “We talked about this a lot,” Isaacson told a television interview. “He wanted to talk about it, how he regretted it. I think he felt he should have been operated on sooner.”

      Asked why “such a smart man could do such a stupid thing”, Isaacson said: “I think he felt: if you ignore something you don’t want to exist, you can have magical thinking. It had worked for him in the past. He would regret it.”

      Now do you get it?

      1. I see what they’re saying.
        Clearly this approach works for Apple. They still sell all kinds of phones etc.
        I guess it’s kind of like how MDN never says anything when people talk about the number of ads on their page. ; )

  3. A little perspective here pundits!
    any time you roll out 10,000,000 new electronic devices in one weekend there are going to be issues…add to that the near instantaneous roll of out a new OS on millions of devices with different hardware, apps, carriers there are nearly an infinite number of possible interactions…these are truly unforseeable problems (the same thing happens when you roll out a new drug to the public)… oh my, I can’t use my amazing freaking pocket supercomputer for one day! this is a first world problem that will get solved… have another espresso and be glad you were not born in the middle ages….
    full disclosure…my iPhone six is working flawlessly!

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