Case Studies Blog #3 – What case study interested you most?

From the cases we’ve discussed in class so far, which case has most captured your interest, and why? From a PR perspective, what did you learn from this case?

The Apple iPhone 4 launch case study captured my interest.  In 2010, Apple was set to launch their newest phone, the iPhone 4.  During the pre-launch build-up, Apple remained secretive of the specifications and details of their new phone.  Nothing new here.

No help from Apple

Approximately three months prior to the launch, Gray Powell, an Apple employee testing the prototype phone lost it at a local pub.  An unknown individual soon after finds the phone and contacts Apple customer service three times to return it.  No one at Apple believes him or his story because according to customer service, that phone does not exist.


After receiving no help from Apple customer service, the unknown individual agrees to sell the prototype phone to Gizmodo, a major tech blog for $5000.  The tech blog reverse engineers the phone to reveal the details and specs on their website to the public prior to launch.

Prototype iPhone 4G sold for $5000

After the specs gets released, Apple sends a formal request to Gizmodo asking for their phone back.  On April 18, 2010, the Gizmodo editor agrees and offers an address where it can be retrieved.   Good story so far, however, Apple didn’t let the situation go.  On April 26, the Police department breaks into the editor’s home to seize all of his computers.  Bam!  Public relations disaster!


Lessons learned

In class, I learned of several ways to appropriately respond to a PR crisis.  These options include attacking the accuser, denial, excuse, justification, ingratiation, corrective action, or a full apology.  Each of these possible options requires detailed planning and forecasting to predict an outcome to the best possible solution to a bad situation.  In addition to the possible options are general principles to follow, which include the following: catch and identify the before it becomes a crises, match the response to the issue, begin early and initiate a dialogue, actively solicit and identify concerns, recognize the public is a legitimate partner, address issues of concern, even if they don’t directly relate, anticipate and prepare for hostility, understand the needs of the of the news media, and always be honest, even when it hurts.

Honesty is the best policy

From a PR perspective, I learned that being honest about one’s actions is critical in a crisis situation.  Covering up an issue and the truth only prolongs the inevitable.  At the end of the day, if a corporation’s reputation is important to them, they should work with the public to resolve their problem.  Deceiving the public only makes the organization appear unethical, which is far more damaging than admitting the truth.

In the Apple case, had executives owned up to a lost phone, their reputation, one could argue, would not have been severely damaged.  Apple employees now have legitmate reason to distrust their executives for being kept in the dark about the lost phone.  To employees, the executives can’t trust us, so why should we trust them?  The fragile relationship between management and front-line staff become even more fragmented when the lack of trust permeates through the organization.


In addition, Apple as an organization took an even greater hit to their reputation by having police seize computers from the Gizmodo editor after initially refusing to take back the phone after letting customer service know that it was in their possession.  Time, money, and reputation could have been saved had honesty been the best policy.

Final Thoughts

If it were you and your job and reputation were on the line, would you have acted any differently than Apple executives? Did Apple do the right thing by not informing their employees of a lost phone?  Did Apple do the right thing by asking the police to break into the home of the Gizmodo editor to seize his computers?  Let me know in the comments below.


3 thoughts on “Case Studies Blog #3 – What case study interested you most?

  1. Oh I remember this, It’s amazing how a company with such high standards can stoop so low. I guess they can with all that money..If customer service handled the situation with the best of their ability in the first place instead of denying the return of the lost phone it wouldn’t have escalated this far. They didn’t have to go to the guys house and take his personal belongings from him. They didn’t handle the situation fairly, don’t get me wrong apple products are amazing I have a macbook pro and I love it, hate the phone though…lol as I was saying apple has a reputation to be superior with their products and services but reading this was very disappointing. Apple took the situation too far and if that happened to me I would be livid.


  2. In these last 12 months, we learnt how admitting the “bad news” is always an option that organizations should consider. People understand that everyone makes mistakes and companies are no different.

    In Apple’s case, I believe it was not only wrong but also unfair that the employees were not informed about the situation. Employees are important stakeholders of a company and their duty works in favor of the organization. The situation could have been handled if the customer service knew what was going on in the top management’s head. It is the customer service who are in direct contact with the public and hence, they play an integral role in making or breaking the reputation of a company.

    Further, Apple committed another disaster by sending in the cops to the same person’s house who actually ended up helping Apple. That just makes me angry and think that “where are your PR professionals” or ‘did they even consider their opinion about the whole matter” .

    In all, nice understanding of the topic and very nicely written.


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