The term “crisis communication” is often used interchangeably with “reputation management.” A crisis is when something goes wrong that disrupts a company’s operations. And in a crisis, companies should never stonewall.
Given that Steve Jobs’ Apple guards new-product releases with a level of secrecy that the National Security Agency would envy, it was nothing short of a crisis when the next generation of the iPhone, version 4.0, fell into the hands of a tech publication.
As Gizmodo recently reported, one of Apple’s software engineers left the device in a Northern California bar.
Was this a bad thing for Apple? According to Gizmodo’s Jesus Diaz, “When it comes to the big stuff, everything is airtight. At their Cupertino campus, any gadget or computer that is worth protecting is behind armored doors, with security locks with codes that change every few minutes.”
This could — maybe — turn out to be a good thing for Apple. With a curious and loyal customer base already salivating over the next generation, doesn’t a sneak peek just fuel the flames?
Consider the following:
- A tease for the phone (remotely wiped by Apple) could build up hype for when they do launch the phone.
- Most companies would come out with some sort of crisis communications plan — or a least a statement — but Apple has chosen silence. Despite the “great wall of stonewalling,” their zealot/customer base will, as always, line up to buy their latest product.
- The only thing that Apple is giving up is the “wow” factor at Mr. Jobs’ news conference.
- With Apple’s passion for security, could this stonewall actually be an intentional effort by the company to create word-of-mouth buzz leading up to the product launch?
What do you think? Will the “leaked iPhone” peak interest, or take the pizazz out of the product launch? Is this truly a leak, or could it be that Apple has pulled off one of the greatest viral marketing stunts in recent memory?