Kel Kelly

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Steve Jobs’ PR Peeps

January 25, 2009 11:37 AM

There has been a firestorm of blogosphere/media chatter around the January 20th announcement of Steve Jobs’ leave of absence. The net/net of the fury is linked to Jobs’ ongoing denial that he had any health problems, followed by what appeared to be an abrupt leave of absence. In the 10 days since the announcement, there has been a tsunami of coverage, most of which is centered on outrage and rumors of a cover up. From Dan Lyons unleashing a wrath on punk’d CNBC reporter (which I believed was well deserved) to Fred Wilson’s announcement that he dumped his Apple shares, almost without exception, Apple (AAPL) PR peeps are being blamed (along with Jobs himself) for keeping Jobs’ health issues a secret.

I’m here with a big pin in my hand charged with popping a bubble of delusion. So here I go…the army of Apple PR managers making $60,000 +/- a year had no freaky deaky idea of the truth regarding Jobs’ health. Does anyone actually believe that Steve Jobs really confided about the true nature of his health challenges to a bunch of PR employees 5+ layers deep in his company?  Do people think there was a meeting at Apple led by Jobs with the entire Apple PR staff in attendance where he said something like, “Hey guys, I’m really sick but I don’t want anyone to know, so I would like you to lie on my behalf. Are ya with me?!” Seriously, it’s time to take the PR gum off everyone’s shoes and get a grip. It is rumored that Jobs’ inner circle of friends had no idea of his dire health situation. It’s laughable to think the PR people were privy to this info, yet they are repeatedly being thrown under the bus.

What I don’t know is if Apple’s top PR dog knew the truth and then knowingly instructed his team to lie. Lyons indicated something to that effect in his CNBC interview. If true then that would be a tragedy for the entire PR industry. For it is the action of one or a few that often drives the perception for an entire group. For example, it is this “guilty by association” perspective that has unfairly positioned good-hearted Muslims in a negative light. It’s just unfair and quite frankly sad.

For the record, I think Dan Lyons is a God. He tells it like it is and thrives on weeding out the bullshit. He has also been an outspoken supporter of PR people, as illustrated in his contribution to my Put The Turd On The Table Interview in March of 2008. Fred Wilson is also someone I admire immensely. I remember trying to raise a round of funding through his firm Flatiron — right before the internet bubble burst — when I was at Wilson was the consummate professional always communicating in a respectful manner. If anything, Wilson should know the guilty by association challenge all too well as VCs often get run over by the same bus as the PR industry. In both cases, I don’t think Lyons or Wilson were trying to harm innocent PR professionals, but I think general comments only adds to the pigpile that already exists. To be clear, I am as guilty of making general statements about a professional group as anyone. I have accused VCs as “eating their young” and I need to think about this as I move forward.

What’s the lesson here? Don’t judge an entire group of people by the actions of a handful of idiots. The world would be a better place.

Have you ever been thrown under the bus for the actions of one reckless dope?

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

4 Comments on “Steve Jobs’ PR Peeps”

  1. Meagan Says:

    Scary to think how easy it is for PR to be blamed. Having worked PR for a huge, publicly traded company, I can tell you honestly that the PR people towards the bottom get little more than press release information from the top. With an issue as trying as personal, life-or-death health, it is crazy to think that PR people (aside from perhaps the top brass) played any part in deciding what information was to be withheld from the press.

  2. Steve Says:

    I don’t know if I agree entirely. I remember seeing a news report just around the time Apple made the announcement; the report was based around the overall look of Jobs and how he appeared to have lost a considerable amount of weight. Between the rumors bouncing around the blogosphere and Apple backing out of MacWorld in mid-Decemeber, I think there is the possibility of some top internal PR pros knowing about Jobs health.

    If they did know and did not address it, I think it was a tactic of damage control. Although there might be some conflict of interest as far as investors go, maybe the PR pros were doing what they were instructed and maybe what was best to keep the company moving along.

  3. Kel Says:

    meagan, that’s my concern. pr peeps may be getting lumped under a pr umbrella when they may have been innocent bystanders with no knowledge. i have a feeling something so personal was shared with very few.

  4. Kel Says:

    steve, the unfortunate thing is we will never know. i still wonder how much jobs himself knew. think about it — if his doctors originally misdiagnosed the illness then he could have been as surprised as everyone. let me also take this moment to wish him a speedy and full recovery. at the end of the day, this controversy is about a very sick man. regardless of how it came to light, i hope he beats it asap.

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