What Should Apple Do?

Apple iPhone 4Now that Consumer Reports has given the iPhone 4 a thumbs down, Apple has a full-blown crisis on its hands. If the company was engaged in active dialogue with its customers, Apple would be in a better position to contain the crisis, or at least tell its side of the story. However, Apple shuns social media of all kinds. Its main communication to the market on the iPhone reception issue has been this letter from its public relations department, which invites no response.

So let’s hear what you think: Should the company continued to stay above the fray and face a growing tide of criticism or should it engage with its critics and potentially be forced into a recall situation? Please share your comments below. Include your name and a link to your website. An edited collection of these comments will be submitted to Awareness for its community blog


Still more AMA Webinar questions answered

Here are more responses to questions that time didn’t permit me to answer during the AMA Marketing Seminar on Oct. 15. Each of these permalinks is tagged “AMA” so you can easily group them together. Thanks to everyone for coming and for asking such great questions. More to come!

Q: Jodine asks “Another great example of this marketing approach is in the new music industry. Independent distributed musicians that gain their fans from MySpace and other social networks. Is this marketing approach what they call grassroots and/or organic marketing?”

A: That’s certainly an appropriate term for it. MySpace, for example, has been a gold mine for independent music groups who don’t have the marketing dollars to put into advertising. The idea is to create networks of friends who self-define their interests and share favorite bands among themselves. Also, people who produce podcasts and blogs devoted to music often make it a point to promote lesser-known groups. While these tactics so far haven’t duplicated the throw weight of mainstream media campaigns, their popularity testifies to their effectiveness.

Q: Sanjay asks, “Are there any potential problems for a regional retailer with just a few locations?”

A: Not that I can think of. In fact, that person is a natural candidate for social media. Facebook, for example, is a great place to find people nearby who are interested in the products that the retailer sells. If I was a camera store owner in Chicago, for example, I might set up a Facebook group for photography enthusiasts to discuss their favorite Chicagoland sites to photograph. You can use that as a jumping off point to create events and even more targeted groups.

A blog is also a terrific way to showcase expertise, and if you’re careful to label the blog and its posts with regional tags, you’ll do better on search engines. For small businesses on a budget, social media is a godsend.

Q: Kristin asks, “How will the change in social media affect crisis communications?”

A: I can think of a couple of major ways. For better or worse, people are increasingly taking their gripes and frustrations to their blogs instead of going through customer service channels. This makes the blogosphere an excellent early warning system. You should have Google Alerts set up for every product and brand you own, and you should also create RSS feeds from sites like Technorati, BlogPulse and IceRocket that can alert you immediately to new topics of blog chatter.

In terms of responding to a crisis, a blog is perhaps the fastest way to get information online. This bypasses the media gatekeepers and insurers that the message is coming directly from you. If you link aggressively to the blog from your website and from blogs maintained by your employees and outside constituents, you can build visibility very quickly. Sites like Twitter are also increasingly being used by marketers to get messages out to the public instantly.

Q: Viktor asks “What’s your opinion on intellectual property rights
with blogging?”

A: There effectively are none, and this is a huge hairball for new media. The reality is that many people who are now publishing online could care less about intellectual property or copyright. I have had entire articles lifted verbatim from my blog and even mainstream media sites and republished without any attribution whatsoever. It’s not worth going after people legally in most cases, and that tactic can actually create unwanted publicity.

The entertainment companies have led the charge in trying to bring some order to this intellectual-property chaos, but they have encountered a lot of resistance and their tactics have not always been diplomatic. They have done themselves few favors. I’m afraid that these issues will take years to hammer out, and that our notions of copyright may look very different a few years from now. I wish I could be more encouraging, but a lot of people are wrestling with this problem.