Apple released its new iPhone 4 in 2011 with the usual incredible success. The new smartphone was the thinnest in the world, had new and improved display resolution, new multi-tasking capability and the newly introduced FaceTime. Apple received over 600,000 pre orders in the first 24 hours, all at a very expensive price for a phone at that time.
Shortly after the successful launch, a crisis began that could have had permanent negative branding implications for Apple. Users complained that the very expensive phone’s reception was poor and that holding the hand-held device in your hand led to dropped calls. Being so counter to Apple’s brand as the world leader in engineering and design for its product lines, the media were quick to jump on the story and everyone soon began to refer to the affair as Antennagate.
Steve Jobs, the iconic CEO of Apple at the time, spoke to customers and media in a live address for over 30 minutes, complete with an opening music video. Weeks later, that address was widely touted by corporate leaders and communication professionals as the most effective and persuasive crisis response in corporate history.
Jobs’ first goal was to Reframe the issue, that is, to change the narrative, which he did by making the case that all smartphones have problems and, therefore, this wasn’t an Apple issue. He gave several examples of problems with the phones that were sold by competitors and his communications team provided the media with pre-packaged, specific stories about those problems. The result was that, in the following days, the media focused on all of the problems with the competitor’s products, but not on Antennagate. The narrative had changed.
After providing persuasive data that Antennagate was not really a problem, Jobs then demonstrated Empathy for Apple users: “‘we care about every user, we want every user to be happy”.
Then, he promised Action. He said that Apple couldn’t be satisfied with this and committed to keep working day and night on finding a solution. And since they didn’t yet have a solution, they would offer their customers a free iPhone 4 case.
The formula used by Jobs was: Reframe, Empathy, Action. Consider this formula in your business or life when responding to any crisis or heated situation. While not a silver bullet, it is certainly a persuasive and effective approach.
Last week, Joe Rogan’s world beating podcast, with over 200 million monthly downloads, came into hot water when some loud and influential voices accused him of streaming misinformation. They called for him to be de-platformed from Spotify and, as the narrative hit social and main stream media, it quickly grew into a crisis.
In response, Rogan released a ten minute public video that contained the following points:
Reframe: The podcast is not about providing news or information. Rather, it is intended to share a conversation that Rogan personally finds interesting and, hopefully, others find interesting too. He said that he makes lots of mistakes and gets things wrong but that he works very hard to understand and correct.
Empathy: With the reframing in place, Rogan went on to say that he understands the concerns of certain listeners and that “If I pissed you off, I’m sorry”.
Action: Spotify, with Rogan’s support, will place a warning notice on certain podcasts. Further, future controversial, expert guests will be followed on the next show (or close to it) by a conventional, expert guest in an effort to provide some balance to the discussion.
Rogan’s response was an excellent example of the crisis communication formula. Time will tell if it works for him.