Were Steve Jobs’ PR Skills a Mixed Bag?

Since Steve Jobs’ passing on October 5, much has been written about his influence. The public outpouring of grief and admiration after Jobs’ death was announced was huge, to say the least. But what of Jobs’ relationship with public relations? He’s been called one of the marketing greats—for his ability to know what consumers want before they knew what they wanted. As for PR, there are a number of stories that appeared last week and into this week that give a glimpse of his considerable media and customer relations skills—and foibles. The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg wrote a great article on his late-night phone calls with Jobs—calls that Mossberg’s wife came to hate. Bloomberg Businessweek’s special issue on Jobs doesn’t mince words when it comes to Jobs’ mean streak with the media, and sometimes customers who he’d engage with via e-mail. It seems that when it came to connecting with the “outside world,”  Jobs did pretty much what he wanted, when he wanted.

Brian Regan, senior VP at Access Communications, sums up Jobs and public relations this way: “PR and media people marveled and envied Jobs’ raw brilliance, but unless you were inside the company pulling the strings, you gnashed your teeth at the marketing hubris—why didn’t we think of that?—and black ops approach to PR—how can he get away with that?” says Regan. “Regardless, he will rightfully be seen as a modern Da Vinci whose influence will grow and outlast all others of his generation.”

—Scott Van Camp

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