Apple: The Silence Before the Response 


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After a week of silence, Apple released a company statement on April 27 regarding the iPhone’s controversial location-tracking software. CEO Steve Jobs denied that the phones were keeping logs of user locales, abating a national media storm that had customers and PR professionals alike wondering what was taking Apple so long to respond. He defended Apple's silence, saying to the New York Times, "rather than run to the PR department," the company wanted to find out investigate the matter thoroughly.

"Rather than run to the PR department" certainly is a revealing statement about Jobs'—and perhaps other CEOs—opinion of PR's place in high-level corporate decision making. This story would have had less of an impact if Jobs had run to the PR department immediately. It's very likely his PR team would have told him to release a simple statement immediately, saying the company was looking into the matter and would give release more information as it became available. 

Senior public relations consultant and PR News Advisory Board member Deborah Radman says Apple's lack of a quick, proactive response regarding their location tracking policies may not serve the company well in the long run, noting that a quick response could have helped Apple open a conversation on its own terms. "Prolonged silence raises suspicions, foments second-guessing and allows others—from anywhere at all—to speculate and communicate less than accurate information," says Radman.

Larry Parnell, an associate professor at George Washington University, and a
PR News Advisory Board member as well, says it can be a good idea to delay a detailed response to such an inquiry while a company does necessary research. "However," says Parnell, "a holding statement along the lines of 'we are looking into this matter to be sure we have all the facts available and will respond ASAP after' is a must. This—and the subsequent details—should be posted on the company's Web site, Twitter account, etc. and be given to the New York Times."

On May 4, Apple released an update to its iOS 4.3 software for the iPhone and iPad that will prevent the devices from storing for long periods of time users' location data, according to the Times.


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