Steve Jobs To College Student “Leave Us Alone”

I’m working on a webinar about Social Media in Crisis Comms that I’m presenting next week. As I was writing notes on the power of individuals to expose bad brand behavior, I was reminded of a story I saw floating around Facebook and Twitter this weekend. 

As many of you know, Steve Jobs often replies to random emails sent to his Apple email address.

Apparently, a college journalism student emailed him about a problem she was having with Apple’s PR department. So, Jobs did what any CEO who targets the college student market, would do. He began insulting her over email, ultimately telling her to “Leave us alone.”

———————————————————-

Here’s the scoop:

Long Island University senior Chelsea Kate Isaacs, 22, emailed Jobs Thursday because she was writing a story for a journalism class about her college buying iPads for all incoming students. She wanted a quote from Apple about the company’s relationship with academic institutions. She repeatedly called Apple’s PR department, leaving messages. But, they never called her back.

Isaacs emailed Jobs directly explaining her situation and expressing frustration that Apple, which markets itself heavily to college students, refused to help her in completing her assignment. She wrote:

 

“Mr. Jobs, I humbly ask why Apple is so wonderfully attentive to the needs of students, whether it be with the latest, greatest invention or the company’s helpful customer service line, and yet, ironically, the Media Relations Department fails to answer any of my questions which are, as I have repeatedly told them, essential to my academic performance.”

About half an hour later Jobs sent her this curt response:


Our goals do not include helping you get a good grade. Sorry

Isaacs responded:

I never said that your goal should be to “help me get a good grade.” Rather, I politely asked why your media relations team does not respond to emails, which consequently, decreases my chances of getting a good grade. But, forget about my individual situation; what about common courtesy, in general —- if you get a message from a client or customer, as an employee, isn’t it your job to return the call? That’s what I always thought. But I guess that’s not one of your goals.

And Jobs responded minutes later:

Nope. We have over 300 million users and we can’t respond to their requests unless they involve a problem of some kind. Sorry.

Isaac responded again:

You’re absolutely right, and I do meet your criteria for being a customer who deserves a response:


1. I AM one of your 300 million users.
2. I DO have a problem; I need answers that only Apple Media Relations can answer.

Now, can they kindly respond to my request (my polite and friendly voice can be heard in the first 5 or 10 messages in their inbox). Please, I am on deadline.

And at 6:27pm, Pacific Standard Time, Jobs a final one-line email:

Please leave us alone.

——————————————————————

Now, here’s my take on this situation:

Steve Jobs is right; it is not the company’s role to help her get a good grade and Isaacs really made the wrong argument by repeatedly bringing the chances of getting a good grade.

Now I understand why the media relations department didn’t respond to Isaacs. She’s not a reporter. She’s simply doing a school project. I imagine they must receive tons of requests like this regularly. So, I get that this wouldn’t be high on their priority list.

Nonetheless, surely they could have taken two minutes out of their day to call or write a brief note about how they appreciate colleges embracing the iPad. In fact, I would think Apple – with all its millions spent on marketing to students – would have a college relations staff to handle student research requests. So, yes, Apple’s PR team dropped the ball here.

But, what’s more disturbing to me is how Jobs himself handled this. If he can take the time to send snide emails to this girl, why couldn’t he have taken the time to write one sentence about how much Apple appreciates colleges like hers giving students access to great technologies like his.

It would have taken no more time than it did to write something nasty … and he would have come off looking great. Instead, he looks like a mean, grumpy old man who is picking on a college girl. And, the whole debacle is exactly the kind of story that spreads like wildfire over social media, which it has. Bloggers have been talking about it non-stop and “Steve Jobs Tells College Student to Leave Us Alone” was a trending Twitter Topic on Friday.

Perfect example of the power of the individual to expose bad brand behavior.

The entire thread between Chelsea Kate Isaacs and Steve Jobs:

(Read from the bottom up)

From: Steve Jobs

To: XXXX@my.liu.edu

Date: Thu, 16 Sep 2010 18:27:36 -0700

Subject: Re: Mr. Jobs – Student Journalist Concerned about Apple’sMediaRelations Dept.

Please leave us alone.

Sent from my iPhone

On Sep 16, 2010, at 5:32 PM, XXXX@my.liu.edu wrote:

You’re absolutely right, and I do meet your criteria for being a customer who deserves a response:

1. I AM one of your 300 million users.

2. I DO have a problem; I need answers that only Apple Media Relations can answer.

Now, can they kindly respond to my request (my polite and friendly voice can be heard in the first 5 or 10 messages in their inbox). Please, I am on deadline.

I appreciate your help.

——-Original Message——-

From: Steve Jobs

Date: Thu, 16 Sep 2010 17:10:12

To: XXXX@my.liu.edu

Subject: Re: Mr. Jobs – Student Journalist Concerned about Apple’s

MediaRelations Dept.

Nope. We have over 300 million users and we can’t respond to their requests unless they involve a problem of some kind. Sorry.

Sent from my iPhone

On Sep 16, 2010, at 4:37 PM, XXXX@my.liu.edu wrote:

Thank you for your reply. I never said that your goal should be to “help me get a good grade.” Rather, I politely asked why your media relations team does not respond to emails, which consequently, decreases my chances of getting a good grade. But, forget about my individual situation; what about common courtesy, in general —- if you get a message from a client or customer, as an employee, isn’t it your job to return the call? That’s what I always thought. But I guess that’s not one of your goals. Yes, you do have a creative approach, indeed.

——-Original Message——-

From: Steve Jobs

Date: Thu, 16 Sep 2010 16:19:13

To: XXXX@my.liu.edu

Subject: Re: Mr. Jobs – Student Journalist Concerned about Apple’s Media Relations Dept.

Our goals do not include helping you get a good grade. Sorry.

Sent from my iPhone

On Sep 16, 2010, at 3:22 PM, XXXX@my.liu.edu wrote:

Dear Mr. Jobs,

As a college student, I can honestly say that Apple has treated me very well; my iPod is basically the lifeline that gets me through the day, and thanks to Apple’s Final Cut Pro, I aced last semester’s video editing project. I was planning to buy a new Apple computer to add to my list of Apple favorites.

Because I have had such good experiences as a college student using Apple products, I was incredibly surprised to find Apple’s Media Relations Department to be absolutely unresponsive to my questions, which (as I had repeatedly told them in voicemail after voicemail) are vital to my academic grade as a student journalist.

For my journalism course, I am writing an article about the implementation of an iPad program at my school, the CW Post Campus of Long Island University.

The completion of this article is crucial to my grade in the class, and it may potentially get published in our university’s newspaper. I had 3 quick questions regarding iPads, and wanted to obtain answers from the most credible source: Apple’s Media Relations Department.

I have called countless times throughout the week, leaving short, but detailed, messages which included my contact information and the date of my deadline. Today, I left my 6th message, which stressed the increasingly more urgent nature of the situation. It is now the end of the business day, and I have not received a call back. My deadline is tomorrow.

Mr. Jobs, I humbly ask why Apple is so wonderfully attentive to the needs of students, whether it be with the latest, greatest invention or the company’s helpful customer service line, and yet, ironically, the Media Relations Department fails to answer any of my questions which are, as I have repeatedly told them, essential to my academic performance.

For colleges nationwide, Apple is at the forefront of improving the way we function in the academic environment, increasing the efficiency of conducting academic research, as well as sharing and communicating with our college communities.

With such an emphasis on advancing our education system, why, then, has Apple’s Media Relations team ignored my needs as a student journalist who is just trying to get a good grade?

In addition to the hypocrisy of ignoring student needs when they represent a company that does so much for our schools, the Media Relations reps are apparently, also failing to responsibly handle the inquiries of professional journalists on deadlines. Unfortunately, for a journalist in the professional world, lacking the answers they need on deadline day won’t just cost them a grade; it could cost them their job.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Chelsea Kate Isaacs

Senior CW Post – Long Island University

 

[Photo of Jobs via Getty Images]

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