Chelsea Kate Isaacs, a Long Island journalism student, was writing a research paper last month on the use of the Apple iPad in classrooms.
As part of her research, she reportedly made numerous approaches to Apple’s PR department to get a quote and repeatedly came up empty handed, Isaacs did what many consumers might do.
She sent an email to Apple’s iconic co-founder, Steve Jobs.
Their email exchange went like this:
Isaacs: “Mr Jobs, I humbly ask why Apple is so attentive to the needs of students, whether it be 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.”
Jobs: “Our goals do not help you getting a good grade. Sorry.”
There was one more similar round in this exchange between the perhaps naive student and the (perhaps) irrascible CEO, before Jobs replied with another short note: “Please leave us alone.”
Isaacs sent her email around. And her recipients sent it around. And… it went viral.
Entrepreneurs in the Brave New World should all wish for success on the level of Jobs’. It would be nice to be able to do things his way.
But you’re not Steve Jobs.
The power of Brand Apple allows Jobs to push his people with the bristly management style he’s known for. Employees put up with him because being part of his magic is exciting; it can always lead to recuriters and headhunters hawking great positions elsewhere throughout the Valley and the world. And Jobs has access to the most powerful investment circles in Silicon Valley and Wall Street.
Chances are, you and I don’t.
Mere mortals like you and I can not afford to be bristly with our customers.
An email reply like the one above could cripple us. Maybe it won’t go viral in the macro sense, but it could get forwarded to a hot propsect, the industry press or a potential investor.
For scrappy consultants and entrepreneurs in the Brave New World, even a micro fall-out from a nasty email reply could bring us to our knees.
Everybody’s a messenger today. Everybody’s a journalist in the world of Web 2.0. Word-of-mouth has always been the most powerful form of advertising. Word-of-click is faster and wider.
Be nice to people.
You’re not Steve Jobs.