Steve Jobs this morning gathered interested media organisations together and held a press conference about the iPhone 4′s antenna problems.
The presentation lasted around 30 minutes and these are some lessons all presenters can learn about having to give difficult and sometimes unpleasant news about a product or a business:
1. Admit there is a problem.
Steve Jobs came clean. He admitted straight away there was a problem. He said “We’re not perfect. We know that, you know that”. He explained the problem, showed the date of the tests that Apple had carried out and admitted that Apple knew that there was a problem before the launch.
2. Accept responsibility
Unlike BP, who refused to accept blame, Steve Jobs accepted blame immediately. By admitting the blame he was able to stop the ‘rumourmongering’ essentially with one sentence.
3. Show the data – in a simple way
By showing simple data, Steve Jobs was able to communicate to all customers, not just the tech savvy customers. Too often companies try to hide behind complex data that nobody but PH.D scientists can understand. This does not clear up the problem, it adds to the problem. Focus on simple data that explains the problem.
4. Say what you are going to do about it
This is perhaps the most important part. You must state very clearly what you will do about the problem and, more importantly, when. When you come up with a solution to the problem, the solution must be customer centred and not damage limitation centred – which sadly is what most companies try to do.
5. Make it Personal
Throughout the whole presentation, there was a deep feeling that Steve Jobs was taking this issue personally. Not in the BP CEO’s “personal way” (“I just want my life back”) but in a way that it hurt him personally that his customers were not happy and that he, and his engineers, were working round the clock to solve the problem. This kind of personalisation of the problem give your customers a feeling that you are with them and on their side.
There are hundreds of examples of successes and failures when it comes to companies and problems. Two of the most recent PR disasters are Toyota and BP, but this one, in my humble opinion, will go down as a successfully handled problem.
Remember, giving bad news is something that most companies will have to do at some point or another. Being able to present bad news in a clear and understandable way is the first step. Accept responsibility and tell everyone what you are going to do about it. And above all else – tell your customers you love them.
You can view the whole presentation here