PR Lessons from Steve Jobs

October 7, 2011

This week, like everyone else, I was saddened by the untimely passing of Steve Jobs. And as I read all of the reactions, tweets and articles about him – from tech reporters and former colleagues as well as the Apple devotees among my own personal network – I was struck by the emotion created by the passing of this entrepreneur, CEO and businessman. There have been many chronicles of the lessons he left behind. But the sheer volume of devotion around him and his larger-than-life persona made me realize there also are many public relations lessons to be learned from this CEO. Here are a few that I’d like to pass on to other CEOs who hope to follow in his footsteps, however large they may be.

  • Grant Access. So many CEOs view the media as a nuisance at best, an enemy at worst. But Steve Jobs recognized that granting media access and working with them directly could help your company, products and public profile in ways that shutting them out never would. So many media stories about Jobs’ death, like this great one by Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal, have led with anecdotes of meetings, interviews and personal moments shared with him. This access created a real respect by media, which impacted the devotion and emotional connection so many consumers feel for him today.
  •  Embrace the Drama. Steve Jobs was a great inventor, but also a master salesman. He treated every product launch like a five-star theatrical event and expected us to wait in line for hours to just get a glimpse of his latest innovation. And it worked – that flair for the dramatic reveal was contagious. Of course it helps if you have an innovation like the iPad behind the curtain!
  •  Go Out on a Limb. Steve Jobs was often right about the twists and turns taken by technology. But before that, he was often wrong. Media loved talking to him because he went out on a limb to make predictions about where our world was headed, and had bold, interesting ideas about the future. He was seen as a visionary in part because he was willing to take risks in expressing his thoughts. It takes courage in a world where CEOs are often uncomfortable discussing anything deeper than what the next quarter’s earnings might be.
  • Share Your Passion. The passion of Steve Jobs was evident every time I saw him speak or read an article about him. Yet so often, corporate spokespeople sound like … corporate spokespeople. The lesson here is obvious to me – be passionate about your business, products and people. And don’t let that passion be quelled by robotic talking points.  
  • Be Real. Which leads to my last point. Steve Jobs commanded respect for his ideas, his innovations and his contributions to technology. But his legend is revered because of his personality, his spirit and his heart. Underneath all of the business news and predictions, there was a real man. And he was willing to let media – and the public – get to know the real man.

As I continue to read the stories and quotes about the contributions of Steve Jobs, I’ll remember these and other lessons he left behind.