Arment Dietrich

Steve Jobs Answers Emails

By: Arment Dietrich | October 6, 2010 | 

Can you imagine being the CEO of Apple – the Godfather of all things iPod, iPad, iPhone?  Now picture answering almost every email that comes your way.  That’s exactly what Steve Jobs does.  He personally responds to almost every email that make it to his inbox while, of course, running one of the world’s most successful brands.  But bad things can happen when billionaires get a little annoyed.

The people at Good Morning America feel Steve should have deleted one particular email.  After a college senior, Ms. Isaacs, late for a paper deadline, didn’t hear back from the Apple media relations team started to panic so she did the next logical thing and emailed Steve directly. Why not?  Well, Steve answered back and it went on for a few.  View the video below for the details.

There are three lessons here.

First, your job as a PR or communications professional is to make your company look good.  You can do this by simply responding to inquiries and answering emails.  We now see how things can get ugly when you don’t do your job properly.

The second lesson is to give Steve a break.  Yes, “leave us alone” is probably not the best response, but he answered the girl!  She could have written a paper on that alone.  Title: “Billionaire, Visionary, Entrepreneur, and Humanitarian Answers Emails Directly.”

Third and foremost, quit feeling sorry for this girl.  It’s making me sick to see the media flock to her side.  After hearing how many times she called and reading her emails I find her just as annoying and would like to say worse.  She has no right to expect anything from anyone.  And frankly, her emails sound pretty snotty, if I do say so myself.

Whose team are you on?  Team Jobs or Team Isaacs?

  • I have to say I completely agree with everything you’ve said. I would never expect a reply to be honest. Sure it’s not a bad thing to try and see if you’ll get an answer. But Apple is a huge company with who knows how many inquiries per day. Having your grade rely on their response is preposterous.

    Don’t get me wrong, as someone in the communication profession, I know it is important to respond to people and to do so eloquently. That being said, I don’t feel sorry for this young lady because she clearly has some communication issues herself.

  • IDK… this is kinda silly, trading on the Steve Jobs and Apple name for ratings. Yes Apple media relations should respond, but they probably get thousands such requests a day and have other priorities. Yes Mr. Jobs may need some media relations training, but still.

    How long was she at this, did she wait until her deadline? Don’t know and not sure I care. She did make it about her when she mentioned her grade; plus it’s called research. I just Googled “iPad classroom setting” and had a few million hits. Yes a direct quote from Apple would help, but IMO would not make or break this story. FWIW.

  • Jasper

    She obviously has no clue how much work is it to lead a company like that (or media department for that matter). I for one think it’s 100% right of Apple to focus on user issues rather than students writing research papers. Maybe its not smart PR, but its a valid argument.

  • Jasper

    She obviously has no clue how much work it is to lead a company like that (or media department for that matter). I for one think it’s 100% right of Apple to focus on user issues rather than students writing research papers. Maybe it’s not smart PR, but a valid argument nonetheless.

  • ginidietrich

    I’m not, by any means, sticking up for this young lady, but why is Jobs answering these emails AND allowing himself to enter into a debate? He’s never been a great communicator and this is just another example. As a leader, lead your company. If you feel like you have to get involved, forward it to your media relations team and ask them to take care of it. But for heaven’s sakes, don’t answer it yourself! Hoogly moogly.

    • Shonali

      @ginidietrich “Hoogly moogly.” That’s my new phrase of choice. Might even knock “piffle” off its stand. :p

    • ginidietrich

      @Shonali Isn’t hoogly moogly great?! I stole it from @JasonVerhoosky!

  • Shonali

    Well… I guess I’m on Team In The Middle. If the student did indeed leave 6+ messages for the media relations team, they should have responded by then (they should have responded to the first one). I haven’t run MR for a firm as large as Apple, but I did do so for a large non-profit, and we got a lot of requests such as this. We always responded, and tried to do so in a timely fashion.

    Should Mr. Jobs have responded in quite so brusque a fashion? I don’t think so but on the other hand, it’s pretty incredible that he wrote back himself, as you noted. What he could have done, though, was to hit “forward” and instruct his MR team to get on it. I suspect that would have been the end of the story.

    As for the student; she’s had her 15 minutes and needs to get over it. Her emails do sound snotty, but I come across my fair share of students who are snotty. They expect what they want, when they want it, and never mind if they email you at the nth hour before an assignment is due. So she might get a B instead of an A? Maybe she’ll learn to cover her bases the next time.

    • ginidietrich

      @Shonali HAHAHAHA! You and I wrote THE EXACT, SAME THING at the exact, same moment!

    • Shonali

      @ginidietrich LOL, I know!!! I got stuck signing up with Livefyre (awesome sauce, btw), and I actually saw the notification for a new comment come through as mine was being approved!

  • ginidietrich

    Quick note: If you’re commenting on this page in Safari or Chrome, you’ll see the comments are all funky and lined up over the right sidebar. It works great in Firefox and Explorer so we’re trying to figure out the CSS/PHP/FTP/any other acronym you can think of to get it fixed. So comment away…and try not to be disturbed by how ugly it is if you’re in Chrome or Safari.

    • PhilipNowak

      @ginidietrich Hey Gini, I’m using Internet Explorer and the comments are half way into the sidebar.

    • ginidietrich

      @PhilipNowak Crap. We’re trying to fix how it looks.

  • eatitdrinkit

    Quite honestly? I think she should THANK Jobs for giving her 15 minutes of media fame–a better lesson than her paper would probably deliver. Do I think Jobs should be answering his emails? No, not really, and yes, that is a flaw in his own particular system. He is not a great communicator, as Gini has pointed out. But, in my opinion, she seemed rather “entitled” in her endless requests, and I agree with you that she has no right to expect a reply from anyone. I’d also be very curious to know how much of her paper truly relied on the MR department. The world isn’t fair, and she is LUCKY that Jobs responded the way he did. Would we know who she was otherwise? I’m with Team Jobs…leave him alone.

    • MolliMegasko

      @eatitdrinkit Do you agree with the way he handled the situation?

    • eatitdrinkit

      Do I think he could have been less harsh? Probably. But I think she should have stopped, after the first email, and not continued her (in my opinion obnoxious) plea for his attention.

  • jelenawoehr

    I’m joining team “Why is this even a thing?” I would heave been on Team Isaacs for a few reasons had she been a personal friend who told me this story over coffee, not someone who reacted to minor rudeness by going to the media (and Gawker in particular):

    1. Steve Jobs IS widely known to reply to emails sent to a particular address.
    2. A media relations department SHOULD reply to calls from people working with any publication, even if it’s just “this might get into the school newspaper”; if Apple doesn’t have the resources to handle the volume of queries that department gets, it may be time to offer internships that consist mostly of giving canned responses to this sort of low-level query. College students would line up in droves to have “intern, Apple media relations” on their resumes at graduation.
    3. Given 1 and 2, it would be reasonable to think that Steve Jobs (known for his personal involvement in all aspects of Apple operations) might actually appreciate a polite email informing him that it’s become impossible for a student–part of Apple’s core customer base–to get a reply from a department that, in most large corporations, would in fact respond to such a query.

    However, she lost my support by trying to react to rude email responses by embarrassing Steve Jobs on Gawker and ABC News. I’m not going to call for her to be burned as a witch or anything; as a college student with my fair share of crazy deadlines and grade panic, I totally understand the impulse, but I suspect she’ll look back on this in a few years and wish she hadn’t gone there. You lose the moral high ground when you try to take down the other guy after it’s already become clear you won’t get any worthwhile benefit from it–it’s apparently too late to get the necessary quote for her paper, and Jobs is irked enough that I doubt they’ll even send her an apology and a coupon for some iTunes downloads.

    But Steve Jobs… seriously? Replying in person to emails is kind of a stupid pet trick that some executives get too hooked on for their own good. It’s a good thing to do once in a while, while in a cheerful mood and ready to be the witty and personable champ that your product’s loyalists imagine. But I bet his time would have been better spent on something else.

  • It’s hard to say who’s right and who’s wrong…personally, I think it’s clear both parties could have done better.

    But from a PR stand-point, how hard would it have been for Jobs to just respond? He went back and forth with the girl, what not just answer her question and be done? That may not have gotten any press, but it wouldn’t have garnered any negative press either.

  • PattiRoseKnight

    I agree – the fact that Mr. Jobs answered her personally is amazing – and yeah he should have left out the “leave us alone” but I doubt this will cost Apple in sales.

  • Ike

    She screwed it up.

    Her response on volley number 3 should have been:

    “I understand your need to focus on ‘problems,’ but this mindset shuts you away from finding ‘opportunities.’

    Have a nice day.”

  • OneJillian

    I’m gonna side with Isaac as more of an “everystudent” than a particular student.

    1. Steve Jobs is PAST old enough to know better. He’s even had skids before.

    2. This student is a STUDENT. She is accustomed to GIVING exactly what is asked, exactly WHEN it’s asked. So yes, if her email sounds snotty, guess what? She’s not old enough to know how to better tone her emails to a busy (total understatement) CEO.

    3. MR dropped this ball. Annoying people are ALL OVER THE PLACE. Life goes on. Taking a stand just because you can or it’s a bad day is ludicrous.

    4. Only focus on the problem issues? Customer loyalty is won on all fronts, my friend, not just where the perimeter is breached. Are you after one-time sales, or a customer base?

    disclaimer – I am 100% not an Apple customer for the precise reason that Apple is not interested unless there is a problem they can’t blame on you or Microsoft.

  • DallasKincaid

    I’ll add to this, and I apologize if it’s already been said…

    It’s never confirmed or denied if these e-mails come from Steve Jobs himself. There have actually been cases where e-mail exchanges between him and the peasants have been proved to be forged.

    Whenever I see one of these exchanges between Steve Jobs and someone I give it a 50/50 chance of being real and I typically dismiss it.

    Oh, and regarding the girl…she was a pain in the ass and clearly not getting the hint. Sometimes people need someone to be direct like that to get the hint. I know I have to be that way with my stalkers…

  • When I first heard this story, I thought Jobs was a dick.

    Then I read more reports, saw her contact, and thought she was a dick (dickess?).

    No-one’s really right or wrong here (yeah, I know, fence-sitting response, huh?). Jobs is a busy guy – maybe he should have left it with his PR team.

    She should have known better, if she is as great a comms student as she’d like to think she is (or wants to be). But there was no harm in contacting Jobs in the first place.

    I like Bill Gates. 🙂

    • @DannyBrown So you like Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs may or may not be a dick. But do you use a Mac or a PC?

    • @jennalanger I use a Mac. Though I’m currently typing on a Sony VAIO. Go figure 🙂

      Not really a fanboy of stuff when it comes to tech, with the exception of SEGA and Microsoft Xbox 360. That’s where I’m biased 🙂

    • ginidietrich

      @jennalanger Did you know @DannyBrown still uses a BlackBerry?! GASP!!

    • @ginidietrich @jennalanger Hey, Gini, is that a Sony Super 8mm you use for the video sections? 😉

    • ginidietrich

      @DannyBrown Nope! It’s my Mac and QuickTime.

  • DonovanGroupInc

    Jobs should have forwarded this to his MR team and said deal with it…but then again the most comfortable seat in the house on Monday mornings is the “Quarterback’s” arm-chair. 🙂 She’s had her 15 minutes of fame and it’s time to move onto something more worthy of ABC News coverage (and our online chatter for that matter). Thanks for sparking the conversation Gini. Andy

    • ginidietrich

      @DonovanGroupInc I wish I could take credit, but @MolliMegasko started the conversation!

  • janbeery

    I completely agree with you Gini. This was such an annoying run on story. Is there nothing else going on in the world that we can be educated on? Really!!??
    Granted, his response was less then stellar but agreed, enough all ready.
    I’m certain we all would be more then happy to suggest other topics we’d be interested in hearing more about!!!

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  • jyap


  • jyap

    This site has more of those Emails From Steve Jobs:

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