What Martha Stewart’s Apple “Feud” Teaches Us About PR

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No matter how progressive we may think brands are getting, nobody likes having bad things about them being said on the Internet. Only, wait, the Internet is a veritable rainbow of sass, overflowing at any given moment with someone hating on something — guaranteed.

And while brands can take a teasing, and may even encourage it (“We’re human! We can take a joke!”), late last week Martha Stewart went on a tweeting tear, upset that her iPad “shattered two glass corners” after she dropped it.

Bear in mind, this is Martha Stewart we’re talking about here, and she’s not exactly the queen of sting. It’s not like Jeffrey Ross, the Roastmaster General, was letting loose with all his fury. Stewart was seemingly, sincerely, asking if Apple is supposed to come pick up this busted iPad — which was given to her by Steve Jobs, so she was understandably extra frustrated — or if she’s supposed to take it in. Eventually, she tweeted:

“I am still waiting for an apple rep to come pick up my IPad. No action yet”

“Maybe I have had a good entrepreneurial idea? Apple Now? Like same day delivery from Amazon? I think I am on to something. Same day fixit!!!”

She then tweeted that Apple’s public relations team was “mad” about her tweets.

Who’s to say what was really happening on Apple’s half, but this story has picked up a lot of steam as if it is national news. I realize I am merely adding to that flame here, but I do think it is an opportunity for businesses to learn how to handle public complaints like this.

I think many companies have rules of conduct about this sort of thing, and we’ve certainly run our share of posts on how to handle negative comments, but the fact of the matter is sooner or later, someone has a bad experience with a product or service they love. The cable goes out. A car tire blows out. Not that Apple — or you — deserve it when someone is frustrated with you very publicly, but it is human nature. What someone is really saying when they’re upset like this is really something good: They had high standards and expectations from you. It would be unreasonable to expect an iPad to survive a drop, but you can always turn a frustrated customer around with patience, listening, and swift action. All that, of course, provided both ends stay reasonable. But, really, everyone should relax. Stuff happens.

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as IFC’s comedy, film, and TV blogger, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City and an adjunct professor in DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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