Steve Jobs is a great communicator, except when he’s not

Like every thing else about him, when it comes to corporate communications, Steve Jobs is an enigma.

Let’s review some of the highlights:

Presentations: The way Steve Jobs makes presentations is the benchmark for making great presentations.

Speeches: The way Steve Jobs makes speeches is the benchmark for great speeches.

Position papers or letters: The way Steve Jobs writes letters is the benchmark for how to write great letters.

Internal Memos: And now, in the past few days, the way Steve Jobs writes memos has become the benchmark for writing great internal memos. (More about the memo in a moment.)

Phone calls: Don’t “be like Steve” on this one, or, at least the recent phone call with a New York Times reporter that started out, “You think I’m an arrogant [expletive] who thinks he’s above the law, and I think you’re a slime bucket who gets most of his facts wrong.”

Media relations: Oh, wait. Steve (and Apple) don’t “relate” to media. They manage media. If I knew someone who was just starting out in a PR career, I would advise them to work anywhere but Apple. Learn how to actually try to convince someone to cover the launch of a new toilet plunger, or something. You’ll have your sense of reality forever warped if you start out at Apple and become convinced that reporters actually appreciate the opportunity of touching the hem of your pants. Working in PR for Apple is like being a roadie for the Beatles. Pointing at reporters and saying, you can’t go over there, is the main skill you need.

Blogger relations: Excuse me. I threw that one in as a joke. Apple sues bloggers. Apple shuts down bloggers. Apple manipulates bloggers. Apple makes a mockery of everything any of us bloggers suggest a progressive, smart company should do when it comes to being open, conversational and savvy. They mock us and slap us around (okay, they ignore us and we take it that way). And then we go line up to purchase their products and write adoring posts about how, despite every problem we encountered, we still know they’re better than anything else.

About the memo.

Jim Ylisela of has a post today about writing corporate memos. It contains some good observations and recommendations. Suggests Yisela:

1. Craft strong headlines, leads and subheads.
2. Use bullets.
3. Write in an active, conversational voice.
4. Provide good answers.

I agree with those suggestions and upon re-reading it, I must say the Steve memo is a masterful model for the medium (if there is such a thing) of internal corporate memorandums. Here’s the full-text of the memo via ArsTechnica:


The launch of MobileMe was not our finest hour. There are several things we could have done better:

– MobileMe was simply not up to Apple’s standards – it clearly needed more time and testing.

– Rather than launch MobileMe as a monolithic service, we could have launched over-the-air syncing with iPhone to begin with, followed by the web applications one by one – Mail first, followed 30 days later (if things went well with Mail) by Calendar, then 30 days later by Contacts.

– It was a mistake to launch MobileMe at the same time as iPhone 3G, iPhone 2.0 software and the App Store. We all had more than enough to do, and MobileMe could have been delayed without consequence.

We are taking many steps to learn from this experience so that we can grow MobileMe into a service that our customers will love. One step that I can share with you today is that the MobileMe team will now report to Eddy Cue, who will lead all of our internet services – iTunes, the App Store and, starting today, MobileMe. Eddy’s new title will be Vice President, Internet Services and he will now report directly to me.

The MobileMe launch clearly demonstrates that we have more to learn about Internet services. And learn we will. The vision of MobileMe is both exciting and ambitious, and we will press on to make it a service we are all proud of by the end of this year.


Honest, to the point, active and conversational (except when it drifts into the Churchillian phrases, “And learn we will” or “press on”), action-oriented and it can be read easily on an iPhone.

Oh, yes: And bloggers like me will eat it up.

[Photo. kaioshin via Flickr.]