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 Flickr.]