Apple’s PR elephant in the room

In the wake of last week’s announcement that its CEO Steve Jobs is taking an indefinite medical leave of absence, Apple’s PR department must take four steps to make its investors feel safe.

It’s become such a lame expression that this is absolutely the last time I’ll use it. But … The elephant in the room at Apple Computer is the continuing deterioration of Steve Jobs’ health.

Or, stated less prosaicly, but rather in the questioning context of Wall Street traders, “Is Apple’s CEO dying?”

I know that sounds harsh, but all of us get closer to death every day. And while my death will be hurtful to a small circle of people, Steve Jobs’ death will have implications for millions of owners of Apple stock.

Unless Apple reconsiders its communication policy of stonewalling, obfuscating and downright ignoring the status of its CEO’s health, the dreaded announcement of the demise of its founder could cost its shareholders 20 – 30 percent of the value of their ownership.

In other words, if you own 1,000 shares of the stock of Apple Computer—arguably the world’s foremost technology company—the single announcement of the death of one individual could, in defiance of all logic, wipe out $90,000 of your investment. All because of an arrogant CEO, a weak-kneed board of directors, and a wrong-headed public relations philosophy.

In terms of product promotion, there are few PR machines better than Apple. In terms of crisis communication, there are few worse.

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