PR Jury Still Out on Foxy Knoxy

 PR Jury Still Out on Foxy Knoxy

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Amanda Knox, who hasn’t quite moved the PR dial of public opinion.

Has America made up its mind yet about Amanda Knox? The college student from Seattle, who was convicted in Italy of murdering her housemate Meredith Kercher during a sex escapade gone awry, has just published her memoir. Random House paid upwards of $4 million for Waiting To Be Heard, and advance reviews indicate that despite some gruesome tales about Italian prison life, America remains undecided about the young woman whom the European tabloids named “Foxy Knoxy.”

There’s enough new material to make sure this case stays in the headlines: prison officers were hitting on her while prosecutors bullied and threatened her, telling her she was HIV positive to destabilize her mood. She depicts a world of torment, being utterly unable to process and deal with the shock of events as they unfolded.

Knox describes how she coped with her original conviction and those harrowing four years in an Italian prison until her conviction was overturned. She also gives her version of some of the more notable stories that circulated after she was charged, including the famous one about doing handstands while in custody and being charged. The next step is in an exclusive interview with ABC news and Diane Sawyer. Might this be the deciding moment for the American public?

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Amanda Knox, who hasn’t quite moved the PR dial of public opinion.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Being talked about is not the same as being liked. The public continues to be confused by this case, even more so now that the Italian courts are retrying it. Amanda Knox still captures headlines, but given her tale of undeserving punishment, there remains an inexplicable lack of sympathy for the young photogenic and educated woman. Part of the PR debate remains stalled in confusion about what really happened that night. In her forthcoming interviews to promote the book, Knox will need to break new ground on this decisive point. That’s where her PR pardon lies.

 

A Sweeter Apple?

 A Sweeter Apple?

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Apple’s apology to Chinese customers.

What a difference a CEO makes. The change in Apple Inc.’s executive suite was evident this week when the company posted a fulsome apology from CEO Tim Cook on the Apple China web site. Apple, it seems, was not properly responding to complaints about its warranty and repair programs, prompting the Chinese government and state-run media to launch a fortnight of blistering criticism. In Cook’s mea culpa, which ran 12,000 Chinese characters (about 800 words), he apologized for appearing arrogant and outlined several changes the company will be making in China.

This is the second time in recent months that Cook has taken the higher road. Last September, he acknowledged the failure of Apple Maps, a cartographic catastrophe so inaccurate it stranded several iPhone users in an Australian desert wasteland with no food or water for more than 24 hours.

The softer approach is a departure from that of Apple co-founder and longtime leader Steve Jobs, who was called egotistical as often as brilliant. When customers complained in 2010 that holding the iPhone at a certain angle obliterated reception, Jobs snapped “Just avoid holding it that way” before eventually, begrudgingly, apologizing and giving away free cases.

Apple’s most recent apology seems to be smart. China is Apple’s second biggest market today and, as Cook told state-run Xinhua news agency in January, he believes it will become its first. All the more reason to keep customers extremely happy.

THE PR VERDICT:  “C” (Distinctly OK) for Apple. While the apology was the right move, it came two weeks into a negative PR blitz. It will be interesting to see if Apple sales in China have been affected.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Markets change, and so must marketing strategies. Part of Apple’s early allure was that its groundbreaking technologies and higher pricetags created an air of exclusivity; the attitude that occasionally exuded from leadership contributed to the appeal. Today, however, the competitive landscape is much more crowded, and Apple can’t afford to alienate buyers in such fertile ground as China. An apology today helps pave the way for a bigger footprint tomorrow.