Growing Through Failure: The Latest Fearey PR Initiative

Aaron Blank / March 2, 2018


Now’s that’s a loaded word. It’s full of animosity and infects people with toe-curling anxiety at its mention. But what if it didn’t? What if instead of shoving failure into the furthest quadrants of memory, we brought it center stage, making the disappointments and mistakes that inevitably accompany otherwise successful brands, companies, and personal lives, an opportunity to learn and grow, helping everyone become better public relations professionals along the way.
It’s with that in mind that we bring you the latest Fearey PR initiative, our 2018 newsletter, putting failure at the forefront of the conversation, but not in a bad way. Sometimes in the PR world, people like to point out the mistakes of others with a smile thinking, “oh man, I’m SO glad that wasn’t me.” Guess what? It may very well be you, your company or team, or even us some day. Failure is an inevitable part of living; without it, there’s no risk, and without risk – there’s no reward. We shouldn’t push these blunders under the rug, they should instead be dissected and studied. There’s no absolute in public relations, it’s an ever-changing science and learning from these very public mishandlings (however harrowing) is part of the process. After all, to grow, you have to be uncomfortable.

Each month, we will review a PR failure made by some brand, company, nonprofit, personality, etc. and tell you how we think it could have gone differently (read: better). Let’s learn from these mistakes and become a better community together.
Cheers to being successful this month, while celebrating key life lessons.
Without further ado, January’s blunder brand: Apple (gasp, gutsy – we know).

The Story:

We all saw the headlines. “APPLE ADMITS TO SLOWING DOWN IPHONES” or “A New Phone Comes Out. Yours Slows Down. Conspiracy? No.” Perfect water cooler chatter, because everyone’s going to have an opinion, whether they clicked on the article or not. Unfortunately, the true story isn’t quite the picture these headlines paint. Sure, Apple does slow down iPhones, but not with malintent. They aren’t trying to force customers to shell out for the newest Apple device. Rather, the purpose (according to Apple) is to keep older phones from shutting down after they adopt the latest iOS updates. I guess older phones cannot run at the same speed after uploading a new Apple operating system. Wouldn’t that have been great to know ahead of time?

The Failure:

In this case, it was a failure of customer-facing communication. Of course, Apple cannot control what reporters decide to use for a headline. They can, however, remain open and transparent from the very beginning with customers. “Ey everyone, your phones might slow down with this update because your iPhone is from 2014 and can’t keep up with these wicked upgrades.” Okay, maybe not exactly that … but you get the idea. Instead, they said nothing. They let their customers draw personal conclusions and assumptions based on the data they had available. “When a new iPhone comes out, my current device starts to die a slow and painful death, ergo, Apple is the devil.” They let the media connect the dots fortheir customers instead of taking control of the conversation before the new phones were even released.

The Lesson Learned:

Brands need to have their finger on the pulse of what matters to their customers and understand how their product can enhance, better or potentially worsen their lives. They need to poke their heads out into the world and play the ‘walk in someone else’s shoes’ game on a daily basis. It’s called being empathetic and it’s not an easy skill to master. Along with that idea comes transparency. If the speed of your product is on your customers’ list of very important things, and something you’re rolling out will affect that speed, communicate that. Shout it from the skyscrapers. While nothing is going to make everyone happy, your audience will at least feel less deceived if they know all the facts up front. Before any product release happens, always try to think from the mindset of the customer. How is this going to impact them and their opinion of your company? Then identify what you can do now to land on your feet in the future.

Aaron + the Fearey Team

Aaron Blank GIF

Aaron Blank

CEO & President, Partner

Aaron has been engaged in the conversation since the late 1990s, where he discovered his love of media while working at local radio stations. After five years as a radio reporter, anchor, producer and promoter in New York and Connecticut, he and his wife, Lacey, ventured west to begin his career in PR. Soon he caught the attention of industry legend Pat Fearey and the rest is history. Two decades later, as CEO and owner of Fearey, Aaron leads with tireless enthusiasm and contagious drive. In 2014, he became the next generation owner of the firm. He takes his breakfast at 4:30 AM and never eats lunch alone. You can find him working to connect the next business with tomorrow’s leader.

Personal philosophy: do something amazing every day and be fearless!