Richard Moss examines the PR furore around this week’s celebrity photo leaks
This was supposed to be a fantastic PR week for Apple. It’s become one of its worst. As preparations got underway for the launch of what we expect to be the new iPhone 6 along with new iPads and a suite of MacBooks, naked photos of Jennifer Lawrence (among many other female celebrities) went viral. Within minutes a claim was made – iCloud had been hacked and the big security image of Apple as the undefeated guardian of safe cloud services had been reduced to someone leaving their front door keys under the welcome mat. iCloud – it seems – is open.
The specific method of securing these celeb photos has not actually been revealed and Apple has suggested the attack was a very targeted one, and therefore not quite the global issue the press are it has been made out to be. But the PR furore surrounding this breach has been so beyond Apple’s control that it may struggle to recover by showing of some shiny tinware.
For a company like Apple, which thrives on publicity, reviews, social media and celebrity endorsement to boost the power of its brand, this week’s PR disaster has dealt it a massive blow. For the first time, it has not been able to adequately bat away the negative publicity because this time it’s not about battery fires, or dodgy phone signals, nor is it about manufacturing practices or poor materials. Today is it about cyber security and Apple, the once stalwart guardian of your photos, videos and personal data – has been compromised and it has no come back.
The problem for Apple is that it pinned so much PR last year on the security of iCloud. As a result, there are just too many pieces to pick up from the shattered picture of a safe brand. Next week, Apple will hope that its product showcase in California will make people forget about this week’s security story. And no doubt the web will be awash with screaming fans jumping in adoration of the new thinner machinery on show. But outside those four walls, Apple will struggle to contain the mess that is ultimately leading everyone to a single overriding public conclusion: “If it’s that easy to hack Jennifer Lawrence’s iCloud account then mine’s not safe from anyone.”