Ever thought about how big corporations like Apple communicate with their employees? You are welcome to find this out here! This article analyzes Apple’s internal and external communications, provides some good examples, and explains the company’s HR strategy.
This research sought to study the communications plan of Apple Inc. and several findings were realized during the study. First, it was realized that the company, Apple, focuses more on internal than external communication. One of the reasons for this is the closed eco-system approach the business uses. In such an approach, secrecy is critical in the success of the company. Apple has been on the limelight as one of the most secretive places to work in the world. Employees are guided by several documents on how to behave while working for the company. However, for this assignment, only the employee communication mix will be analyzed.
Through the research, it was also realized that Apple’s external communication has not always been related to its products and services. The company has used some of its communication platforms such as its Homepage on its website to commemorate people and events. It is crucial to note that Apple as a business has subscribed to a human personality. This means that the company behaves and has the characteristics of a human being.
Indeed, the company has given official opinions and even reacted to events that are not directly associated to it or its products and services. There have been debates on whether businesses should take up human personalities. Whereas there are some advantages to this, there are also several disadvantages. In regards to Apple’s communication plan, one can argue that the human personality has given the company a competitive edge as it has made it relatable. On the same note, however, the personality has also opened up the company for scrutiny.
Apple Company’s Overview
Apple is a multinational technology company that is headquartered in the US. The company is well known for its innovative mobile phone and computers designs. The company’s current mission statement is to develop the best personal computers in the world (Apple at work 2018 para. 6). One of the company’s main strategic goals and objectives is to make the best products in the market (Apple at work 2018 para. 7).
It is considered the third largest manufacturer of mobile phones in the world. Interestingly, the company targeted high end users for all its products. One can argue that this is the communication the company offers in regards to its brand. The company’s products are highly priced. Due to this, Apple products are more common in first worlds than in developing countries. It is for this reason that the company is still trailing behind Samsung and Huawei, who offer more affordable options. The company has had the same logo since inception. The image of a half-eaten apple, which is the company’s logo, is very easy to identify. However, the color of the logo has changed several times over the years.
Being one of the biggest companies in the world, Apple has a comprehensive and compact communication plan. The company uses both digital and traditional communication strategies to establish and maintain its brand. Chen and Ann (2016) argue that Apple’s brand is so strong that it has completely engaged its consumer base. One can argue that the company’s main consumers are very loyal due to the fact that they wait for days in queues to get newly released products.
Apart from smart phones and computers, the company has shown interest in manufacturing future generation cars. One of the company’s founders, Steve Jobs, was keen on protection of the environment (Mayer 2014). One of the biggest contributor to global warming is vehicles as they emit carbon dioxide. Apple seeks to lower this by creating electric cars that do not use fuel.
As stated, Apple has a comprehensive communication plan. The plan caters for both internal and external communications. Internally, the company has a flexible communication structure in the form of an inverted pyramid. Information flows both from the lower section to the upper section. According to Frick and Berinato (2014), this has ensured ease of working in the company as decision making is much faster.
Additionally, the company has developed a communication mix for its employees. All employees are required to familiarize themselves with the communication mix so as to work effectively. One can argue that this strategic document allows all employees to work seamlessly together as they are all guided by the same principles, in regards to communication. The company’s internal communication functions are to create awareness, enable adoption, for decision making, and motivation (Apple at work 2018 para. 8).
The company has also invested heavily in external communication. The external communication functions include creating awareness, persuading and informing. In creating awareness, the company uses specific communication strategies to present and position their brand in the market. Additionally, the company has been keen in creating awareness around there values. For example, they have been influential in calling out for environmental protection. The company also communicates to persuade. Apple presents itself as a highly advanced and classy brand. They have used this message to persuade their consumers and also ensure brand loyalty. Lastly, the company communicates to inform. The information is relevant to its consumers and revolves around the company’s strategic plan.
Apple’s SWOT Analysis
Apple is well recognized for turning weaknesses into strengths. This section analyzes the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of the company, in regards to its communication mix.
One of the company’s communications strength is the development of a structured and easy to follow employ communications mix. This document gives guidelines on internal communication and how employees are to interact with each other and with consumers. A second strength is the buy in of the brand by the employees. Many companies spend much effort in ensuring brand buy in from their consumers. Apple has also ensured its employees trust the brand they are working for, and in so doing, ensure the employees work effectively.
One of the company’s weakness is the closed eco-system (Reisinger 2018). Indeed, there are several advantages of a closed eco-system in business. For example, it ensures the privacy and protection of upcoming projects and products. However, the closed eco-system is also a weakness in regards to communication as it is not flexible. The rigidity of the closed eco-system makes it harder for the company to also innovate as fast as it would like as well.
One opportunity area for Apple is the use of their values to attract more clients. The company has been clear that it cares about the environment. However, this has not been used as a communication advantage. Today, a large part of Apple’s target market is also keen on buying products that have in no way, including during production, harmed the environment.
A big threat to Apple’s communication plan is the focus on internal communication more than external communication. The company believes that its brand is strong enough such that they do not need much communication.
Apple Brand & Marketing
As mentioned earlier, Apple uses both digital and traditional marketing and communication strategies. The company has, however, focused more on digital communication. The consistency of the messages in the different social media platforms is significant as it ensures constant interaction with the target market. One can argue that the company has ensured messages are similar across all the company’s social media platforms (Apple to become the 11th smartphone brand 2018).
Additionally, the website is user friendly and contains all relevant information. Much of this information is about the products the company offers. It is important to note that the company has invested in creating different websites for the different countries it is in. One of the advantages of this is that the consumers in that region feel some type of ownership with both the company and the products they offer.
Additionally, the company has used its website to pass messages that are related to current affairs or significant historical events. For example, the company highlighted the life and achievements of Martin Luther King Jr twice on their website. They have also highlighted Robin Williams, Al Gore and Muhammed Ali. It is critical to point out that these commemorations are not related to any of the company’s products in any way. The fact that the company pays tribute to individuals they believe had a significant impact in the world has also attracted clients to the brand as they believe it is a caring brand (How are Chinese brands going global 2016). Badenhausen (2017) explains that Apple has used such values to ensure a strong consumer base that is also loyal.
Barriers to Apple’s Successful Communications
One barrier to successful communication in regards to Apple is the open declaration of some of the things the company approves, or does not approve, that are not related to any of its products. One can be of the opinion that businesses should be neutral in regards to news and events that do not directly affect their products or services (Govt to soon decide on Apple’s single brand retail proposal 2016).
Looking at Apple, one can argue that it has taken a personality. Indeed, it is arguable that a business with a personality has the “right” to have opinions about other things that do not relate to the products and services offered. Rooney (2014) explains that businesses that have taken up a personality have often been affected by political and cultural concerns. The same can be said of Apple, which has publicly supported or rejected policies, ideologies and even people that do not relate to its products and services.
A second barrier to external communication is language barrier. As stated, the company has branches in different parts of the world. However, as Rooney (2014) notes, many people use the original website when they are trying to get in touch or look for a product. The social media pages also use English as their language for communication. Whereas these social media and websites have in-built translators, some information is lost in translation.
Apple has to be keen on knowing whether people who translate their pages get the right information. Fortunately, the brand has not had any cultural concerns with its product and services. However, the company should still invest in making communication personal. They can do this by engaging with their clients in other languages and also through appreciating other countries’ significant events as highlighted in their homepage.
Apple Internal Communications Evaluation
As mentioned previously, the company has an employee communication mix. The document is well detailed and offers guidelines on how the company expects its employees to behave. Deagon (2018) explains that the company also has an intranet. The intranet makes sharing information and documents easier. Additionally, it is a safe space for employees to also learn how to communicate better. There are many other similar platforms that companies have successfully used to train their employees on better communication.
The company does not seem to use social media for internal communication. It is important to mention that the closed eco-system Apple has adopted also dictates knowledge management in the company. The closed system ensures that communication is done only through official platforms. Employees are not allowed to use other channels, such as social media, for official communication. However, the CEO and founders have on many occasions used their personal social media accounts to talk about the company.
The closed eco-system that the company has embraced has also made communication difficult as the employees have to use codes when communicating (Huawei overtakes Apple 2017). It is crucial for all employees to understand the different codes so as to communicate effectively. Apart from the codes, the company does not have general emails or messages for its employees. In an attempt to keep leaking of information at bay, the company sends memos and other general information in different formats to different departments. There are employees that have publicly stated that the comprehensive internal communication is also tiring due to the level of secrecy required when working for the company.
Apple Crisis Communications
Apple has a crisis communication plan included in its strategy. One of the biggest crisis the company faced was the accusation of using mistreated laborers in China. China has been highlighted for encouraging labor camps where workers are paid poorly and work in bad conditions. In fact, there have been workers who have committed suicide due to depression from working in the labor camps. Apple was targeted in the crisis due to the company’s values of treating people fairly.
As it was mentioned before, such strong stands on issues and events can lead to communication failure as the media painted the company as “pretenders” since Apple has a human personality. All the publicity the labor camps got at the time reflected negatively on Apple’s brand.
One can argue that the company used a comprehensive crisis communication strategy to interact with its clients after the accusations. The company gave an official statement admitting that some of its products were assembled in China (Apple’s single brand proposal 2016).
They added that they did not approve of the ill treatment of employees and promised to cut ties with their strategic partner in China, who was in charge of the production process there. The company then accepted the blame and apologized as well. It can be argued that the timely and structured response to the accusations helped the company salvage its public image (Fallen smartphone 2016). Due to this, Apple did not experience much loss in sales as it still maintained the brand loyalty.
In light of this research, there are several things that can be suggested for change to ensure that Apple has a stronger communication strategy. One suggestion is the change of the communication strategy to a more flexible one. This is particularly important for the company’s internal communication. The rigidity of the closed eco-system makes it challenging for employees to communicate effectively.
As Bukhari (2017) notes, whereas information flows freely in the company, many employees cannot express their ideas for fear of being accused of imposing ideologies in their departments. The employees also do not have any way of suggesting new strategies as there is a specific department for doing so. Interestingly, the company has been successful in ensuring employees feel some type of ownership in the company. One can argue that it has done this through motivation and good compensation and remuneration packages. However, critics have explained that this strategy can only work for some time before the employees seek other less pressured opportunities (Apple resubmits proposal 2016).
A second recommendation is that the company investigate the translated versions of its messages. Indeed, in-built translation software online can be used to translate large amounts of data at a fast rate. However, there have been concerns of some information getting lost in the translation. The fact that the company has opened branches in various countries makes it easier for them to manage the translated data and ensure it is correct.
Thirdly, as Reisinger (2017) notes, Steve Jobs tried to combine both internal and external communication into one function. After his death, however, the board has not been keen on ensuring the same. It is suggested that the company try to combine the two in order to have a more seamless communication mix based on the company’s communication objectives. These recommendations can be costly especially if they involve the change in management approaches to suit a more flexible communication plan.
In conclusion, Apple is one of the largest technology companies in the world. It has a comprehensive communication strategy that guides both its internal and external communication. It is important to note that the company also has a crisis communication plan included in the overall strategy. A SWOT analysis of the company’s communication strategy shows that Apple has focused mainly on internal communication compared to external communication.
One of the company’s strengths in terms of communication is that it has a consistent message and brand. In regards to message, the company uses its online platforms to communicate effectively with its consumer base. The messages are similar across all the platforms. On the other hand, the company has a strong brand that is easily identified. One can argue that the quality of service and product offered by the company has led to a growth in its consumer base. More importantly, however, is the fact that many of its consumers are very loyal to the brand.
It is important to also note that the communication strategy of the company includes both digital and traditional approaches. However, Apple has not been keen on traditional approaches as it tries to reach as many consumers as possible through its digital platform. The online platforms, as stated, are very interactive. Additionally, the different countries that have physical Apple stores also have their own websites and social media platforms.
These branches and stores work in similar manner as the mother company. Thus, they also use the closed eco-system approach. Indeed, whereas Apple’s communication strategy is comprehensive, some suggestions and recommendations can still be made to make it stronger. One such recommendation is the changing of the communication mix to a more flexible one. This might mean changing the management approach the company uses currently.
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