Steve Jobs' Email: "Please Leave Us Alone"

The Story

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, is known for responding to emails personally.  Although typically short, his responses are often unexpected and appreciated.  But this week, a journalism student at Long Island University received a disappointing reply.  For a school project, she wanted to understand how iPads could be used in academic settings.  After leaving six unanswered voice mails for Apple's PR department, she emailed Steve Jobs.  In a series of emails (download), he explained why he couldn't answer her question individually, ending with, "Please leave us alone."

Steve Jobs
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Discussion Starters

  • The student's voice mail messages and original email were neutral, but the result didn't turn out too well. What were Apple's missteps in this communication? In what ways was the company's response understandable?
  • What are other ways the company -- and Steve Jobs personally -- could have handled the situation?

Assignment Ideas

  • Imagine that you're Steve Jobs in this situation. You want to reply to emails personally (this is a good idea!), but you can't address the student's question individually. Instead of Jobs' first email response ("Our goals do not include helping you get a good grade. Sorry."), what could you write instead?
  • Review several examples of Steve Jobs' emails on this website.  In small groups, discuss his approach to email. In what ways is his approach effective and ineffective? How does his approach differ from principles discussed in the Chapter 4 of the book?