Folks in the media are typically numb to what we like to call “PR speak.” It’s a prose and rhetoric that often goes out of its way to make companies’ products, announcements, and events sound like world-changing happenings. It’s fine when they do this, because if you don’t think you have world-changing stuff then something is typically wrong with you.
It’s when they use it to handle negative press coverage (otherwise referred to as damage control) that typically irks everyone.
We’d say one good example of PR speak done right in a crisis is Samsung’s handling of the Note 7 fiasco. The company refrained from “spinning” the issue into something else, like Apple’s suggestion that antennagate was due to user error and their failed attempts to pass it as an industry-standard problem.
This is how Apple tried to justify problems with their own device.
Instead, they were direct about investigating the issue, and when they determined there was a problem (which they did without insulting the intelligence of those who suggested there may be one), they communicated clearly about what happened and what they planned to do about it. This is why they were able to bounce back the next year to turn in some of their best work ever and maintain a level of consumer loyalty that resembles Apple’s.
But when it goes wrong, boy does it make our blood boil. Take Sony’s latest attempt, for instance. They attempted to deodorize the logic behind removing the headphone jack from the Xperia XZ2 family by suggesting it was due to their seamless design, and not even a sentence later they basically admit that it was mostly because all the cool kids were doing it.
Here’s the full communication from the company’s FAQ on the matter:
Why did you remove the headphone jack on XZ2 and XZ2 Compact?
This is part of the shift to our new Ambient Flow design language. In order to create the beautiful seamless design, our designers needed to remove the headphone jack. Plus, we’re aware of the major market trend toward wireless headphones over wired headphones.
But can I still use wired headphones with XZ2 or XZ2 Compact?
Yes absolutely, both new smartphones come boxed with an adaptor. This will also support Hi-Res Audio.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love it that they said anything at all. They could have easily just chalked it up to a “design decision” and left it at that. However, when they basically tell us that they don’t even believe in their own bullshit excuse by qualifying the statement with an anecdote about it being an industry trend, it just makes us maaaad.
No one’s prosecuting them for being trendy, but don’t treat us like idiots. There’s no good reason you couldn’t have fit a headphone jack into the frames of either of these phones, especially when they have more girth than your previous phones and, despite their best efforts, still relatively thick bezels. Samsung has one of the most refined, beautiful smartphone designs in the game right now with slim frames and little wasted space, but they can still fit all these pleasantries in no problem.
No compromises here.
Does that mean all is doomed for the Xperia XZ2? No, absolutely not. This is neither antennagate nor the Note 7 recall. The phone is still expected to work as intended. There’s a dongle in the box, after all, and Bluetooth headphones exist. It isn’t the end of the world. Many diehard fans will still buy the phone and be done with it.
But we’ve seen what can happen when a company makes irrational decisions without listening to what their consumers really want (Hi, OnePlus!) and it isn’t pretty. Sony had better nip that culture in the bud if they expect to gain the relevance they need to compete in today’s fierce smartphone market.