Evernote needs a new north star for public relations.

On February 28th, an Amazon S3 outage cause half the Internet to go down. I wasn't able to fully use HubSpot, Trello, Drift, Zoom. My company website even went down. I really ❤️ all those services. No knock to them. Sometimes the Internet goes down for a minute. I get it.

However, Evernote was going strong for me. They were not affected by this particular outage because they recently moved from their own data centers to the Google Cloud platform

But that is actually beside the point.

There is one simple thing that Evernote has that most of the services I described above don’t that make it magic. I’ll get into that, and how I believe they could have news-jacked this moment in a minute. This is actually part of a bigger issue I’ve been noodling on for a while.

Evernote needs a customer driven PR-strategy.

They’ve recently had some ups and downs with PR.

Some Recent History

In June of 2016, they changed their business model and faced some user backlash with price hikes.


Very little interaction with the public came from the corporate office after this.

Dropping the mic after a big price change isn’t that big of a problem in my opinion. Especially when they were doing so to save the business. A new CEO had recently stepped in and made some moves to eliminate distractions, and forge a path to profitability. Alls fair in business, right?

In December, Evernote announced a new privacy policy that would allow employees to read user’s “notes”. The Internet was not happy about this. Backlash ensued.

They eventually walked it back and apologized.

But heres the deal. The new privacy policy was no different than those found in Google or other Silicon Valley companies in current or modern times. Keep reading.

They just forgot two things:

  1. To explain why they were making the change, prior to making it or alongside the change
  2. How the Evernote users actually use the product

How People Use Evernote

Things I put into Evernote:
  • Everything
I really do. I put everything in there. Files, random ideas, receipts, half-written blog posts, wi-fi passwords, pictures of whiteboards. When in doubt, I just put it into Evernote because I know I can search for it later. If my note is an image, Evernote's OCR technology has me covered. It has been deciphering my napkin scribbles for years.

It’s this behavior that has me blindly putting things as intimate as journal entries and passwords in there, that would have me put my defenses up when a company just privacy-policy-bombed the info that people might be going through my notes.

The Why Behind the Privacy Policy Change.

The intent behind allowing a small team to be able to check certain users notes was supposed to be a quality control check in there new artificial intelligence algorithm that would allow users to be able to do some new and amazing things with their personal knowledge database.

Creating synapses between these notes that mirror or even come close to mimicking the kind of linkage our brain creates between ideas and memories would be a feature absolutely core to Evernote’s mission.

“We could not have communicated more poorly, if what we were trying to do was nefarious,” says Andrew Malcolm, SVP of Marketing for the company. “What we were trying to do is say that we’re always looking for ways to make people more productive, and to be as transparent about how we do that as possible.”

He says that for now, the company isn’t going to implement the policies it announced were going into effect early next year.

Fast Company

In other words, by releasing their privacy with poor communication around the why, they actually stunted their own innovation.

So how could they have #newsjacked the Amazon outage?

A simple message that they could use to form an idea:

When the Internet is down, Evernote is still there with your data.

When I found myself unable to work in most of my SAAS based cloud services, I remembered the most important thing about Evernote. Evernote keeps a fully functional local copy it’s app and of all your data on all the machines you choose to put it on. So I was able to pick back up on a lot of work, worry free. Cloud or no cloud.

Whether I’m in airplane mode or fully connected, I get the same experience. When there is a Google Cloud outage, I will rest assured knowing I am not going to lose any time or productivity. That’s pretty powerful.

Sure… it could have been their “dunk in the dark” moment… But, more importantly for the long term, they could start to have more empathy for their user base.

When you stay close to the customer, your north star shines brighter.