Apple Insider Spills Secrets: ‘This Isn’t PR. This Is Something Else.’

Apple cube

We recently posted on the biggest takeaways from 9to5Mac’s extensive inside look at Apple’s media relations strategy.

The piece provided a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse into the company’s one-of-a-kind culture, and as a follow-up we were fortunate enough to speak with a source close to Apple’s international PR team for an insider’s take on the story…and more.

What did you think of the 9to5Mac piece?

Nothing surprised me; the only thing I would object to is the part about shredding the strategic “white books” before events.  They were referring to “At a glance” docs, which are simply printouts. PR receives them a few days before each event and hands them back to management when it’s over.

And the part about PR doubling as bodyguards?

Yes, I did see a PR blocking a couple of photographers who were trying to take pictures of Steve Jobs at one event.

How did the Jobs-to-Cook transition affect internal strategy?

At the beginning it was not noticeable at all, but people saw that Cook seemed far more proactive on sustainability, CSR, workers’ rights in China, etc. In terms of general strategy, though, nothing changed.

How closely does the international organization work with the American PR team?

There is a firewall between the US and international teams, but there were occasional meetings with [former Apple PR director] Katie Cotton. The article hints that she was pushed out, and that’s probably true.

She was molded in Jobs’ image; she once said, “I’m so glad we didn’t jump on the social media train.” She was simply a gatekeeper between Apple and the journalists.

How would you describe the general media relations strategy?

You have to be able to control the journalist and prevent them from asking really hard questions.

The best example may be the clip in which Benjamin Cohen attempts to ask Phil Schiller some relevant questions about how you need iTunes to use the iPhone, and they break off the interview.

If you’d invited a journalist like that to an event, you’d probably lose your job because of your inability to control him. In some ways, your job is to make things both as easy and as difficult as possible for journalists.

What about the guide books for reviewers?

You aren’t allowed to send a product without a reviewer’s guide. It’s a smart way to get the message out to journalists who don’t have a lot of time.

Aperture 1

[Screenshot from a guide to the Aperture 3]

There are other strange management tics. For example, if you fill out your time sheet and aren’t 100% consistent with your punctuation, someone will cc your manager and write that you “lack attention to detail.”

How does the distribution/attribution of quotes work?

If a writer/blogger can be trusted, you can give them a bit more info than you’d give most. But if Apple releases an official statement about something, PR can’t email it directly to a journalist.

On “Antenna-gate,” for instance: Jobs made a comment, but PR couldn’t email that comment to any journalists – they had to direct them to an article in a respectable paper including the quote despite the fact that it was the very same quote.

They prefer for journalists to see quotes published in a paper rather than shared by a spokesperson. I have no idea why.

What are the priorities in terms of media placements?

Everything shifted to lifestyle media: a picture of a new iPhone in Cosmopolitan is seen as far better than a good review on a tech site. It is more important to be able to send good-looking visuals than to get relevant editorial coverage.