PR Veterans Weigh in on Apple Expose

apple-logo-pngPardon us for being all Apple today, readers, but it’s hard to look away when the world’s most influential company makes waves (especially since we had a revealing conversation with someone close to its international communications team yesterday).

Earlier this week we reviewed takeaways from the extensive 9t05Mac piece on the company’s comms operations, and today three industry influencers gave us their impressions.

Dan Lyons, journalist-turned marketing fellow at HubSpot and creator of The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs:

I think it was a great series. Very insightful. There is still more work to be done in exposing the collusion and coziness between Apple and certain bloggers and members of the mainstream media.

In fact, I have no problem with Apple being as manipulative as it possibly can. That is what PR is supposed to do, and Apple is very good at PR. The real culprits are the reporters and bloggers who play along.

Peter Himler, founder Flatiron Communications:

One of the aspects of Mark Gurman’s piece that struck a chord with me was just how engaged Apple PR was with keeping tabs on how the company is portrayed in the news media: “…like a teenage girl obsessively keeping her fingers on the pulse of coverage.”

I’ve written quite often over the years about how much “command and control” Apple exerts to protect its image (and punish those it perceives will tarnish it). But this story only reinforces what those in the PR biz have come to recognize.

Surprisingly, the company does not appear to be that concerned with social media. Its primary focus from the Steve Jobs era to today has been the big mainstream media, i.e., “reporters from major news outlets including Bloomberg NewsThe New York TimesReuters, and The Wall Street Journal, and a small group of reliably positive bloggers…”

Finally, I would say that very few companies have the clout to exert that kind of control (others may include Facebook, Google, Amazon, Twitter and Netflix). Hence, the tactics that Gurman recounts are probably not applicable to most companies, because they don’t have the luxury of being able to ignore reporters.

Ronn Torossian, CEO 5WPR:

Apple’s Public Relations is naturally smart and innovative.

Apple does an exceptional job of looking at the big picture. They take an extremely detailed approach to strategy, creating an unrivaled amount of buzz for their products and loyalty unmatched by their competitors.

Their ability to control situations invisibly is something that their competitors have yet to master. Not only do they prepare for the task at hand, but they take into consideration all the things that MIGHT occur (which has kept them in good favor in the public eye for some time). They also continually strive to tap into pop culture. Their go-to-market strategies, from leaking products to partnerships, ensure that everyone is paying attention to the great reveal. They truly know their audience and the media, so they can better control the messaging by seeding stories only with reporters who “drink the Kool-Aid.” Other tech companies have tried such tactics, but the bottom line is: everyone loves Apple and they know it. Beyond that, they have to ability to make their customers feel like they need things they didn’t even know they wanted.

Brands and public relations professionals can learn a great deal from Apple’s team in the way that they control their messaging: they monitor all reporters covering the space to determine and temper expectations.

Not only does this practice show a reporter that you know his or her work; it also shows that you’re able to determine what stories a given journalist will champion. Based on the coverage offered by that journalist in the past, PR should either tailor the message or, if the coverage has been negative, avoid giving them a piece of the pie.

Another huge take away: be prepared and have a solid strategy in place so you maximize your control of any situation.

That’s a key to any campaign.

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.