From Seeing Through the Illusion: Understanding Apple’s Mastery of the Media, a profile examining Apple’s PR strategy:
Unlike Microsoft, Samsung, Adobe, cellular carriers, or Wal-Mart-sized corporations, Apple handles its PR and Communications strategies wholly in-house, mirroring its control over its hardware and software strategies. While Apple still works with external agency Media Arts Lab of TBWA on print, digital, and TV marketing efforts, it is actively reducing its reliance on that firm by boosting its in-house marketing resources. According to sources, Apple is “aggressively” poaching select members of Media Arts Lab for its in-house team, but not undertaking a full-on corporate raid.
Though Apple is a gigantic and ever-growing company, its PR and Communications group is surprisingly tiny. There are only around over 30 PR employees in Apple’s Cupertino offices, with another few dozen-some individuals scattered around the world to organize events, translate press releases, and either answer or dodge questions from journalists in every time zone. The Cupertino-based office is a wing on the third floor of Apple’s Product Marketing building, 3 Infinite Loop. Framed posters of vintage Apple advertisements decorate the area, which otherwise consists of plain white hallways with offices on either side, and two small common areas.
Inside the offices are the following separate teams of employees: Momentum, Mac, Corporate Communications, iPhone, iPad, iTunes, and Events. A decade ago, Apple PR was organized solely into Mac, Music, and Corporate Communications teams, but these groups expanded as Apple’s priorities shifted away from iPods and toward iPhones, iPads, and services, adding a group specifically tasked with building “momentum” for Apple products.
Momentum and Buzz Marketing: The little-known Momentum and Buzz Marketing team is made up of a handful of people responsible for integrating Apple’s products into popular culture. For instance, Momentum works with major sports leagues to integrate the iPad into coaching toolkits, helps music events integrate iPads into festivities, and gets organizations to deploy iBeacon-integrated apps for attendees. When a brand new device shows up on a TV show before it’s in stores, Momentum was involved in making that happen.
The Momentum team is also key in pushing the latest App Store apps to pertinent magazines; if Apple wants golf magazines to feature a new iPad application that assists golfers with improving their swing, Momentum pushes the app to journalists to make that happen.
The team is also responsible for putting iPhones and Macs into the hands of celebrities and public figures. New York-based Brown Bartholomew and Cupertino-based Jennifer Bowcock have run the Momentum and Buzz Marketing team. Apple is also said to be seeking new Buzz Marketing professionals from within the communications industry to bolster this division.
Mac: The Mac team is led by longtime PR executive Bill Evans, and is one of the larger PR groups. Mac covers all Mac hardware and software including OS X, consumer Mac apps, and professional apps. Each team member focuses on either the hardware or software side of the business.
Corporate Communications: Apple’s Corporate Communications team, led by Steve Dowling, handles matters related to general corporate initiatives, executives, investors, and earnings calls. Retail PR, run by Amy Bessette, is a branch of the Corporate Communications team.
iPhone, iPad, iOS, and iCloud: Currently led by Natalie Kerris and Teresa Brewer, the iPhone team has the most resources. Because iOS runs on the iPad and iPod touch in addition to the iPhone, Brewer contributes to iPad PR as well. Trudy Muller helps lead the main iPad team that is slightly smaller than the iPhone group, and iCloud matters are typically taken on by the iPhone team.
iTunes: The iTunes team oversees PR for the iTunes Store, iBooks Store, App Store, Apple TV, iPods, and partnership-based services such as CarPlay. The team is run mainly by Jennifer Ramsey and Tom Neumayr. The Apple TV branch is run by Christine Monaghan, and it has seen some increased attention over the past year with new marketing resources led by former Hulu executive Pete Distad. Once it was briefed on the deal, the iTunes group also helped manage communications surrounding the Beats acquisition.
Events: The Events team, like the Momentum and Buzz Marketing group, has only a handful of employees. This group takes the lead on setting up media events and conferences such as the annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. It also organizes all internal events, such as government official visits to Apple’s Campus and Friday afternoon “Beer Bashes.”
Certain PR staff are paired with individual executives, guiding them through Apple media events and interviews with reporters. While Dowling and Kerris work closely with Tim Cook, PR manager Amy Bessette works closely with Senior VP of Design Jony Ive, and Bill Evans works with Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller.
While the individual names might not mean a lot to you, the collective work of these teams profoundly shapes Apple’s media narrative. From the press releases you see to always-on-message interview quotes and frequently declined on-the-record comments – plus many off-the-record communications with the press – Apple’s PR teams control every word of what the company says, and many of the words that are written about it by others.