Seeing Through the Illusion: Understanding Apple’s Mastery of the Media

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Apple CEO Tim Cook with former VP of Worldwide Communications Katie Cotton

“Beautifully, unapologetically plastic.”

“Feature for feature, it’s identical to iPad Air in every way.”

“Just avoid holding it in that way.”

Apple’s public relations (PR) department is probably the best in the world — certainly more impressive at shaping and controlling the discussion of its products than any other technology company. Before customers get their first chance to see or touch a new Apple product, the company has carefully orchestrated almost every one of its public appearances: controlled leaks and advance briefings for favored writers, an invite-only media debut, and a special early review process for a group of pre-screened, known-positive writers. Nothing is left to chance, and in the rare case where Apple doesn’t control the initial message, it remedies that by using proxies to deliver carefully crafted, off-the-record responses.

Except for a few big exceptions, such as the memorably off-pitch quotes above, Apple’s “tell them what to believe” PR strategy has worked incredibly well for years. But it has also created tensions between the company and the people who cover it, as well as within Apple itself. The company’s long-time head of PR, Katie Cotton, left the company earlier this year as CEO Tim Cook openly sought to make a major change in the way Apple interacted with the press and its customers. As the hunt for Cotton’s replacement is still in progress, and the depth of Apple’s commitment to change remains unclear, we look today at the techniques Apple has used to quietly manipulate its coverage over the years.

You can navigate between the chapters, below:

- Part 1) Apple Events and Shredded White Booklets

- Part 2) Introducing the Teams: How PR Is Organized at 3 Infinite Loop

- Part 3) Strategies: The “Art of Deep Background” and Controlling the Press

- Part 4) The Departure of a “Tyrant”

- Part 5) Two Heads In Place Of One

- Part 6) Controversies: From Maps to Beats to Haunted Empires

- Part 7) Product Reviews, Briefings, & Reviewer’s Guides

- Part 8) Steve Jobs and the Process Behind Press Releases

- Part 9) A Friendlier, More Transparent Future?

Two months in the making, this article is the product of over a dozen interviews with journalists, bloggers, and PR professionals, including many who have worked at Apple.

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Apple issues Preliminary Proxy Statement, urges shareholders to vote against Icahn proposal & Human Rights Board committee

Screen Shot 2013-12-27 at 2.39.03 PM

Apple today issued its Preliminary Proxy Statement via its Investor Relations website. As a publicly traded company, Apple issues this document annually, and it discusses pay packages for both executive team members and board members, company practices, and topics which shareholders will vote on at the upcoming shareholder meeting. Apple says that the next shareholder meeting will take place on February 28, 2014. Some interesting tidbits include that Apple’s board met seven times in 2013 with 75%+ attendance during each meeting. Additionally (to be voted on), a shareholder wants Apple to create a board committee related to human rights. Apple says that it is against this additional committee:

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Apple’s evolution leaves it between two camps for investors, explains low share price (AAPL)

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An insightful Reuters blog by financial journalist Felix Salmon suggests that Apple’s surprisingly low share price may be due to the evolving nature of the company leaving it between two sets of investors.

Conservative investors, who like slow-growing stocks with high dividends, are constitutionally uncomfortable with the volatility inherent in the tech world. And technology investors, who are happy taking that kind of risk, want to see substantial growth. Apple, notwithstanding the fact that it’s one of the most valuable companies in the world, is falling through the capital-markets cracks.

Apple always used to be the company which surprised and delighted investors and customers alike. Its guidance to investors was deliberately pessimistic, blowing through those figures when it reported actual revenue and earnings. It was notoriously secretive about new products, launching new ones in a playful manner with Steve Jobs’ famous ‘One more thing‘ moments… Read more

AAPL earnings preview: what the analysts expect

Update: AAPL blew away expectations.

At 4.30pm Eastern, Apple will report its Q2 results (and we’ll be covering it live). It’s the day when the last three months of analyst predictions and forecasts come home to roost.

Apple’s newly-realistic guidance revenue is $41b to $43b, with margins of 37.5 – 38.5 percent. These numbers would suggest earnings per share of just over $10 … Read more

Poll: Should Apple re-hire Ron Johnson to run its Retail division?

We’re all discussing this here and wondered what the wider Apple community thinks. Read more

Ron Johnson out as CEO of JCP, Apple Retail boss job still open

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Former Apple Retail Chief Ron Johnson is out at JCPenney after his radical retail redesign failed to ignite sales in the same manner in which Apple Stores had grown accustomed. Ron Johnson left Apple in 2011 for the JCP job after a decade at Apple.  He helped design the original Apple Store concept after being lured away from Target by Apple CEO Steve Jobs. He pioneered concepts like the Genius Bar which was unheard of at the time but still a growing trend in the industry.

We know more than a few folks who would like to see him back at Apple which meanwhile has found him difficult to replace. One such attempt was the hiring and subsequent firing of John Browett, a former Dixon’s UK CEO.

Johnson continued to live in the Bay area during his stint at JCP commuting to Plano Texas via Jet so…

https://twitter.com/parislemon/status/321367332289138690

https://twitter.com/adamlashinsky/status/321369011633917952

https://twitter.com/reuters/status/321371936544399360

We’ve reached out to JCP and Apple for comment and will update as appropriate. Press release follows:
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