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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New York Times profiles Apple University, Infinite Loop’s school for life after Jobs

The existence of Apple University, a college of sort for teaching the Apple way at Apple’s Infinite Loop headquarters in Cupertino, California, is not a secret. But the details of how Apple University works and what the school teaches have been mostly hidden from the spotlight. Today, The New York Times has published a fairly extensive profile of Apple University, which is well-worth a read.

Unlike many corporations, Apple runs its training in-house, year round. The full-time faculty — including instructors, writers and editors — create and teach the courses. Some faculty members come from universities like Yale; Harvard; the University of California, Berkeley; Stanford; and M.I.T., and some continue to hold positions at their schools while working for Apple.

Apple University is run by former Yale business school dean Joel Podolny, and Podolny took a full-time role as Dean of Apple University earlier this year as he handed off his former Human Resources responsibilities to Denise Young-Smith. The New York Times’s profile discusses some of the classes. Courses range from those for the leaders of newly acquired companies to learn how to integrate their former businesses into Apple to courses about simplifying products.

In “What Makes Apple, Apple,” another course that Mr. Nelson occasionally teaches, he showed a slide of the remote control for the Google TV, said an employee who took the class last year. The remote has 78 buttons. Then, the employee said, Mr. Nelson displayed a photo of the Apple TV remote, a thin piece of metal with just three buttons. How did Apple’s designers decide on three buttons? They started out with an idea, Mr. Nelson explained, and debated until they had just what was needed — a button to play and pause a video, a button to select something to watch, and another to go to the main menu.

While Apple University teaches Apple employees some key lessons about Apple’s decision making processes that led to the company’s rapid growth and success over the past decade, the most important take away is that Apple has set up a unique and comprehensive experience for ensuring that the company continues to thrive in the immediate post-Steve Jobs era and beyond.

Apple opens stunning new (and more private) Caffè Macs employee cafeteria in Cupertino

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Photo via Foursquare

According to employee tweets and photos, Apple opened a stunning new Caffè Macs employee cafeteria at the corner of Bandley and Alves Dr. in Cupertino this past Tuesday. Located close to the company’s first campus building, Apple received approval to build at this location in early 2012, and after 2 years of work, the new cafeteria is complete.

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New model of Apple’s proposed spaceship campus reveals new details about the building

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New photos from the San Jose Mercury News today reveal additional details about Apple’s new campus, slated to be completed sometime in either 2015 or 2016. A scale model of the planned building was shown to The Mercury News by Apple’s CFO, Peter Oppenheimer, located at an office on the 175-acre site of Apple’s planned campus. According to Oppenheimer:

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Apple revises plans for its Campus 2 building, adding bicycle access improvements, additional parking, and more

campus

Apple has just revised its plans for its massive upcoming new headquarters, scheduled to be completed by 2016. The revised plans, known as Submittal 6, focus less on the structure of the building itself, instead highlighting the surrounding land and facilities, showing off new bike paths, larger parking areas, and photos of street renderings.

The parking areas have been increased in capacity from 9,000 to 9,240 in the main lot, and 1,500 to 1,740 in an additional location, the report states. Updated bike access plans include new features such as enhanced bike lanes called “buffered bike lanes,” as well as bike boxes and two-stage turn boxes (images below).

Although there will be an incremental increase in gross office and research and development floor area of approximately 20%, the efficient use of the main site will result in almost tripling the landscaped area. Underground and structured parking will replace 9,220 surface parking spaces – creating almost three times more open space.

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Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer sends brochure to Cupertino neighbors inviting feedback on new ‘Campus 2′

Apple is currently involved in an outreach program to new neighbors in its planned “Campus 2″ area. A brochure was mailed this week to residents surrounding the new campus that provided information and invited feedback in a variety of ways. Although the project seems to be a big win for the city of Cupertino, some residents voiced concern about the added traffic and other changes to the area.

We obtained a letter from one of Apple’s new neighbors—here are the takeaways:

  1. Campus 2, as it is currently called, will not replace the 1 Infinite Loop campus. Instead, it will provide “research facility” office space for an additional 13,000 employees, which is more than 3,000 than 1 Infinite Loop. There is also 300,000 feet of expansion space for future growth.
  2. Campus 2 will attain LEED certification and will have no manufacturing or heavy industrial activity onsite. Apple has and will continue to take extra steps to reduce auto use by employees. Moreover, the roof of the main building is a huge solar array.
  3. Campus 2 will not open to the public, so there is no museum or corporate store. :(
  4. The “world class” auditorium located at the very southern tip of the new campus will host product launches and corporate events.
  5. The corporate fitness center/recreation center will be located to the north west of the main circular building in a separate structure.
  6. Infinite Loop will remain the official corporate HQ, so top executives will likely stay behind.
  7. Apple intends to break ground as soon as Cupertino approves the changes (scheduled for later this year), with plans to start occupying the space in 2015.

Neighbors can fill out the postage paid response card or go to the Cupertino.org website with comments, questions, or concerns.

Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs originally presented the idea of the campus in June (video below) during his last public appearance that  occurred a day after the 2011 WWDC.

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Apple looking to build third campus by 2015?

If you haven’t heard by now, plans for construction of Apple’s 175-acre “Spaceship” campus are well under way. A meeting hosted by Cupertino mayor Gilbert Wong to address any community member’s concerns is scheduled for tonight.

However, it now looks like Apple may have plans to build another campus, as Wong told Mercury News that Apple execs have already approached him with plans for a third campus:

Wong said Apple executives have told him the company is expanding so fast that it expects to start working on Apple Campus 3 at an unknown location after they finish the second headquarters in 2015.

An Apple spokesperson declined to comment. We’re not sure if this is just really early planning for a potential third campus in the future, or if the company has more specific plans. We already know that Apple’s proposed Spaceship campus will be home to 12-13,000 employees.

Perhaps Apple will start moving employees out of Infinite Loop once the spaceship is complete and rebuild a ‘satellite’ campus at that location?

The report from Mercury News also notes that city officials have suggested a sculpture of Steve Jobs be placed on the campus to “honor his contributions as the iconic leader of Cupertino’s biggest taxpayer and cache-maker.” Read more