Cotton is known for having been fiercely protective of Apple executives, particularly Steve Jobs, serving as gatekeeper for all media access and shepherding executives through their formal and informal meetings with the press.
Given Apple's penchant for secrecy, Cotton has long been tasked with keeping a tight rein on the company's PR operations, managing Apple's image and contributing to the company's presentations.
In a touching farewell piece, Re/code's Kara Swisher recounts Cotton's successful take-no-prisoners strategy:
But, despite what many of her detractors have written since the news of her departure came, I was never “scared” of her, any more than I fear any of the other hard-charging PR and communications execs I have encountered over the many years I have covered tech.Swisher goes on to note that many negative comments made about Cotton might not have been made about a man in such a powerful position, saying that reporters who "did not get any PR love" from the company should "grow up."
Was she aggressive? Sure. (So is Facebook’s Elliot Schrage.)
Did she sometimes ice our reporters out, ignore calls or reply with newsless answers? Sometimes. (Please meet Yahoo PR for much of my time covering it over the last 20 years, especially under the current administration, which does not return any of my calls.)
Did she try her hardest to showcase Apple and its products in a way that benefited it? Yep. (Paging Andreessen Horowitz’s Margit Wennmachers!)
Was she vocal when she did not like something we did? And how. (So are Microsoft’s Frank Shaw and Google’s Rachel Whetstone, both of whom can throw a decent uppercut at me when they are not happy with something we have written.)
So what? That kind of hard driving is part and parcel to the business, even if she was harder driving and, because of that, more successful than most. As she once told me when we talked about her outsize reputation in the tech press: “I am not here to make friends with reporters, I am here to put a light on and sell Apple products.”