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Inside Apple's PR Practices, From Media Control to Attitude Shift Under Tim Cook

In a lengthy 9 part exposé, 9to5Mac's Mark Gurman delves into the inner workings of Apple's PR team. While much of what Gurman covers is already fairly well known, his coverage provides an expansive look at the way Apple's PR team operates, from its organizational structure to its efforts to control Apple's perception through media manipulation.

Despite Apple's size and its position as one of the most profitable companies in the world, its PR team is relatively small, comprised of approximately 30 employees in Cupertino along with a few dozen scattered around the world. In Cupertino, Apple PR is divided into seven teams: Momentum, Mac, Corporate Communications, iPhone, iPad, iTunes, and Events.

Along with organizing events and controlling product placement, Apple's PR teams keep a close eye on the media, despite its apparent indifference, and take steps to correct negative perceptions when deemed necessary.
So it's a surprise that Apple actually isn't that detached from the media: it's more like a teenage girl obsessively keeping her fingers on the pulse of coverage. Members of Apple PR seek tabloid photos of celebrities holding iPhones, while others read Apple-focused blogs actively, and keep tabs on prominent Apple beat writers using anonymized social media accounts. [...]

This oversight is so important to Apple that a few times a week, top executives are sent a document detailing the company's latest press coverage. When Apple is not pleased with coverage, it sometimes works to shift the narrative, even attempting to undermine giant news organizations.
For example, Gurman claims that Apple recently attempted to discredit Reuters over a story about Apple's accessibility practices that the company was not happy with. Gurman also points Apple's penchant for discrediting competitors, pointing towards an email Apple PR sent to 9to5Mac on an anti-Android story.

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Along with giving tidbits of information to various reliable media outlets, Apple also gives review units and review guides to columnists and journalists who Gurman claims have a largely positive view of the company and its products.
Also likely contributing to which publications get early access to products is the nature of pre-coverage -- angles taken by writers during the product rumors cycle. As Brian Lam put it, "Apple can already tell what a review is going to say from [a publication's] pre-coverage, and they're not going to give you a review unit if you're not going to play ball." In other words, Apple feeds the writers who will do its bidding, and starves the ones who won't follow its messaging.
In addition to delving into details about Apple's apparent media manipulation, Gurman also covers the shift in attitude as the company has transitioned from Steve Jobs' leadership to Tim Cook's. This has included the retirement of Katie Cotton, who was reportedly seen as a "tyrant" by her employees. Cotton, who was close to Steve Jobs, apparently did not mesh well with Tim Cook's desire to portray Apple as a "friendlier" company, leading to her departure.

Apple is said to be searching for a new head of PR to replace Cotton, and in the meantime, Apple's PR teams are run by two longtime employees who report directly to Cook. Under Cook, Apple's internal policies have shifted somewhat, from his direct apology for the Apple Maps app to his efforts to discredit Yukari Iwatani Kane's anti-Apple narrative Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs.

Gurman's full examination of Apple's PR team is well worth a read and covers a large range of topics. A list of links to the 9-part series is below:

- Apple Events and Shredded White Booklets
- Introducing the Teams: How PR is Organized at 3 Infinite Loop
- Strategies: The "Art of Deep Background" and Controlling the Press
- The Departure of a "Tyrant"
- Two Heads in Place of One
- Controversies: From Maps to Beats to Haunted Empires
- Product Reviews, Briefings, & Reviewer's Guides
- Steve Jobs and the Process Behind Press Releases
- A Friendlier, More Transparent Future?

Top Rated Comments

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7 weeks ago

And when we will see the multipart expose on the PR practices of Google, Samsung etc. And will those take as many pot shots at the company as this seems to. Pointing out that they like to tip off bloggers about negative articles, being upset about articles that don't go the way they like, giving review units to folks that are sure to give a nice review.

Every company does this kind of thing, not just Apple. So why the focus on Apple. Gurman will say because Apple is a huge company and should be able all this blah blah. Truth is, page hits. Apple gets way more than any other company. Thus sites that rely on hits for ad revenue focus on Apple


Hi Tim
Rating: 23 Votes
7 weeks ago
I think there are at least 10 members on here that work for Apple... just to troll us and shut us up when we're wrong and whining about some Apple thing.


(actually, I'm one, this post just keeps me out of suspicion.)
Rating: 19 Votes
7 weeks ago
So, standard PR practice?
Rating: 16 Votes
7 weeks ago
And when we will see the multipart expose on the PR practices of Google, Samsung etc. And will those take as many pot shots at the company as this seems to. Pointing out that they like to tip off bloggers about negative articles, being upset about articles that don't go the way they like, giving review units to folks that are sure to give a nice review.

Every company does this kind of thing, not just Apple. So why the focus on Apple. Gurman will say because Apple is a huge company and should be able all this blah blah. Truth is, page hits. Apple gets way more than any other company. Thus sites that rely on hits for ad revenue focus on Apple
Rating: 13 Votes
7 weeks ago
What if Apple really owned this site :eek:
Rating: 11 Votes
7 weeks ago

Excuse me that I prefer for folks to have a balanced view of the world.

And while you try to come off like you have some clue about me which is why you know I 'mean well' it fails when you get neither my name nor my gender correct


Wow!:eek: My mistake with your name and gender notwithstanding, how about not tearing me a new one for defending your point. I said you mean well because I thought you meant well. Regardless of how angry you come off. Lesson learned. No need for civility I guess.:confused:
Rating: 8 Votes
7 weeks ago
"Apple tries to make itself look as good as possible." Shocking.
Rating: 8 Votes
7 weeks ago
I doubt this thread will reach 70 posts. Even though the only thing Gurber said was Apple employs the same tactics as everyone else, a certain element within this forum refuses to acknowledge Apple is no better or worse than any other company. It's a business that's out to make money, not some paragon of virtue.

Gurber's article should neither surprise nor disappoint.
Rating: 6 Votes
7 weeks ago

nothing in this article goes beyond standard PR practices. And nothing comes close to sleazy tactics regularly employed by Samsung, like paying bloggers for fake reviews.


Using unpaid fanboys is just as bad.

"Most recently, Apple utilized covert tactics to challenge a Reuters story about Apple’s accessibility practices. Reuters referred to Apple as a champion of the blind community, but called for the company to do even more work in the accessibility field.

"Unable to get Apple to comment for the story, the article quoted a 2013 Tim Cook speech to underscore Apple’s understanding of accessibility’s importance. Despite being unwilling to officially participate, Apple asked Reuters off the record to include more quotes from Cook’s speech, said a person familiar with the situation. Reuters declined, since the speech is publicly available material.

Instead of commenting on-the-record before or after the article was published, Apple’s PR team disapprovingly pointed a loyal group of Apple-focused bloggers to the entire 2013 speech transcript, and these bloggers then used the supplied details to attack Reuters. "

- from the article


Every company manages PR, but Apple has made it into an art form


Exactly.

Apple makes 2014 look like... uh... 1984.

My favorite example was back when the original iPhone price was slashed by $200 after only two months (Ballmer was right... Americans would not pay $600 for a phone) and the early adopters who had paid full price were furious.

They immediately swarmed the Apple iPhone support forum in huge numbers. Now, Apple hates negative posts. Their policy is to throw them down the old memory hole and pretend they never existed.

So the moderators at Apple's forum deleted hundreds if not thousands of angry posts, before finally giving up and letting the rioting continue unabated all night. I was there and saw it.
Rating: 6 Votes
7 weeks ago

I'm sorry but Gurman comes across as incredibly bitter. No Apple's not going to give 9to5Mac the time of day but that's their stance with any rumor site. I lost all respect for Gurman when he claimed that Apple renamed and redesigned their Health app (to something worse according to his unnamed sources) because of what he leaked on 9to5Mac. I loved John Gruber's response: http://daringfireball.net/linked/2014/06/09/gurman-apple-priorities


You are overthinking this. Anyone who has dealt with Apple PR sees the truth being reported here. Tim Cook ending the Katie Cotton era is a positive development.

With all the pure regurgitation going on theses day in the name of journalism, this piece stands out as an effort to actually report on something.
Rating: 6 Votes

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