It may not equal Jonas Salk discovering the polio vaccine or Albert Einstein discovering the theory of relativity, but Apple Inc.’s recent discovery of public relations is worth noting.
For years the technology and consumer-products giant was notorious for treating PR as a marginal asset, at best.
With its digital products having cornered the market on “cool,” a stock price hovering in the $440-range and a market capitalization of roughly $415 billion—not to mention the typically glowing articles in the media—the Apple brand has been the closest thing to a deity in the global economy.
Perhaps that deification was a function of Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, who during live events personally introduced Apple’s major products (iPhone, iPad), sprinkling the presentations with his own brand of showmanship.
The media ate it up and subsequently ran delicious stories about Apple. Nevertheless, the company has been a poster child for stingy communications.
It’s been nearly a year and a half since Jobs died, and Apple CEO Tim Cook appears to be taking a slightly different approach to public relations.
Last week the company issued a press release to announce it was upgrading its mobile operating system from iOS 6 to 6.1, according to The Wall Street Journal. “It was the first time Apple has issued an official press release for a non-major mobile software release unrelated to a new device since 2010,” the report said.
The report added that Apple’s PR team has started to ramp up the number of third-party reports about the company that it sends to reporters, such as a study that predicts Apple will be as accepted in the enterprise by 2014 as Microsoft is today.
The report in the Journal, as well as several other media outlets, stressed that Apple’s current PR strategy is likely a response to a spate of negative stories about Apple’s declining stock price, flattening profits and increasing competition.
It would be a disheartening if Apple’s current PR blitz turned out to be just a blip on the screen and the company reverted back to espousing secrecy as a communications strategy.
In a digital (and extremely fluid) era, that would be a mistake. Surely, there is now some young genius banging away at his or her computer keyboard or crafting a new algorithm that will eventually give today’s digital titans a run for their money. Apple needs to more communicative about its future prospects.
Right now Apple can afford to do as it pleases, PR or no PR. But, in the long run, thinking that the media laurels will last forever is a gamble. As it gets further into a post-Jobs era, Apple could do a lot worse than giving its PR crew more of an opportunity to shine.
– Matthew Schwartz @mpsjourno1