NY Times Columnist David Carr on Apple PR Playbook

It is an old saying in PR: “there is no accounting for taste.” Said another way (as we teach in media training), in any market, one company will rise to the top, fueled by “story energy”. The media will inexplicably latch on and just fawn.

These thoughts crossed my mind as I read NY Times Media Equation columnist David Carr’s excellent analysis of the media fascination with Apple in light of last week’s “Applemageddon” news orgy. (For those in tech PR not working with Apple, it seems like we were handed a mini-vacation during the 9/9 event – it was futile to be trying to pitch anything else, especially consumer-tech related). He wrote:

Apple’s ability to seize the moment and preoccupy the press is without peer. Think about it: Absent that showmanship and hype, the company announced two very good-looking, very expensive phones that catch up with consumers’ preference for larger screens, a smartwatch… and a payment system that will need buy-in from retailers. So, what is it about Apple that makes a sea of professional curmudgeons whoop like children on Christmas?

He went on to list some of the tricks from Apple’s PR playbook.

Given the company’s history of maniacal secrecy… its sway with the news media is even more remarkable…. the stage management of its events rivals what is being announced... Seating charts are meticulously studied, rehearsals are endless and strategic leaks are used to temper expectations… The audience claps because everything — the lighting, the fanfare, the reveal — is meant to elicit applause.

On the one hand, Apple’s success with the media might not be that surprising as they use tried and true tactics, like stealth, and stagecraft to maximal effect. Yet another vendor would probably would not get the same results with these tricks. Why is that?

The answer lies in the story energy, taste, and the intoxicating power that an intangible such as brand can have. If reporters lose perspective and swoon, who can blame them? They are people too. They love a good story, and love to fall in love.

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