September 27, 2016

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Secrets of an Apple PR Pro

Secrets of an Apple PR Pro

A former Apple PR exec gives us a peek behind the curtain at one of America’s most iconic brands in a recent article for the Harvard Business Review titled “What I learned from 10 years of doing PR for Apple.” The entire piece is full of excellent advice for PR pros. It’s worth reading in full, so definitely check it out.

Pay particular attention to their requirement to keep communications simple—they want anyone to be able to understand a press release, so there is no jargon, and no complicated explanations. The author/former Apple PR, Cameron Craig, suggests running communications through a free “readability” software program and aiming for a score that would meet the comprehension level of an 11-year-old child.

I also really loved the statement that PR people should value reporters’ time. One of the most common frustrations of reporters is the number of press releases they receive—particularly ones that, let’s be honest, contain no news.

The point made by Craig is one that I wish everyone in PR could embrace: less is more. You don’t need to send out a news release for every little thing, in fact, it’s counterproductive. A change in your product’s packaging or minor tweaks to the line aren’t notable unless they are revolutionary. Build relationships with reporters, and then pitch them tailored pitches containing real news.

This leads to another important point in the piece—be selective with those reporters with whom you choose to develop a relationship. Apple did the incredibly smart thing of choosing to work with reporters who they had identified as the ones who “set the tone.”

The above-listed points: keep it simple and remove jargon, don’t inundate reporters with news releases devoid of news, and build relationships with reporters that matter to your industry or sector, are all arguments and points that have been made before.

One of the best ways to improve relations with the media is to identify what they need or are looking for, and then find ways to provide content in that format. Surveys of reporters abound, and a lot of journalists say their jobs have become more difficult over the past few years. On their wish lists are things like better online newsrooms on corporate websites, easier to find contact information, and access to multimedia content. These items are completely in the hands of corporations to address, and could lead to better coverage—or at least better access.

When people you want to develop a relationship with are telling you what they need, listen to them.

Some of this advice is hard to implement given the pressures and demands of PR. Craig acknowledges this in his piece, and even relays the fact that periodically the Apple PR team was leaned on by departments wanting a little more buzz, a little more attention around their initiatives.

Done right, media relations are a fundamental part of the “earned” part of a solid PESO strategy. Take a look at how Apple structured their earned media outreach, and see if there are any tips and takeaways you can implement for your company or clients.

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About The Author

Jennifer Zingsheim Phillips is the founder of 4L Strategies, and has worked in communications and public affairs for just over 20 years. Her background includes work in politics, government, lobbying, public affairs PR work, content creation, and digital and social communications and media analysis.

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