Is Apple in control of its PR?Posted: December 11, 2009
The Street.com wrote an interesting piece today on how almost all the news we digest about Apple comes from rumor sites rather from Apple itself. Jason Schwarz, the article’s author, asks: “When was the last time you went to the Apple Website to find news about the company?” He then answers for you: “probably never.” His point is that Apple prides itself on its secrecy and its tight lippedness (if there is such a word) but in the process that encourages third parties to speculate on what Apple is doing. This speculation means that in the short term the company’s fortunes can be over or underrated. He is effectively warning investors that they should invest based on the long term fundamentals but be aware that the share price on any given day may have absolutely no connection to those fundamentals. In other words they are a gamble.
This article got me thinking about the issue of whether a company that is so controlling when it comes to communication is really in control of its PR? On the one hand Apple does control its message. It is rarely reactive and is often seen refusing to comment. This means it only comments on news it is driving. This SHOULD be good for control of the message as it means they are not helping give oxygen to stories they can’t control. However, by saying so little they invite widespread speculation, which by its very nature they can’t control. In many ways you could say Apple is like a celebrity that rarely talks to the press. We have all seen the tabloids speculate about celebrities being pregnant, getting divorced, having affairs etc. And we all know that we tend to believe, or at least absorb, some of that content even though we know there is little chance of it being great journalism.
That said, by staying away from a great deal of this speculation, it is easier for people to tell what news has their blessing and what news is speculative. In essence it comes down to a question of balance. If a celebrity goes on Oprah’s couch and sets the record straight, then the speculation is either confirmed or dismissed. That single appearance will then shape the speculation that will follow until the next time the celebrity sits down with someone in the media. This is much how Apple’s PR works. They make few major public appearances but when they do they make a big splash and make sure to set the record straight. After that we all go back to the rumor sites to learn about the other Apple. By starving us of real news they make us crave it all the more. On balance I’d say Apple was in control. At least for now.