Apple plays the communications game with the ferocity of the guy at the poker table with all the chips. It has a way of exerting its will on others, including journalists.
Combining an unconventional media relations strategy and owned media, the company’s announcement of a fund for advanced manufacturing dominated the media at the end of last week.
But first things first —
You have to give Apple credit for recognizing that dependence on overseas manufacturing makes it vulnerable in today’s political climate. If President Trump is going to brag for weeks on end about saving 800 jobs at a furnace plant in Indy — he scored this win back in November – it’s only a matter of time before he decides to revisit that Apple has created north of 1 million jobs overseas to crank out iPhones and the like. No doubt Apple’s what-if scenario planning concluded that billions of dollars were at stake, not just in lost sales, but also in the potential of tarnishing the Apple brand.
This led to last week’s announcements by Apple of a fund to invest in advanced manufacturing in the U.S.
But look at how Apple orchestrated the communication.
There was no news release.
There was no press conference.
Instead, Apple anoints CNBC and Jim Kramer as the lucky ones who will gain access to CEO Tim Cook if they construct a studio set on the Apple campus. Right. You can do this when you’ve got all the poker chips. Then, to create a touch of spontaneity for live TV, Cook surprises Kramer with the news of the fund to invest in advanced manufacturing.
The CNBC URL (headline) www.cnbc.com/2017/05/03/exclusive-apple-just-promised-to-give-us-manufacturing-a-1-billion-boost.html stays on message as if the Apple PR person is barking in its ear.
And that’s not the best part. The CNBC story prompted a zillion media outlets ranging from TechCrunch to Wired to The Washington Post to cover the Apple announcement.
What’s revealing is how the journalists covered the story. With zero access to Tim Cook or other Apple execs and no news release available, the journalists were forced to write their stories based on the pristine narrative put forth during the CNBC interview and Apple’s microsite on job creation. By underpinning the PR effort with owned media, Apple ensures that its voice on job creation will be heard long after the media hoopla disappears.
Turning attention specifically to the microsite, I expected elegance in the design, and that’s what the site delivers: easy navigation, fussed-over typography and plenty of room for the content to breathe. But Apple also labored over the content, telling its story on job creation in a way that would resonate with Americans. Because Apple has figured out that if it wins over Americans, it makes it extremely difficult for President Trump to call out the company.
Classic storytelling techniques lift the content touching both sides of the brain. The numbers (quantification) certainly deliver a persuasive case that Apple is doing its part to create jobs, especially taking into account the Apple ecosystem. At the same time, the content teases out the humanity showcasing real people who take home checks with a tie to Apple. To relate to the younger demographic, we see photos like the one of Jessica:
For the mature demographic, we meet folks like Roy:
The details matter. They bring realness to the Apple story.
Drilling down to the next level, again Apple’s communications savvy comes through in providing a state-by-state breakdown of its job creation. In a sense, this content provides 50 different story hooks for local media in every state. For example, the data on North Carolina
turns into the headline for a local North Carolina online publication called WRAL
Leaving no doubt that Apple intends to take part in the ongoing discourse on job creation, the site is optimized for the term “job creation,” as revealed in the title tag in the meta data.
All in all, it’s a masterful job in communications and reputation management.
Stepping back to the 10,003-foot level — I need those extra three feet — I suspect that the 2012 New York Times exposé on the dangerous working conditions at the plants in China that make Apple products left a lasting impression on Cook. He learned that it’s better to anticipate issues and take the offensive.
That’s exactly what Apple has done in shaping a narrative that depicts the company as part of the solution — not the problem — for job creation in the U.S.
No doubt, Mr. Trump will take credit for Apple getting behind his “America first” mantra. And that’s fine with Apple, knowing it can continue to operate its diversified worldwide manufacturing strategy without White House interference.
Side note: For another example of how Apple mimics the behavior of a poker player with all the chips, check out “Journalists Accept Apple’s Storytelling Candy.”