Dissecting Apple’s event: A few PR takeaways

Last week, thousands of people clamored into San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium to hear the latest updates from Apple.

Over the years, Apple has built up its allure as a company that has been able to generate its own news cycle weeks ahead of its event. While there are few companies that have the same amount of resources to pull off such a grandiose event, there’s a few takeaways that brands can capture from last week.

1. Get Ahead of Your Event

Apple has done an enviable job of building buzz ahead of its event - from staff writers announcing that invitations had been sent for the event to speculating on the news during the two-hour presentation.

But even before the event was announced, the news of the headphone jack being removed from the iPhone 7 made headlines back in January. Media also eagerly anticipate other anticipate leaks throughout the year – with analyst forecasts sparking further news stories.

PR professionals should always think about the best PR strategy for its announcements, and who to approach with the news. For example, does it make sense to conduct advance briefings with reporters, or a special early review process for a number of influencers to have a hands-on experience with the product? What exclusive access can you provide?  

2. Know What’s Newsworthy  

Journalists today are more and more time-pressed, and will only scrutinize the first paragraph of any press release or media pitch. Today, you have no more than eight seconds to get their attention.

That’s why it’s so important to not only identify the news angle, but also keep your pitch clear and concise. According to Cameron Craig, who handled PR for Apple over a decade across Australia, Singapore and the U.S., “if you ran any Apple press release through a readability level test it would most likely score a level easily understood by an average 4th grade student or lower.” While Apple is certainly one of the most well-known brands in the world today, its stories and the impact/benefits of its technology are easy to understand by virtually every reporter and influencer.

The more technical the company and its product, the more likely jargon, clichés and other nonsensical terms will make it into your content. For PR professionals, make sure you take a step back to scrutinize your news and put it through a readability test – free tools such as Readability Score and CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer can help.

3. Consider Third Parties

From the start, Apple brought on cameo appearances and keynotes from a litany of celebrities and executives from other big name brands. This included Tim Cook kicking off the event with “Carpool Karaoke” alongside James Corden and Pharrell, with further onstage presentations by executives from companies including Instagram, Nike, Nintendo and Pokemon Go.

In the last few years, Apple has made a noticeable shift in giving other companies airplay to mark their partnerships with the tech company. Bringing in third parties to speak on behalf of your brand – whether it’s a partner, customer or industry pundit can help support your brand’s core messages, provide a strong testimonial, and also drive their own news stories – for example, Nike uploaded its own blog post announcing the partnership.

Think about whether you have third parties that can add an extra element to your story, and collaborate with them ahead of time.

4. Be Bold

Apple has been able to build its strong reputation as a company willing to take risks and make bold assertions. According to Harry McCracken, technology editor at Fast Company, “Apple has a long history of being willing to eradicate old technologies in the interest of pushing its devices into the future, or just making them thinner or lighter.” Time will tell if the controversial removal of the headphone jack will be a success for Apple, but few would argue in how divisive this news has been for media and consumers.

Brands should always develop a clear perspective and vision on their company and the industry. While every opinion need not be highly controversial, it’s important to have a strong voice that rises above the noise. Spend the time in advance to think about how to position your brand, how it can stand out from others in your space, and what supporting proof points can validate your positioning.

Are there any other key takeaways that you had from last week’s event? We’d love to hear your thoughts.