Apple and the Dark Art of PR

Background briefing  150x150 Apple and the Dark Art of PR

The PR verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) to Apple’s “person close to the matter”.

Sorry is sometimes the hardest word. That is presumably the view of Apple executive Scott Forstall, who was in the headlines for allegedly refusing to sign a public letter apologizing for the mess regarding Apple’s new mapping service. His departure, announced on Monday, coincided with Apple’s retail chief John Browett also packing his bags.

A big day at Apple, but officially the superstar firm was remarkably tight-lipped. Most publications had the firm declining to comment save for confirmation of the departures and plans for their replacements, while Forstall and Browett were both unavailable. But the mystery was how media reports managed to run to  several hundred words if neither side was talking?  It was the old PR friend, “a person familiar with the matter,” who, as always, was more than obliging.

The well-known background briefer informed the press on how, why, and what happened. Fortsall’s hasty exit apparently came after long-standing tension with other Apple executives, who claimed he was uncooperative and aggravating in boasting a close relationship with founder Steve Jobs. Matters came to a head when the mapping software ran into problems. Our friend, the person “familiar with the matter,” said the game was over and Forstall got his marching orders. A win for Apple PR and zero to Forstall.

The PR Verdict:  “A” (PR Perfect) to Apple’s “person close to the matter.” Such a helpfully talkative pal!

The PR Takeaway: There are multiple ways to skin a cat. The Apple fracas provides a timely reminder about the value of speaking “on background.” With Apple and the departing parties declining to comment, who was going to shape the story? Getting a message across is the task of any good PR, and using the broad-brush moniker of a “person close to the matter” gives almost unlimited opportunity to comment without lasting fingerprints. There is a reason, after all, why PR is called the “dark arts.”

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What’s your opinion of this PR tactic? Give us your PR Verdict!

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