Author Archives: Mark Gurman

Apple HR chief Denise Young-Smith emails employees about diversity & inclusion

Apple_Diversity

Apple’s Vice President of Global Human Resources Denise Young-Smith emailed all Apple employees last week regarding diversity and inclusion. The email continues Apple’s recent string of events to promote diversity within the company. In midAugust, Apple released diversity data and held events on campus to promote inclusion. Young-Smith was promoted to head of all Apple HR earlier this year, and she received additional attention last month when she was added to Apple’s official executive biographies web page. The full email, via a source, is below:

Team,

Tim has kicked off an ongoing conversation about inclusion and diversity at Apple. No matter what our role is or where we sit, this is important and meaningful to all of us, to our customers, and to those who are considering a career at Apple.

The “In Your Voice” feedback we’ve received has been nothing less than what we’d expect: authentic, impassioned, and broadly representative of our diversity of thought and perspectives from around the world. And we’re grateful for it.

Many of you shared stories about how Apple’s culture of inclusion changed the course of your life, whether personally or professionally: “I was over 55 when I was hired. My hiring manager looked beyond my age and hair color and saw me for what I am: an energetic, hard-working individual up for the Apple challenge. Thank you.” “I am rewarded for being and thinking differently. My point of view is appreciated in this environment, whereas in previous experiences and environments, my point of view seemed to be something others had to deal with.”

A few of you compared Apple to the United Nations, describing your daily routine of hearing many languages spoken around you at work and benefitting from global viewpoints.

You told us where Apple could be doing better. You said that your teams and your managers could do more to be inclusive. This often manifests itself in subtle ways — from the words we choose, to how we hire, to how we engage one another and develop others. We all bring with us a life experience that makes us unique, yet colors how we view others and the world around us. We can all benefit from enhanced awareness of how our actions affect others.

Some of you shared that you don’t feel as connected as you would like to your teams or to initiatives that feel removed from your location. You also want to hear from and connect with the many amazing role models in our organization. These are areas we can greatly improve upon and we will. We must.

We believe to our core that inclusion inspires our very best innovations. As one of you put it, “Diversity is essential to making sure our products are great for all humanity. When our teams are diverse, we make noticeably better products for the world.”

Along with that, we know that we need to demonstrate an active commitment to inclusion in our day-to-day work to fully leverage the richness of our diversity.

We’re going to continue this conversation and others that further the dialogue on innovation, inclusion, and of course, why we are all here: to make an impact and do our very best work. Together.

We welcome your thoughts and ideas as we move forward.

Denise


Filed under: AAPL Company Tagged: Apple, Denise Young Smith, Eddy Cue, human resources, Rumors & Special Reports, Tim, United Nations, Young-Smith

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In-depth, high-quality hands-on video of iPhone 6 assembled from leaked parts

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We now have our best look yet at the iPhone 6 until Apple officially launches the device on September 9th. Russia-based YouTuber Rozetked has put together what appears to be a 4.7-inch iPhone 6 (hands on footage of the 5.5-inch model went online this morning) with several of the leaked components that we’ve seen all over the web the last several months. The comparison shows both black and white front plates, along with a space gray rear shell. The video compares the design to the existing iPhone 5s and gives a very close look at the overall design aesthetic. You can find the video along with some more still photos below:

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Filed under: AAPL Company Tagged: Android, Apple, iPhone, iPhone 5, iPhone 6, Russia, September 9th, YouTube

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UK carrier O2 teases new iPhone with funny newspaper ad

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Major United Kingdom-based carrier O2 is teasing the upcoming iPhone 6 launch(es) with a humorous newspaper ad today. The ad is fairly self-explanatory. But to fill in the blanks, the new iPhone will debut at the September 9th Apple event and at least some models will likely become available on September 19th. The bigger, 5.5-inch phone is seeing some delays, and that model possibly won’t hit the streets until later in the month or even October. As for the name, the general consensus is either “iPhone 6″ or “iPhone Air.” Thanks to The Verge‘s Tom Warren for bringing the ad to our attention.


Filed under: AAPL Company Tagged: Apple, Cupertino California, iPhone, iWatch, John Paczkowski, San Francisco, September, United Kingdom

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Seeing Through the Illusion: Understanding Apple’s Mastery of the Media

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Apple CEO Tim Cook with former VP of Worldwide Communications Katie Cotton

“Beautifully, unapologetically plastic.”

“Feature for feature, it’s identical to iPad Air in every way.”

“Just avoid holding it in that way.”

Apple’s public relations (PR) department is probably the best in the world — certainly more impressive at shaping and controlling the discussion of its products than any other technology company. Before customers get their first chance to see or touch a new Apple product, the company has carefully orchestrated almost every one of its public appearances: controlled leaks and advance briefings for favored writers, an invite-only media debut, and a special early review process for a group of pre-screened, known-positive writers. Nothing is left to chance, and in the rare case where Apple doesn’t control the initial message, it remedies that by using proxies to deliver carefully crafted, off-the-record responses.

Except for a few big exceptions, such as the memorably off-pitch quotes above, Apple’s “tell them what to believe” PR strategy has worked incredibly well for years. But it has also created tensions between the company and the people who cover it, as well as within Apple itself. The company’s long-time head of PR, Katie Cotton, left the company earlier this year as CEO Tim Cook openly sought to make a major change in the way Apple interacted with the press and its customers. As the hunt for Cotton’s replacement is still in progress, and the depth of Apple’s commitment to change remains unclear, we look today at the techniques Apple has used to quietly manipulate its coverage over the years.

You can navigate between the chapters, below:

- Part 1) Apple Events and Shredded White Booklets

- Part 2) Introducing the Teams: How PR Is Organized at 3 Infinite Loop

- Part 3) Strategies: The “Art of Deep Background” and Controlling the Press

- Part 4) The Departure of a “Tyrant”

- Part 5) Two Heads In Place Of One

- Part 6) Controversies: From Maps to Beats to Haunted Empires

- Part 7) Product Reviews, Briefings, & Reviewer’s Guides

- Part 8) Steve Jobs and the Process Behind Press Releases

- Part 9) A Friendlier, More Transparent Future?

Two months in the making, this article is the product of over a dozen interviews with journalists, bloggers, and PR professionals, including many who have worked at Apple.


Filed under: AAPL Company Tagged: Apple, company, Infinite Loop, iPad, Katie Cotton, Public relations, Steve Jobs, Tim Cook

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Part 1) Apple Events and Shredded White Booklets

From Seeing Through the Illusion: Understanding Apple’s Mastery of the Media, a profile examining Apple’s PR strategy:

Apple Unveils New Versions Of Popular iPad

“The keynote is like a production. You have to have a special appreciation for it.”

You probably never knew that an audience member fainted during one of Steve Jobs’s keynotes. Quickly and without a pause, Apple PR representatives quickly guided paramedics to escort the ill man out of the venue, without causing even a blip in the presentation. As a member of Apple’s PR team recalled, preventing what would otherwise have been a show-stopping disruption was seamless, as potential hiccups in the event had been pre-considered “down to a science.” This anecdote demonstrates both Apple’s detailed approach to event planning and wider communications strategy: it has mastered the ability to control situations invisibly, without having its efforts noticed.

Beyond planning for rare life-threatening emergencies during keynotes, Apple PR also plans for more common message-disrupting concerns, such as suppressing rowdy crowd members, and preventing uninvited members of the media from getting in the doors. Apple PR even acts as “organic, non-obvious body guards” for individual Apple executives including Tim Cook and Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller, physically blocking members of the media from getting sometimes meaningful or off-topic questions answered following presentations.

Apple’s preparation for keynote events extends beyond who presents what on stage, and who guards which executives from reporters. As a former member of Apple’s PR team told us, “the keynote is like a production. You have to have a special appreciation for it.” Every single element of the presentation is specifically determined in advance, from nuances of the lighting, to how screens are positioned, to who sits where within the venue. Lower-level Apple employees are strategically nestled within each event’s audience, different journalists are kept in specific positions, and Apple executives need not worry about last-minute changes. Everything’s under control.

The process starts weeks before keynote addresses. Apple’s PR/Communications and Marketing teams keep an eye on media reports to determine expectations, leaking information to temper expectations that won’t be matched by the announcements. Executives typically practice for two weeks in Apple’s Infinite Loop auditorium, and senior PR members prepare special white booklets to be handed out to the rest of the Communications group during a lengthy meeting, held about one week prior to the main event.

Event

Hands-on area following 2012 iPhone 5 event

These books detail exactly what will be discussed and announced during the event, who will present each part, which Apple employees are responsible for what is demonstrated, how the product hands-on area will be organized, and who will be in attendance.

Following the pre-event “pep talk,” the white books are handed back to the PR team, and are sometimes shredded on site. Just as Apple takes extreme measures of secrecy during the development of products, the schedules for each keynote are guarded very closely. Although the general topics to be discussed are typically obvious to Apple-watchers, no keynote’s specific schedule has been accurately leaked in advance of an event.

Around the same time as this meeting, Apple sends out invitations to special guests, a small group of Apple employees, reporters from major news outlets including Bloomberg NewsThe New York TimesReuters, and The Wall Street Journal, and a small group of reliably positive bloggers, including Daring Fireball’s John Gruber and The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple. Apple’s biggest boosters get early tips to expect and publicize the invitations; for instance, on the exact day Apple announced its latest event, Canadian blogger Dalrymple just happened to be in Cupertino, snapping photographs of a structure Apple was building for the event at the Flint Center. It’s difficult to just call that a coincidence.

During the weekend prior to an event, members of the Apple PR staff walk the halls of the keynote venue to ensure that every component of the presentation from the stage to the hands-on area is aligned as planned. Simultaneously, Apple executives engage in “dress rehearsals” on the keynote stage, practicing their usually-not-actually-off-the-cuff jokes.

Yet even with all of this careful planning, sometimes parts of keynotes go awry.

Assisted behind the scenes by a former Apple marketing executive, Allison Johnson, an unknown startup called Anki was invited to present a new product at the 2013 Worldwide Developers Conference keynote. Anki demonstrated an artificial intelligence-based, iOS-controlled race car kit that would later be sold as an Apple Store exclusive for $200. The play mat and miniature car product did not sound initially interesting when it was introduced, and its accompanying demonstration was even less impressive. A couple of minutes into the presentation, the demo failed, and Anki CEO Boris Sofman and his colleague were left sweating in distress, awkwardly trying to resume their pitch.

Behind the scenes, Apple PR members stationed behind the keynote stage felt nauseated witnessing significant errors in such a critical presentation. This was the keynote in which Apple planned to cement Tim Cook, Jony Ive, and Craig Federighi as the three public faces of Apple’s bright new future. Inviting Anki to show an expensive, not particularly compelling toy that couldn’t even work reliably on stage was a rare misstep for a company that prides itself on getting every detail correct. Unsurprisingly, Apple cut the scene from their posted recording of the event.

Setbacks aside, Apple’s media events typically turn out to be successful performances. Even though events in the Tim Cook era have been criticized as more predictable and mechanical than they were under Steve Jobs, their focus, energy, and sequencing have increasingly been mimicked by Apple’s competitors — a tribute to the strength of the format.

– See Part 2) Introducing the Teams: How PR Is Organized at 3 Infinite Loop


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Part 2) Introducing the Teams: How PR Is Organized at 3 Infinite Loop

From Seeing Through the Illusion: Understanding Apple’s Mastery of the Media, a profile examining Apple’s PR strategy:

Infinite Loop 3

Unlike Microsoft, Samsung, Adobe, cellular carriers, or Wal-Mart-sized corporations, Apple handles its PR and Communications strategies wholly in-house, mirroring its control over its hardware and software strategies. While Apple still works with external agency Media Arts Lab of TBWA on print, digital, and TV marketing efforts, it is actively reducing its reliance on that firm by boosting its in-house marketing resources. According to sources, Apple is “aggressively” poaching select members of Media Arts Lab for its in-house team, but not undertaking a full-on corporate raid.

Though Apple is a gigantic and ever-growing company, its PR and Communications group is surprisingly tiny. There are only around over 30 PR employees in Apple’s Cupertino offices, with another few dozen-some individuals scattered around the world to organize events, translate press releases, and either answer or dodge questions from journalists in every time zone. The Cupertino-based office is a wing on the third floor of Apple’s Product Marketing building, 3 Infinite Loop. Framed posters of vintage Apple advertisements decorate the area, which otherwise consists of plain white hallways with offices on either side, and two small common areas.

Inside the offices are the following separate teams of employees: Momentum, Mac, Corporate Communications, iPhone, iPad, iTunes, and Events. A decade ago, Apple PR was organized solely into Mac, Music, and Corporate Communications teams, but these groups expanded as Apple’s priorities shifted away from iPods and toward iPhones, iPads, and services, adding a group specifically tasked with building “momentum” for Apple products.

Modern Family

The iPad launched to an Apple-centric episode of Modern Family

Momentum and Buzz Marketing: The little-known Momentum and Buzz Marketing team is made up of a handful of people responsible for integrating Apple’s products into popular culture. For instance, Momentum works with major sports leagues to integrate the iPad into coaching toolkits, helps music events integrate iPads into festivities, and gets organizations to deploy iBeacon-integrated apps for attendees. When a brand new device shows up on a TV show before it’s in stores, Momentum was involved in making that happen.

The Momentum team is also key in pushing the latest App Store apps to pertinent magazines; if Apple wants golf magazines to feature a new iPad application that assists golfers with improving their swing, Momentum pushes the app to journalists to make that happen.

The team is also responsible for putting iPhones and Macs into the hands of celebrities and public figures. New York-based Brown Bartholomew and Cupertino-based Jennifer Bowcock have run the Momentum and Buzz Marketing team. Apple is also said to be seeking new Buzz Marketing professionals from within the communications industry to bolster this division.

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Mac: The Mac team is led by longtime PR executive Bill Evans, and is one of the larger PR groups. Mac covers all Mac hardware and software including OS X, consumer Mac apps, and professional apps. Each team member focuses on either the hardware or software side of the business.

Corporate Communications: Apple’s Corporate Communications team, led by Steve Dowling, handles matters related to general corporate initiatives, executives, investors, and earnings calls. Retail PR, run by Amy Bessette, is a branch of the Corporate Communications team.

iPhone, iPad, iOS, and iCloud: Currently led by Natalie Kerris and Teresa Brewer, the iPhone team has the most resources. Because iOS runs on the iPad and iPod touch in addition to the iPhone, Brewer contributes to iPad PR as well. Trudy Muller helps lead the main iPad team that is slightly smaller than the iPhone group, and iCloud matters are typically taken on by the iPhone team.

iTunes: The iTunes team oversees PR for the iTunes Store, iBooks Store, App Store, Apple TV, iPods, and partnership-based services such as CarPlay. The team is run mainly by Jennifer Ramsey and Tom Neumayr. The Apple TV branch is run by Christine Monaghan, and it has seen some increased attention over the past year with new marketing resources led by former Hulu executive Pete Distad. Once it was briefed on the deal, the iTunes group also helped manage communications surrounding the Beats acquisition.

Events: The Events team, like the Momentum and Buzz Marketing group, has only a handful of employees. This group takes the lead on setting up media events and conferences such as the annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. It also organizes all internal events, such as government official visits to Apple’s Campus and Friday afternoon “Beer Bashes.”

Certain PR staff are paired with individual executives, guiding them through Apple media events and interviews with reporters. While Dowling and Kerris work closely with Tim Cook, PR manager Amy Bessette works closely with Senior VP of Design Jony Ive, and Bill Evans works with Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller.

While the individual names might not mean a lot to you, the collective work of these teams profoundly shapes Apple’s media narrative. From the press releases you see to always-on-message interview quotes and frequently declined on-the-record comments – plus many off-the-record communications with the press – Apple’s PR teams control every word of what the company says, and many of the words that are written about it by others.

– See Part 3) Strategies: The “Art of Deep Background” and Controlling the Press


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Part 3) Strategies: The “Art of Deep Background” and Controlling the Press

From Seeing Through the Illusion: Understanding Apple’s Mastery of the Media, a profile examining Apple’s PR strategy:

MEdia

Apple’s PR department presents a cool, measured public-facing image: it only responds to press inquiries when it wants to, doesn’t offer quotes unless they’ll be reprinted without criticism, and responds directly only when it determines that something needs to be said by “Apple” rather than “sources familiar with the matter.” You could picture Apple’s PR strategy as the work of a wise, wealthy, and not particularly friendly queen – one always too busy to be bothered, until for some reason, she’s not.

So it’s a surprise that Apple actually isn’t that detached from the media: it’s more like a teenage girl obsessively keeping her fingers on the pulse of coverage. Members of Apple PR seek tabloid photos of celebrities holding iPhones, while others read Apple-focused blogs actively, and keep tabs on prominent Apple beat writers using anonymized social media accounts. A former Apple PR employee notes that the team enjoys being an “overall watchdog,” monitoring what the media is saying about the company every day. This oversight is so important to Apple that a few times a week, top executives are sent a document detailing the company’s latest press coverage. When Apple is not pleased with coverage, it sometimes works to shift the narrative, even attempting to undermine giant news organizations.

When Apple realized that The New York Times was gunning to win the Pulitzer Prize for its controversial iEconomy series on the Apple supply chain, Apple’s PR team sent articles criticizing The New York Times to other journalists, according to a person familiar with the strategy. Other people say that Apple used a similar approach to dispute some background information in Steve Jobs’ authorized biography by author Walter Isaacson, going after details that had not been directly provided by Jobs or Apple. Similarly, a journalist who covered Apple noted that the company will pitch a story in a specific way, and would “get annoyed” if the journalist wants to expand on the topic, or not use the angle that Apple was pitching.

Most recently, Apple utilized covert tactics to challenge a Reuters story about Apple’s accessibility practicesReuters referred to Apple as a champion of the blind community, but called for the company to do even more work in the accessibility field. Unable to get Apple to comment for the story, the article quoted a 2013 Tim Cook speech to underscore Apple’s understanding of accessibility’s importance. Despite being unwilling to officially participate, Apple asked Reuters off the record to include more quotes from Cook’s speech, said a person familiar with the situation. Reuters declined, since the speech is publicly available material. Instead of commenting on-the-record before or after the article was published, Apple’s PR team disapprovingly pointed a loyal group of Apple-focused bloggers to the entire 2013 speech transcript, and these bloggers then used the supplied details to attack Reuters. As Fortune put it, “it didn’t take long for [Apple's] friends in the media (with some gentle prodding from Apple PR) to strike back.” Despite being aware of the entire process, and having the opportunity to be positively, publicly involved, Apple publicly said nothing.

Saying little on-the-record is a classic Apple PR strategy.

“Their strategy is to say nothing; it keeps everyone guessing what Apple is up to, generates free publicity, and keeps them out of the trouble everyone gets into,” said a journalist with access to Apple PR. “Once you start answering questions, you get your foot in your mouth.” As a former member of Apple PR put it, “everything [related to Apple PR] is done strategically,” noting that “a lot of people don’t give credit to the art form of working on background.” This strategy is often executed when reporters contact Apple PR for comment or confirmation on a story. “If you were totally off-base, I would tell you” is the closest Apple will typically get to confirming a story that didn’t originate with the PR team, according to journalists at multiple major news outlets.

Other writers say that Apple will indirectly confirm or deny claims by sharing an analysis of the past track record of the particular author who originally wrote a story in question. Off-the-record, the company has warned journalists off of following the paths of other writers, or suggested that a relationship problem with Apple would be avoided if the journalist opts not to cover certain topics. These discussions can be helpful or stifling for the writer, but they’re generally all positive for Apple, which has the opportunity to shape what’s said.

Jobs covers

In past years, Steve Jobs and Katie Cotton would meet with magazine publishers and big-name newspaper journalists to talk about Apple’s plans. Since the discussions were completely off-the-record, the “information would be useless,” according to a person with knowledge of the meetings. Yet these editors still were being given “insight into the company,” which led to glowing profiles of Apple, according to the source. Jobs and Cotton maintained this strategy well into the age of Internet publications, as “Jobs’s view of the media was stuck in the newspapers he had in house growing up,” according to another connected journalist who covers Apple.

Another cornerstone tactic of Apple PR was playing publications against each other, according to Brian Lam, founder of The Wirecutter and former head of Gizmodo. When print magazines dominated, Jobs could get either Newsweek or TIME to promote Apple on the front cover by making them compete against each other for an exclusive. Lam explained that “you can’t convince them to give you a cover, but you can convince them to take a cover from a competitor.” As technology blogs became more important, Jobs played rivals Gizmodo and Engadget against each other, publicly complimenting the freewheeling Gizmodo‘s work in front of the more serious Engadget‘s then-editor Ryan Block. Says Lam, “this didn’t come from a position of weakness or manipulation, it was a power game.” Jockeying for more favorable coverage was “not any different from how Apple would strike their media deals or their supply chain deals to get the best prices.”

But this strategy did not always work. A person briefed on the situation recalls that upon Lam receiving an iPhone 3GS review unit in 2009, a top Apple executive told the former Gizmodo editor that “we’re giving you a phone before Walt Mossberg.” Since Mossberg was known to be a close friend of Steve Jobs, some people would have taken this as a major compliment. But Lam is said to have felt that Apple “didn’t understand the pride of a reporter,” and started pushing away from Apple.

Nonetheless, the strategies weren’t taken personally by Lam, nor by some of the other journalists we spoke with. The media “is just part of their plan,” said Lam. “They think big, not always about the people, it’s business.”

As another journalist who covers Apple put it, “when they want you, they come to you, but when they don’t want to answer a question or it doesn’t suit their needs, you’re lucky to get a call back at all.” A former member of Apple’s PR team acknowledged the imbalance in the relationship between Apple PR and journalists, which was not necessarily reciprocal – rather, it was one-sided in favor of Apple, with fewer real benefits to the journalist. Another former Apple employee said, It’s not about you, it’s about the company and it’s about the product.”

Apple’s PR team isn’t above quietly spreading negative press about competitors. For instance, when a publication “has written something negative about Android, [Apple PR] would send those stories around,” telling writers something like “that’s how we feel.” As just one example, Apple PR sent this email to two 9to5Mac reporters earlier this week, attempting to underscore an Android app’s failures.

ApplePR

While Apple’s PR strategies seem particularly manipulative, other technology companies try similar tactics. One reporter who covers a number of technology companies opined that “the huge difference is that people love Apple, and Apple PR knows it.” With that in mind, Apple “understands that they’re giving [journalists] a favor,” says Lam. “Apple knows it has something other journalists want,” another reporter says, “the plays are the same [as other companies'] but the motivations are different.”

“Where they are perceived as ruthless is that they know it and take super advantage of it,” the writer added. The bloggers who helped Apple PR shoot down the aforementioned Reuters accessibility story ostensibly did so as individuals, but their efforts had been quickly coordinated by the company for a specific purpose. Said a journalist, “any other company would provide the ammunition to do what you need to do; the difference is that Apple has a war machine that is ready to strike at any time.” And every effective war machine needs a leader.

– See Part 4) The Departure of a “Tyrant”


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