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How would you PR the iSlate?

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 7th January 2010

Happy New Year! It’s January and that means one thing – time for some shiny new gadgets. CES is nearly upon us, the Nexus One is out already and Apple has already named the date for its latest unveiling later this month.

But with so much noise, the Apples and Microsofts of the world will be entering into vicious tech PR wars to secure those all important column inches (or web pages!).

John Martellaro, a former Apple marketing bloke, has given a glimpse into the way Apple handles the media before a big product launch, in light of the Wall Street Journal’s revelation about the iSlate this week:

Often Apple has a need to let information out, unofficially. The company has been doing that for years, and it helps preserve Apple’s consistent, official reputation for never talking about unreleased products. I know, because when I was a Senior Marketing Manager at Apple, I was instructed to do some controlled leaks.

The way it works is that a senior exec will come in and say, “We need to release this specific information. John, do you have a trusted friend at a major outlet? If so, call him/her and have a conversation. Idly mention this information and suggest that if it were published, that would be nice. No e-mails!”

The communication is always done in person or on the phone. Never via e-mail. That’s so that if there’s ever any dispute about what transpired, there’s no paper trail to contradict either party’s version of the story. Both sides can maintain plausible deniability and simply claim a misunderstanding. That protects Apple and the publication.

In the case of yesterday’s story, Walt Mossberg was bypassed so that Mr. Mossberg would remain above the fray, above reproach. Also, two journalists at the WSJ were involved. That way, each one could point the finger at the other and claim, “I thought he told me to run with this story! Sorry.”Finally, the story was posted online late Monday, eastern time, so no one could ever suggest there was any attempt to manipulate the stock market.The net result is that Apple gets the desired information published by a major Wall Street news outlet, but can always claim, if required, it was all an editorial misunderstanding. The WSJ is protected as well.

picture credit

Danny Whatmough