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Was the iPad the best PR launch ever?

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 16th February 2010

First, a bit of a disclosure: I’m a huge Apple fan. I love my Mac nearly as much as my iPhone and the latter, my friends and family will all tell you, is glued to my hand for most of the day.

So bearing this in mind, you can probably imagine my excitement on the 26th January, frantically refreshing Engadget’s live blog, as I eagerly waited to see what new gift Apple would bring into the world.

The sheer volume of media coverage for the iPad was, even for Apple, quite amazing. It blew away the entire coverage of the CES trade show earlier in the month and had Nationals and tech mags alike straining for the first picture of the new tablet computer.

So why, with all this media attention and eager anticipation, was I left feeling a bit disappointed when the product launched?

The iPad is a great piece of technology and looks amazing. But there was also quite a bit missing – for example, no new OS, no flash support, no camera. Was I being too fussy? I was left feeling that the surprisingly low price point was the only silver lining.

And then I realised what the problem was: all the months of speculation and buzz had blown this device out of all proportion. I read spectators who were claiming this was the device that would ‘change computing for ever’ – quite a claim, and one that the iPad would never meet.

So was this something that Apple’s PR could have handled differently? Should the media storm before the launch have been handled more carefully to avoid this sense of disappointment?

Apple’s PR is different to many tech vendors and part of this is because of the evangelical nature of the support the company has both in the media and amongst its customer base. Using leaks and a ‘no-denial’ policy, the media storm before any announcement usually reaches fever pitch.

The day after the launch, I was asked to comment on the PR around the iPad for Utalkmarketing. I said that “in the long run this slight negativity is unlikely to have any effect on sales or their brand image.”

I still believe this to be true; the iPad will be very successful, despite its initial failings. Apple has form here. The first incarnation of the iPhone wasn’t exactly perfect. Sure, it was a great device and revolutionary in so many ways, but it didn’t have 3G support, video, or copy and paste – in fact the list of failings was quite long. But the device still sold and the later upgrades more than made up for its initial teething issues.

Therefore I have no doubt the iPad will sell, and sell well. I’m also sure that Apple will continue to encourage the hype and buzz that surrounds its future product launches. The truth is that we all love to speculate and today’s multi-channel, real-time media landscape means that canny PRs have a multitude of opportunities to build moment-by-moment suspense on behalf of clients when the right story presents itself.

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