McCraney Communications Blog

Apple Watch- PR Lessons for the C-Suite

Apple watch photo courtesy of Associated Press

Apple watch photo courtesy of Associated Press

When Apple chief Tim Cook unveiled the Apple watch with a typically unfussy flourish March 9, he accomplished something most CEOs only dream of; he made news with a product announcement. Even better, the event kicked off a lively conversation that’s been happily buzzing ever since. Media mentions have been in the millions and the PR value attached to those stories is calculated at many times more. Apple enjoys the elite position of not having to pitch its news to the media; the media knocks on their door.

NBC’s Today Show had Carson Daley on the story, setting it up with a clever tease,  “Fun at Apple’s expense?” Daley’s story, showcasing the $10k gold “Edition”  was upbeat , featuring huge, crisp digital images of three models of the watch , with price tags dangling . He did lightly poke fun at the prices, but so what? Apple had center stage and their product looked terrific.

The headlines, at least most of them, were a public relations consultant’s dream: “Apple’s Watch Is Almost Here Here’s What Wall Street Is Expecting”- Wall Street Journal, “Apple Watch arrives in April as most advanced timepiece ever created”- C-Net, and it goes on and on. Reuters took a scolding across tech media with their headline “Exclusive: Apple Watch not on shopping list for 69 percent of Americans: Reuters poll”, with Apple defenders chiming in to point out the bright side of nearly 40 percent of those polled having an interest in a product they haven’t even seen yet. Reuters followed up a few days later with “Nearly 40 percent of iPhone owners interested in Apple Watch: poll “

Giving Ambassadors the tools they need

Apple users have long played a crucial role in accelerating the company’s growth. Years before Apple even considered advertising , Mac users were creating a fiercely loyal user group that eventually led many prominent web developers to make the switch from PC to Mac. The brand’s popularity was built largely on the user experience and word of mouth marketing, staples of  public relations. Mac users take their allegiance to the streets- check out the popularity of the Apple icon displayed on the rear windows of cars and trucks coast to coast.

Apple’s appreciation of the power wielded by brand ambassadors shines in the Apple watch launch on a deeper level.  Apple introduced Watch Kit in 2014, giving third parties the opportunity to build apps to engage with the wave. ESPN, Major League Baseball, Target, Honeywell, Nike, American Airlines, Starwood, BMW and others were quick to jump in with apps to boost the watch’s relevance across multiple channels. That kind of third party endorsement is a fundamental PR tool.

Integrated messaging key to Apple success

Apple has long been known for its meticulous attention to marketing detail, and there’s a valuable lesson in there for the C-suite in any business or industry. While many companies push their  public relations strategists to the fringe of the inner circle (if they let them in at all), Apple does the opposite, embracing the message as a foundational element of organizational strategy. Mark Gurman’s Seeing Through the Illusion: Understanding Apple’s Mastery of the Media, a profile examining Apple’s PR strategy , is a must-read for anyone wanting an inside look the company that makes the Apple watch tick.

Strategy wins

Apple’s communications strategy favors substance over hype. Hype may spark a burst of publicity, but the impact is as fleeting as the clichéd “15 minutes of fame” it may garner. A carefully considered public relations strategy, appropriately integrated into the business plan, will yield results that resonate with core audiences for the long run. You can’t just talk a good game; you have a play a good game by creating an exceptional product or service and connecting with your target audience. Apple has cracked the code on that.

This article was originally published on March 21, 2015 on PRCG PowerLines.