Lindsay Olson

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What Every PR Person Can Learn from Apple's iPad Launch

This is a guest post by Alison Kenney.

The buzz around Apple's launch of the iPad last week was deafening. It eclipsed Toyota's recall announcement, Holocaust Remembrance Day and the President's State of the Union address (but was probably greeted happily by corporations with bad news to announce that day, e.g. Verizon's layoff of 13,000 employees).

So one might think that Apple's PR team is exceptional and that they pulled an amazing campaign together full of extremely innovative tactics. Although I surely won't be arguing that Apple doesn't have some of the best PR pros around, if you look closely at the way they roll out new product news, you'll see that rather than pushing the envelope they are more likely to promote tried-and-true best practices:

Earn your audience: Apple'siPad launch worked (in PR terms, i.e. buzz, messages communicated, brand remained strong) because the company was building upon the successes of its previous product rollouts. Dating back to the Mac and as recently as the iPod and iPhone, Apple has earned audience recognition as an amazing product company.

Big brands must exercise control or risk missteps: We've seen this with Domino's Pizza and recently with Tiger Woods. As Joe Ciarallo writes for MediaBistro, "For all the talk how important it is for companies to be more open and transparent in this new media world we live in, Apple is one of the most secretive companies, especially when it comes to PR and marketing, yet it is also one of the most loved brands." The controlled campaign included an exclusive news scoop to a top-tier media outlet, the Wall Street Journal, which generated an incredible amount of viral buzz and was followed by a formal announcement event the next day.

How did Apple pull this off?: There is speculation that the exclusive was actually a controlled leak. Whether it was or wasn't, Apple's launch was a success because it relied on these best practices:

The best spokesperon ever: just try to name another business executive who is as universally recognized in such a positive way as Steve Jobs. You can't The aura and mystique that Jobs has developed lends itself to the sleek design and supernatural status of Apple's products too. Jobs is Apple.

Lead with PR, not advertising — Apple′s campaigns never mention beta cycles, prototypes or "vaporware."  Their announcements include real news — "˜here′s the product, here′s Steve Jobs using it, here′s how/when you can buy it and how much it will cost.′

Give people something to talk about — not all of the feedback and early reviews of the iPad were positive, but there sure was a lot of it.  The New York Times tracked Twitter traffic related to the iPad and reported a high of 2,200 tweets/minute.  From controversy over the name, which some said reminded them of feminine hygiene products and which Fujitsu claimed it owned, to whether this marked a departure from AT&T's exclusive relationship with Apple and even whether the iPad would be around long before it was overtaken with Apple′s next revolutionary device.

Image credit: Graphic Spirit

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