Apple shapes the agenda by spoon-feeding the media a soundbite, headline or fact that is memorable, interesting and often irresistible.
Apple loves superlatives
Bernard O'Riordan, Clarity Media Trainer
Have you ever wondered why some companies seem to constantly steal the media limelight while others just can’t take a trick when it comes to being quoted?
One of the most obvious reasons for being left out of a story may be that you, or your client, just wasn’t interesting.
Perhaps you didn’t develop and deliver quotable insights, or you failed to understand a reporter’s hot spots.
That's not something the world’s most-popular and most-valuable brand could be accused of. Tech giant Apple is the perfect example of a company that meticulously plans and consistently delivers bite-sized capsules of information it knows a reporter will crave.
The secret of its success - aside from having desirable gadgets - is that it shapes the agenda by spoon-feeding the media a sound bite, headline or fact that is memorable, interesting and often irresistible.
So it was no coincidence that billions of people in every corner of the globe last week probably saw a headline or quote in their morning paper that described Apple’s new iPhone 5 as “an absolute jewel”.
It was a simple, colourful, pre-planned phrase designed to position Apple’s latest iPhone as elegant, magnificent and unique.
The famously-orchestrated event even had the iPhone 5 mounted on a revolving pedestal to suggest it was some kind of precious gemstone.
When it comes to the media, Apple doesn’t leave anything to chance. That’s why its magical bag of tricks also included a truckload of superlatives (words that end in “ST”) to highlight the unique benefits and qualities of its products.
Among the more than 25 superlatives we counted were gems like: “the thinnest and lightest iPhone”, “the finest tablet”, “fastest phone roll-out”, “the biggest thing to happen for iPhone”, “the most popular brands”, “the best buying experience” and "the first of its kind".
Headline-grabbing companies know reporters need superlatives to capture the significance of an event, issue, product or opportunity. And they deliver them before reporters slap their own adjectives on a situation.
So it was no surprise that countless reports in newspapers and on TV and radio referred to the 4G handset as the “thinnest, lightest, fastest” smart phone in the world.
Apple’s well-oiled PR machine knew there was no better way to describe it, so they served it up to reporters on a platter with obvious results.
In the eyes of technology reporters, Apple is probably no more likeable than any other major tech company. It’s just that Apple executives give reporters what they need - and they do that in a very visual and entertaining way.
Rather than just dumping data on reporters, Apple executives add context and tell stories that persuade, convince and bring a story alive.
That’s a trait the late CEO Steve Jobs perfected, and the baton has passed to a new generation of leaders like CEO Tim Cook and vice president Phil Schiller.
Sure, you could argue that Apple’s hyperbole is distracting and is even starting to wear thin with the media. But when it comes to grabbing their attention, the results speak for themselves.
Not every company has the deep pockets or easy appeal of Apple. But one thing companies large and small can learn from Apple is the art of keeping things simple, particularly when dealing with a global audience on a technical topic.
For any company wanting to be more media friendly, here's a few basic tips you can learn from Apple:
Less is more: Apple’s focus on simplicity is almost unique in the corporate arena. That’s why there are no bullet points in an Apple presentation and the average PowerPoint slide has less than 40 words. The company’s homepage is also a good example of how less is more;
Seeing is believing: Apple lets its products do the talking. At last week’s event, Schiller (left) put his finger next to the new MacBook Pro notebook to show just how thin it was. Visual demonstrations convince when words fail to inspire;
Avoid jargon: Apple is a technology company, but you rarely hear any reference to gigabytes, megabytes or other technical terms at its major events. Apple executives know they need to speak the language of consumers, and that means keeping it simple and interesting;
Stick to the “Rule of Three”: An Apple presentation is typically divided into three parts and last week's event focused on three products: the iPhone, the iPod and the Mac;
Pre-plan one memorable sound bite: Apple executives didn’t make up the “absolute jewel” line or any of the countless superlatives in the heat of the moment. They were carefully planned and drip fed to reporters in a conversational way. A few theatrics on stage reinforced the idea that the iPhone 5 was indeed a jewel.