Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Video: Apple's PR machinery caught on tape (updated)

November 17, 2007: 11:26 AM ET

Managing public opinion is an important factor in the success of any big consumer electronics enterprise, and Apple (AAPL) does it better than most -- largely by staying out of the picture and letting Steve Jobs speak for the company.

But every once and a while the machinery with which Apple keeps a firm grip on the media shows through, and this is one of those occasions.

Under the heading Great Moments in Public Relations, Valleywag has posted a telling piece of video captured during the U.K. launch of the iPhone.

Benjamin Cohen, a journalist with Britain's Channel 4, is trying to ask Apple worldwide product marketing chief Phil Schiller a question about the relationship of the iPhone to the iTunes music store when he uses the M word -- monopoly. That's when Schiller's handlers swoop in and re-establish control of interview. The video speaks for itself.

As Valleywag managing editor Owen Thomas writes:

This is why Apple is really screwed if it ever loses Steve Jobs: He's the only guy at Apple who can actually pull off this act and handle the press convincingly while parroting the party line. Everyone else at Apple who's even allowed to speak to reporters just ends up looking robotically defensive when they try to erect a Jobsian reality-distortion field.

ADDENDUM: That was harsh. In retrospect, it was probably a mistake to let Owen Thomas, who is paid to be nasty, have the last word. Better to exit with Fake Steve Jobs, who has a good ear for these things:

The message I hope you'll take away from this encounter is simply this: Apple is the best. We're open and honest. We're the company you can trust. Sure, we might be a monopoly. Kind of, but not really, or maybe. But the stuff about us being a monopoly wasn't on the question list, was it? That's not something we agreed to discuss or were prepared to discuss.

And even if we are a monopoly, which we're not, but if we are, we're the good kind, the kind that is open and honest with you, not the bad, secretive, hostile kind that would shut down cameras and stifle communication. We're not some dictatorship in Ukraine or someplace like that where the government controls the media. And to all members of the obedient press corps everywhere, let me say this: Namaste. I honor the place where our spin and your stories become one. (link)

UPDATE: The Channel 4 report for which this outtake was filmed is now available online. See here. For more on the sequence of events that made this video a lesson in bad PR, see here.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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