To a certain extent, I imagine doing Apple’s PR must be a slightly cushy number. Apple are usually extremely reticent to talk about anything you want to talk about, preferring instead to drone on about what they want to talk about; if you’re writing a feature on almost any subject except what was in the last Apple press release, you’ll usually find it impossible to get a spokesperson out of Apple.
Unfortunately, it’s not like there’s much you can do about it. You can’t exactly hint that most of your Macworld feature will be about Dell as a result, now can you?
So that’s easy PR living, right? No pesky interviews to arrange, just press events aka ‘parties’. Although there’s a large number of people who got into PR to be professional communicators, etc, there’s still a sizeable number who got into PR because they wanted to be party planners but couldn’t pass those tricky entrance exams. Again, I imagine that within the tech PR industry, there’s a group who aspire to work on the Apple account as the zenith of their profession because it’s all the ‘good’ bits of PR without the ‘bad’ bits.
Or at least it would be if it weren’t for the facts the parties will typically be composed of those highly socially skilled, meterosexual fashionistas: tech journalists.
Bite PR is the firm that currently has the Apple account. Wherever two or more tech journalists gather, if those two names are mentioned in the same sentence, you can guarantee the next 15 minutes will be spent relating amusing tales of inefficiency and cluelessness. I’ve already told you about a few of my personal experiences (company four here, here, here, here, here and here) and I’m sure if you search around, you can find tales from other UK journalists. Sorry, Bite. That’s just the way it is.
Worryingly for you guys, Apple appears to be cottoning on to this fact.
I’ve just finished a piece for Macformat on trying to be as green as possible with your Mac: you might get to hear my dulcet tones on the Macformat podcast, some time in January as a result. I got the commission last Monday, so on Tuesday, I left a message with Apple’s main PR person, whom I shall call “Spelling” – her name is on the end of every press release from Apple UK as the main contact point, if you want to crack this secret code.
Spelling’s out of the office, says her voicemail, but she’ll get back to me the next day. So I leave a message. Never leaving things to chance, though, I ring up Bite.
Me: Can I speak to someone on the Apple account, please?
Bite: I work on the Apple account.
Me: Okay. I need to speak to someone from Apple about their green policies. In particular, I want to know how they’re going to implement the WEEE directive and what their recycling policies are.
<INSERT LONG EXPLANATION OF WHAT THAT ALL MEANS, DEADLINES, ETC>
Bite: Okay, I’m not sure if we’ll be able to find a spokesperson.
<INSERT LONG EXPLANATION ABOUT APPLE’S RELUCTANCE TO TALK ABOUT ANYTHING>
Bite: Anyway, could you send that all as an email to us? That way all the team will know about it.
So even though you work on the account and I’ve told you what I want, you’re hoping someone else will handle the enquiry. Oh well.
I email the standard Apple/Bite email address. As per usual, I get no reply. Well, that’s not strictly true. Four hours later, I did get a couple of “xxxx is out of the office” emails. You can tell just how urgently Bite’s Apple team treats enquiries when even their “out of the office” emails can’t be bothered.
Yesterday morning, when I’m halfway through writing up the article, I get a call from Apple’s press office. “I understand you left a message with Spelling. How can we help?” I explain everything. All I need now is someone to answer one question: how will Apple respond to the WEEE directive?
Now given that WEEE is going to come into force in the UK on the 1st January, you’d have thought someone would know. OK, it’s July before everything’s compulsory, but all the same, at least a vague idea of what Apple’s plans will be should be formulating somewhere in Uxbridge or Paris by now.
But no. Today I get an email:
Apologies for not getting back to you in time yesterday. This issue has been escalated and we are looking into it but within the timeframe it has not been possible to turn around a response. In future, it is probably easier if you come to us directly with press enquiries!
Because I’m a little tinker, I replied thusly:
I did. I called [Spelling] last Tuesday (the 12th). I also contacted Bite PR last Tuesday, by phone and by email. Are you saying I shouldn’t bother with Bite PR in future?
Here, for your edification, is the reply:
Yes – if you could come directly through to the press office then the whole team will see it and respond asap.
So there you go, Bite. Looks like parties will still be your province. But for actual proper journalism, Apple now want us to go directly to them. Sorry.