Steve Jobs was right about media relations

A tip of the hat to Steve Jobs—or whoever ghosts his words—for the the wonderfully concise statement last week announcing his resignation as Apple’s CEO. In 153 beautifully clear words the statement communicates the decision, provides details of an established succession plan, offers reassurance he’ll stay on as board chairman, and even gets a little personal message in at the end. The accompanying media release is equally brief.

Jobs doesn’t need to waste words, he knows the media and Apple devotees hanging on his every proclamation will do that—and they did. It was last week’s impossible to miss story across seemingly ever media outlet, old and new.

Amongst the career summaries and editorials on Jobs’ significance and impact was the unearthing of a quotable gem from 1997. Valerie Maltoni, whose work was picked up by PR Daily last week, transcribed a section of a Q&A Jobs did where he offered his thoughts on media relations and its relation to the activities of Apple:

“The press is going to have a lag time. And the best thing we can do about the press is to embrace them, do the best we can to educate them about the strategy. But we need to keep our eye on the prize.

“And that is turning out some great products, communicating directly with our customers the best we can. Getting the community of people that are going to make this stuff successful like yourselves in the loop, so you know everything and is marching forward, one foot in front of the other.

“The press will take care of itself. It’s like the stock price. The press and the stock price will take care of themselves. By the end of this year, it’s going to look quite different.”

This is an attitude more businesses and organisations should take heed of.

Too often the decree to get media coverage comes down from on high, resources are allocated, releases written, pitches made and, ultimately, no results follow. What’s regularly missing is an understanding of the role media coverage plays in an organisation’s communications mix. The thinking is simply: “I’ve decided I want it, I’ve paid for someone to arrange it, so surely the coverage will come.” Complaint ensues with little or no thought given to what the organisation has done to actually warrant media attention.

This thought process treats media coverage as something in and of itself, rather than as a channel for communicating something the organisation has done.

Where is the organisation’s community in this approach? Rather than devoting energy and time to the pursuit of media hits, the focus should be on actually creating something of value for them—be it better products, critical research or insightful industry comment. This can then be distributed via a range of channels, including the organisation’s website, blog, email newsletter and the media.

By all means, keep the media in the loop (you should), let them know what’s happening and build relationships with key players, but keep your energies focused on what your customers or stakeholders actually need. Get that right and not only will media coverage follow, you’ll likely have an engaged and devoted customer and stakeholder base. It’s something Steve Jobs has understood for quite sometime.

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