Apple looking to externally hire ‘friendlier, more approachable’ PR chief

“Who’s going to succeed Katie Cotton as VP of worldwide corporate communications at Apple?” John Paczkowski reports for Re/code. “That’s one of the more interesting questions at the company these days following Cotton’s retirement last month after nearly two decades spent shaping its communications strategy.”

“Though there are at least two well-qualified internal candidates for the job — comms veterans Steve Dowling and Nat Kerris — Apple is also looking outside the company for Cotton’s replacement,” Paczkowski reports. “Sources in position to know tell Code/red that CEO Tim Cook is overseeing the search, aiming to find some high-profile external candidates for consideration. And he’s paying particular attention to those he believes could put a friendlier, more approachable face on Apple’s public relations efforts.”

“Hardly surprising, as VP of comms is a position that reports directly to Cook, and he obviously wants to put the best person he possibly can into it,” Paczkowski reports. “But interesting nonetheless, as passing over a pair of veterans groomed under company co-founder Steve Jobs for an outsider could herald a big shift in Apple’s PR strategy and its comms team.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We hereby nominate the term “communications strategy” as applied to anything executed by Katie Cotton for Oxymoron of the Decade. Hideously overusing the word “stunning” while repeatedly failing to communicate during the most critical times until belatedly forced to do so was hardly a “strategy.”

Type-by-numbers press releases and the occasional desperate damage control at figurative gunpoint is not a corporate communications strategy. Inability to learn from past mistakes is also not a winning talent in any field. Steve Ballmer had more of a strategy than Apple’s mute “PR department” under Katie Cotton (and he liked it, he liked it a lot; as did we, too – loved it, in fact).

It’s not that Apple’s corporate communication was all bad, it’s just that none of it was very good nor was it extant in a timely fashion. One can exude an air of mystery via silence and still execute competent crisis management when it’s needed. The two are not mutually exclusive. Controlling the message means not letting it spin out of control, which happened too often under Cotton.

Again, Katie, stunningly good luck in your retirement! We can’t wait to see if Apple stuns us by finally hiring a real corporate communications professional.

[Attribution: 9to5Mac]

Related article:
Apple’s PR head Katie Cotton to retire – May 7, 2014

22 Comments

  1. We shouldn’t blame the messenger if we don’t like the message. PR (or communications) executives serve at the pleasure of the CEO and reflect that person’s philosophy. Cotton was simply being her master’s voice to the media. The good news is that Cook may have finally realized that a new, more open and transparent strategy is called for.

    1. Some times, there is a need for vision and talent to do things well. Perhaps, a family member carries similar genetic or learned skills after years of being around anyone with such vast uncommon talents. If any of Steve Jobs kids had that flair or vision skills, it would be great to bring them on board. At first, quietly in the back ground. Let them be involved in one of the next big things. Can you imagine the rush of excitement if one of them wanted to take over where dad left off.

    2. Then Cook may have a faulty realization; Openness and transparency are what other companies do for their investors in order to mollify them as the company releases mediocre products. Apple does not need to, nor should it, emulate the style of mediocre companies. Once it it’s firmly established in this Cook MO style, the mystery is weakened, the spell is broken; It would have gone from being likened to a switch from, say, a liberal church to a strict fundamentalist one which I favor for a technology company such as the cutting edge Apple. The other guys can become transparent an softer.

  2. Memo to MDN: I must disagree. You’re shooting the messenger. “Stunning” is a word generated by Apple’s marketing team, and likely ordered to be used in press releases over the PR team’s objections. Having worked in PR for two decades, I know from experience the politics of writing and surviving rounds of edits of any press release.

    As for Katie Cotton, she was known as being a staunch defender of the company, often tough to approach, but according to a lot of experienced journalists reporting on her announcement to retire, no more difficult than her contemporaries at Microsoft, Google or Facebook. Her task was to control the story, guard against leaks and represent the wishes of management, which for many years reflected the wishes of Steve Jobs.

    To paint her as being otherwise would be inaccurate.

    The journalists who I respect reported that Cotton WAS indeed a highly professional communications executive, and was someone who would often return calls, unlike many of her contemporaries. A PR executive acts on strict directives from above, and it is well known that Apple jealously guards its secrets, and defends its turf. Equally so, Apple is not shy about hyping new products – that is the language of marketing, not PR. So while MDN doesn’t like that, in this case, I believe this website is blaming the wrong party.

    1. If, on multiple occasions, you had been woken up by Apple at 2am (the timing was on purpose) and told to remove a story or lose your Apple Store affiliation, you’d be singing quite the different tune today. MDN is dead on target.

  3. TRUTH:

    One can exude an air of mystery via silence and still execute competent crisis management when it’s needed. The two are not mutually exclusive. Controlling the message means not letting it spin out of control, which happened too often under Cotton.

  4. “We can’t wait to see if Apple stuns us by finally hiring a real corporate communications professional.”
    Stuns us by finally hiring a real marketing professional as well.

  5. The core of ’s strengths under Jobs is jumping ship or walking the plank to be replaced with sycophants under The Tim “Great Products In The Pipeline” Cook Regime.  has become just another corporation.

        1. And that’s why he hired Angela Ahrendts?

          Of all the trolls we’ve seen on MDN, you’re one of the stupidest, and competition is pretty stiff.

          -jcr

    1. Your commentary is just baffling. You know almost nothing. Here’s the story, Maurie. Apple has always been just another corporation. Except for the following: they are extremely well run, have assets that attest to growth, a stable stock price and fascinating products. They don’t own any market (nor should they). They compete quite nicely in the world of tech sales. They are a model of an efficient multi-national corporation whose balance of marketing, products and management team make them a real force to be reckoned with.

      and you are just a flame baiter, with your own narcissistic persecution complex.

      I hope when Obame leaves office he moves in next door to you.

  6. Hiring inside or outside is not any solution to anything. You want the best person. Thinking only of hiring from the inside is a really bad idea. Going insular is not the Apple culture. Going outside every box imaginable is the Apple culture.

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