Apple's post-Jobs comms strategy uncertain

Industry experts disagree on how much the death of cofounder and former CEO Steve Jobs will affect Apple's communications structure and strategy.

Industry experts disagree on how much the death of cofounder and former CEO Steve Jobs will affect Apple's communications structure and strategy.

Heidi Sinclair, president of the global technology practice at Weber Shandwick, said the company's marcomms tactics will likely remain consistent with the Jobs era.

“I think its been baked so deep in the DNA at this point that it's hard for me to imagine that they are going to change,” she said.

During Jobs' tenure as CEO, Apple was known for a tight-lipped communications strategy. PR practitioners have described Jobs as being very involved with the company's communications strategies, even to the point of developing relationships with reporters himself.

Apple was Sinclair's first client when she started her communications career at Regis McKenna. She added that if a major communications shift does occur at the company, it would likely not happen for some time.

“I've gone into companies and completely changed their communications DNA, but you can't do that when they've been around for a long time and are fairly iconic,” she said. “If it's going change, it will be evolutionary.”

Tim Dyson, CEO of Next Fifteen, said Apple's marcomms operations will not change until there is significant turnover within the company's management team.

“His philosophy on handling communications will live for a very long time,” said Dyson. “I don't think that's fundamentally going to change.”

However, Dyson pointed out that Jobs' habit of directly interacting with reporters, cultivating relationships, and knowing the ins and outs of their stories will be missed. The tactic, likely influenced by Jobs' strong attention to detail, is one rarely exhibited by members of the C-suite, he said.

“He managed those relationships personally in a way that very few CEOs do, and that will be missed,” said Dyson. “His personal drive and passion that he exhibited directly with the top tier media will be very hard to replace.”

Marketing consultant Andy Cunningham spent five years working closely with Jobs, first at Regis McKenna where she helped launch Apple's original Macintosh computer and later at her own agency, where she provided communications support for Jobs during his launches of NeXT and Pixar.

“Few CEOs have the commitment to communication that Steve had, and he sort of used that commitment and believed in that commitment in every aspect of the company,” said Cuningham, adding that intense commitment will undoubtedly dwindle with his passing. “It's unlikely that anybody else will have that type of commitment.”

Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn, noted that Jobs had a unique ability to keep an entire company aligned around a common strategy and set of shared beliefs, values, and goals. However, it's too early to tell whether someone else will be able to maintain that standard, she said.

You have to give Apple a chance to see whether he has infused this drive and vision into the DNA of the company,” she said.

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