On Wednesday, Katie Cotton announced that she would be stepping down from her position at Apple to spend more time with her children. During her nearly two decades at Apple, Cotton served as gatekeeper to company co-founder Steve Jobs and current CEO Tim Cook. She also guided the media narrative around almost everything from the iMac to the iPad.
Cotton made PRWeek’s Power List in 2010 alongside the late Steve Jobs. She was recognized for leading the incredibly successful and mysterious communications culture behind the company.
Her entry in the 2010 Power List stated, “It is certainly tough to assess the communications strategy of a company whose official policy resembles the ancient Sicilian Code of Omerta. Despite its reticence to act ‘normally’ – or perhaps due to it – Apple’s products attract credibility, mystique, and reputation beyond any PR strategy.” The profile added, “the strategy annoys competitors and industry observers alike – but it works.”
Apple is known for doing business differently from other tech giants, this also goes for their communications strategy. “Apple stubbornly refuses to conform to traditional communications norms, making a feature of its lack of openness that historically contributed to the mystique and air of exclusivity around the brand, as well as some frustration.”
Cotton’s career is that of the dreams of every PR pro. She handled communications for one of the most recognizable brands in the world under the direction of Jobs. Cotton helped craft the story of mystery and intrigue for Apple. She had to handle what most public relations professionals will have to do- deal with the kind of boss like Jobs. No matter if you’re going into the entertainment industry or a PR firm, you will have to handle difficult clients. This is the nature of the business, but to please and report to one of the most notorious people in the high tech industry…I’d rather manage a rock band.
Cotton accomplished her goals by creating an in house PR firm within Apple. Normally companies as big as Apple would hire a firm, not Apple, the leadership was completely created under Cotton’s watch. Cotton was never pictured on Apple’s executive leadership page, but my impression has long been that she was one of the most influential executives at the company. It is difficult to find a photograph of Jobs or Cook at a press event in which she is not at their side.
This guest blog was written by PRowl staff member Nathan Wilson.