Rotten Apples? Reporting bad news in the papers

Posted on: 2013-04-26 in Opinion   |   Tagged: industry watch lisa gillingham

Most business titles went for the low hanging fruit this week when Apple announced its disappointing results, according to Lisa Gillingham (@lisagillingham), Account Director at Bray Leino

During a week when there was arguably far more serious news to get het up about – terrorists, GDP and Kate Middleton finally actually looking pregnant to name but a few stories, Apple’s financial results made headlines across the board on Wednesday. The company announced that its profits had fallen for the first time in a decade. This is in sharp contrast to today’s results from Samsung, which reported a net profit in Q1 this year of over 7 trillion Korean won – which is such a large amount of money it frankly sounds a bit made up.

In many cases, the press reported Wednesday’s news from Apple with thinly disguised schadenfreude and wild speculation about what this will mean for the future of Apple. This made for a good story, along with a sub editor’s wet dream of headline choices – lost its bite, rotten Apples, getting to the core of the problem, no longer a-PEELing, crunch time etc (note: I might have made some of these up, if they weren’t used, they should have been). Many publications found it hard to suppress a joyous ‘hurrah!’ at the prospect of a company that has been so phenomenally successful finally looking a bit ropey.

And who can blame them? It’s human nature after all, and let’s be honest we don’t go to the papers for moral guidance (with the possible exception of Guardian readers), we go for information, opinion and ideally pictures of Kate Middleton’s lovely shiny hair.

From a PR professional’s perspective however, Apple’s financial results was a story that generated some animated chat in the office this week. This is because it started a debate around the media’s role in shaping public opinion and the eventual outcome of the news stories they report on. Could the reporting on the Apple results become the grounding for much knowledgeable tongue-clicking and ‘I told you so’ comments that could impact our next technology purchase as consumers, that could in turn bring Apple down? Or is the big white shiny beast of a company way too resilient to be affected in the long term by one bad set of figures?

Time will tell, but who remembers working in b2b PR in 2007? Remember how all of a sudden there was this sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US that made it out of the FT and into more mainstream press, causing talk of a credit crunch and people tightening their belts in anticipation of a financial crisis and…..oh. Look what happened. We all tightened our belts and the economy slowed down and Lehman Brothers went all wonky and….well, you know the rest.

It’s very naïve to suggest that the media is entirely to blame for our current global economic turmoil but there’s a strong argument that the reporting on the credit crunch became a self-fulfilling prophesy, that we ultimately talked ourselves into a recession. Could the Apple story become another example of this effect?

Now I don’t know about you but I’ve noticed a gradual change in national business news reporting over the last few months. It’s as if finally the papers are realising that, just maybe, if they tell it differently the news might have an impact on how we’re all feeling. For example, the Daily Telegraph is running its ‘Good News Britain’ campaign in the business section, and even under its masthead the paper is ‘backing business and enterprise’. What does this mean for us PR people? Well I reckon it’s always much easier to get good news stories out of clients, so if business editors are more interested in using them, that’s fine by me.

Fallen giant-based glee or positive business growth stories? Let’s see how this pans out.

In other news this week it was St George’s Day, and many of the papers greeted us on Tuesday with the groundbreaking news that most Brits, given the choice, would quite like another bank holiday in the year. Who said research was a tired tactic? 

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About this blog


The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog is managed by B2B PR specialist Heather Baker, founder TopLine Comms, an inbound marketingB2B content marketing agency and proud HubSpot partner agency and takes contribution from anyone sensible in the industry with something intelligent to say.  Follow Heather on Twitter @TopLineFounder or contact the B2B PR Blog editorial team via email on [email protected].


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