Andy Cunningham on Working with the Macintosh Developers

Source: Interview with Andy Cunningham by Wendy Marinaccio.

Marinaccio: You mentioned earlier that you were trying to recreate in the press events some of the feeling of working on the project. How did they choose who to include? There were about a hundred people who made substantive contributions to the Mac project, and obviously you couldn't include everyone; but how did Hertzfeld, Atkinson, et al get chosen to represent the project?

Cunningham: The people who were chosen from Apple to participate in the press work pretty much had to do with their seniority in the group they represented. For example, engineering was headed up by Bob Belleville and he was the most often used spokesperson. When we did interviews on the "Design Team" we focused on about seven people; that's where Atkinson and Hertzfeld came into play. Steve Jobs made the decision who was to be the core of the design team. But it was made up of one person from each aspect of the design: software, hardware, user interface, etc.

Marinaccio: Were there challenges in doing media training for the design team? The conventional wisdom is that managing software people is like herding cats, what with their inclination for pranks and anti-authoritarian attitudes. On the other hand, being cast as the tech equivalent of rock stars might have had its appeal. Did they take the media events seriously? Were they hard to work with, or to keep on message?

Cunningham: We never actually did formal media training for all these folks. We gave them key messages and outlines of what to say beforehand and helped them "study." We also attended each and every interview and helped it along in a million ways. We helped out the journalists in what questions to ask, we helped out the spokespeople when they didn't know how to answer a question and we steered the interview depending on what we wanted the coverage in that publication to be. We also followed up with each spokesperson after each interview to give feedback so that we could improve the next interview. Lastly, once the Mac was launched, we had thousands of journalists calling and we then assigned an additional number of spokespeople and provided them with extensive Q&A documents to help them answer questions over the phone. We assigned a certain group of journalists to each spokesperson to help improve relationship- building and maintain consistency in the messages. When there was an urgent press call (as most of them always were), we put a bright red note on the chair of the spokesperson indicating who should be called, what the deadline is and what the key message should be.

The team of spokespeople took the media calls and visits extremely seriously, which I'm sure came directly from Steve. He always took them very seriously. These guys were gems to work with and easy to keep on message. One of the great things about working on the Mac launch was that it was a real team, with each team player knowing what his/her job was. Ours was messaging and press. Theirs was software and hardware. No one ever questioned anyone else's expertise. Except Steve, of course, who questioned everyone's expertise all the time!


Document created on 14 July 2000;