Katie Cotton, Apple's legendary queen of public relations, is leaving the company after 18 years of managing what is arguably the most successful PR department in corporate history. According to Re/code, Ms. Cotton said it was a difficult decision, and that, "Apple is a part of my heart and soul."
"Katie has given her all to this company for over 18 years," Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said in a statement. "She has wanted to spend time with her children for some time now. We are really going to miss her."
It has been many years since Katie Cotton directly interacted with all but the biggest names in journalism, but her policies have set the tone and direction for Apple PR. In addition, she was trusted by the late Steve Jobs to be the gatekeeper for his company and to manage the secretive way the company announced new products.
I have long maintained that Apple's PR department is unique in the corporate world. While other PR departments work as hard as they can to get the press to say something, anything, about their company, Apple's PR's job is to keep the press at bay, and to control what gets said.
Combined with overall secrecy and the showmanship of Steve Jobs, it has been a winning formula for Apple. The press has hung on Apple's every product launch, resulting in untold millions—if not billions—in free Apple coverage.
That secrecy didn't just happen because Steve Jobs decreed it or because Tim Cook doubled down on secrecy. Katie Cotton has been the brains behind everything Apple PR has done, and her departure will no doubt be a loss for Apple.
There's no word yet on her replacement, when she will specifically leave, or whether or not Apple will tap an existing employee to step up or look outside for a new VP of worldwide corporate communications. My guess is that Apple will look internally for her replacement.