Beats and Apple: What Your Company Can Learn From TechHere’s how the Internet works – someone lets slip that Apple’s buying Beats for $3.2 billion, the Financial Times runs a piece on it, and everyone loses their minds. Since the news broke last week, the Internet’s seemed like 93% speculation about this story and 7% cat pictures. (There will always be cat pictures.) There’s more to this story than headphones and tech companies – there’s a lesson about how your company should handle the next big (or small) news story.

As I’m writing this, there’s still no official news (unless you count this already-removed video with Beats founder Dr. Dre and Tyrese). That’s not stopping anyone from speculating on whether or not the deal is real and why Apple would want to buy the company in the first place. Some people think it’s got something to do with the recent move by Beats into the streaming audio arena; others think Apple’s just really interested in some big-ass headphones. There are more theories, but whether or not any of the ideas are correct, until we get an official statement from Apple or Beats, we can expect the wild speculation to continue.

In the absence of details about a narrative, we’re more than happy to create our own. The basic layout of the rumor gives us most of what we need – we know the who (Apple and Beats), the what (giant purchase of an electronics company with great commercials by another electronics company with great commercials), the where (the Internet, I guess, or wherever these megadeals take place), and the when (super-recently), but we don’t know the why.

Of course, that’s the most fun part to speculate about. Maybe Apple wants to reach out to African-Americans! Maybe Beats have magic wires that Apple needs! Maybe Beats has better licensing for streaming music than Apple could get, so Apple just wants to buy those rights! Maybe we’re going to see giant iPhone boxes with giant headphones built right in!

Apple’s a giant company and there are likely some pretty good reasons why they can’t come out and tell us exactly what they’re thinking with this (alleged) purchase. We may never get Apple’s full take on the story. Chances are good the announcement will come in a press release designed to give us just enough information to say “oh, that’s cool” and then move on to wondering when we’re getting that iWatch or whatever.

However, chances are just as good that if you’re reading this, you’re not working for Apple. Your company might not have a $3.2 billion dollar purchase to announce, but you do have news – whether that’s a new hire or a new product or something smaller. And whenever you’ve got news, you’ve got interested people who are going to fill in the blanks on their own.

Everyone’s seen those poorly-reported “news stories” in the local newspaper that are really nothing more than a rehashing of a press release a company sent out touting their charitable contribution to a local cause or the creation of a couple new internships. For those stories, the information contained in a standard press release is probably enough for most people. We’ve seen enough stories with that same feel that we’re frankly not very interested.

When you’ve got news that’s slightly more compelling, that’s when people are more willing to create narratives where there aren’t any. Your company is hiring someone away from the competition? Moving into a smaller office? Opening up a new area of business? That’s when you’ve got the chance to create the narrative for your organization before other people make it up for you.

Here are three things to keep in mind the next time your organization has news worth spreading:

1.       Press Releases Are Pretty Boring.

Generally, we’ve gotten used to the idea that press releases are totally-pasteurized documents where nothing interesting happens. Any quotes have been signed off by everyone in the organization, each buzzword carefully chosen – and if you’re looking for the actual inside scoop, you know you’re not going to find it there. It works great for the company, less so for the general public.

You can keep that same level of control and make the information much more compelling just by switching up the medium. If Apple sends out a press release tomorrow with a quote from CEO Tim Cook about how “excited we are to move in this new direction,” it will likely be met with a sigh and continued speculation. If instead there’s a video with Cook standing next to Dr. Dre, that video (and whatever story it tells) becomes the new narrative immediately.

2.       Say Something Real.

While the usual form of press releases are pretty boring, it doesn’t help that the content is usually so stale. With the rise of inbound and content marketing, we’re conditioning our audiences to respond better to stories… and then we’re asking them to pay attention to the block quote an intern wrote with the sole intention to be as inoffensive as possible.

By telling a real story when you’ve got news to announce, you get rid of a lot of the impetus for people to make up stories on their own. You’re giving them a compelling narrative to talk about, rather than making something up. Your organization might not have a Tim Cook or a Dr. Dre, but grab someone high in the company and have them tell the real story behind the headlines. You probably won’t be able to use all that info, but the key to a compelling narrative is in there somewhere.

3.       Be Fluid.

One of the most maddening things about this Apple/Beats situation has been the radio silence from everyone involved (again, excluding that awesome Dre/Tyrese video). While there’s surely some official word coming – eventually – if this sale is real, it’s the forced wait for official info that’s giving rise to all this speculation. Again, your company might not be closing a $3.2 billion deal, but keeping a steady flow of information is a great way to control the narrative around your latest news.

If your efforts don’t move the conversation in the way you would like, it’s easier than ever to introduce more information and keep the discussion moving. Between blogs, video posts, podcasts and social media, your company has plenty of low-cost options to inform the public of what you’re up to.

Apple has a history of shooting down crazy ideas, going back to personal e-mails from former CEO Steve Jobs.  I’m not recommending having your CEO shoot e-mails off to everyone who’s talking about your company online, but keeping an eye on the conversation developing around your news and not being afraid to engage it can really help your organization keep your message at the forefront.

We’ll figure out what the real story with Apple and Beats is soon enough (hopefully), but in the meantime the speculation behind the deal and Apple’s motive will continue. Until it’s all out in the open, you can at least learn from the example of what happens when there’s “news” without any official news, and work on shaping your company’s response to your next big story.