Microsoft PR stumbles on post AOL-Time Warner deal

REDMOND, WA: In the wake of the America Online-Time Warner bombshell, Microsoft tried on a number of PR hats last week - none of which furthered its flailing corporate image, according to several industry pundits and insiders.

REDMOND, WA: In the wake of the America Online-Time Warner bombshell, Microsoft tried on a number of PR hats last week - none of which furthered its flailing corporate image, according to several industry pundits and insiders.

REDMOND, WA: In the wake of the America Online-Time Warner

bombshell, Microsoft tried on a number of PR hats last week - none of

which furthered its flailing corporate image, according to several

industry pundits and insiders.



Reacting to news of the deal, the Redmond software colossus retreated to

a ’what about those guys?’ whining defense. While an obvious tactic to

take, pointing fingers at AOL Time Warner struck some as slightly

immature.



’It’s seldom a good strategy to point at someone else, and if you do it,

you should use a third party for credibility,’ said Rob Enderle, an

analyst with Giga Information Group.



Later in the week, Bill Gates stepped down as CEO and handed over the

reins to right-hand man Steve Ballmer. At first glance, the

torch-passing looked like a good PR move for Microsoft.



’The respite from day-to-day involvement should afford Gates’s handlers

the time to complete the boss’s makeover from rapacious tycoon to Uncle

Buck,’ quipped ZDNet columnist Charlie Cooper. However, Cooper also

pointed out that Gates’s image as brilliant programming nerd is itself a

well-honed myth: ’Gates has never been a super programmer. What

Microsoft has always been best at is marketing.’



Nevertheless, some aren’t sure Ballmer - dubbed ’Mr. Engulf and Devour’

in a ZDNet story - will do much to change Microsoft’s reputation as a

bully.



’I doubt that Ballmer will bring a truly fresh perspective,’ said one

Silicon Valley PR agency head. ’He is pretty much a Gates clone.’



Microsoft’s tattered image suffered a final blow last week with the

release of its formal legal response to the preliminary trial findings.

The Industry Standard likened Microsoft’s rebuttal to Bart Simpsons’s

oft-repeated line, ’I didn’t do it. Nobody saw me do it. You can’t prove

anything.’



Giga’s Enderle said he recently told Ballmer that fixing the company’s

PR machine should be the company’s number-one priority.



’Microsoft does have talented people in PR, but they have no authority

to really make changes,’ he said. ’They have too many spokespeople

putting out mixed messages.’



Added another naysayer, ’The Internet industry, rightly or wrongly,

believes that Microsoft has lost relevance - the market is morphing

around them. They would do well to let their PR strategy reflect that.

It’s time to learn some humility.’



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