REDMOND, WA: Microsoft’s damage control crew sprang decisively into action last week following U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield’s ’finding of fact’ that the company is a monopoly.
REDMOND, WA: Microsoft’s damage control crew sprang decisively into
action last week following U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield’s
’finding of fact’ that the company is a monopoly.
Many onlookers believed that the ruling, which held that Microsoft has
harmed consumers by stifling competition, would once again leave the
company’s PR minions with the task of preserving a tarnished image. Yet
it is unlikely that the judge’s finding truly had anyone on Microsoft’s
PR team quaking in their boots.
Though PRWeek was unable to reach anyone from Microsoft’s corporate PR
staff or its agency of record, Waggener Edstrom, the company’s quick
post-decision response points to a well-thought-out contingency
Within hours of Penfield’s ruling, Microsoft issued a VNR with a
response from Bill Gates, who seemed to hint at the possibility of a
Also, Gates hosted a press conference from the software behemoth’s
Redmond campus, discussing the company’s future plans and response to
Throughout both the release and the press conference, the message was
consistent: ’innovation is good.’ Maintaining the freedom to innovate,
Gates suggested, was the company’s key goal, no matter what happened
regarding a settlement or further findings. Microsoft COO and EVP Bob
Herhold reiterated these same messages (in almost comical redundancy)
during an interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose over the following
Even if Microsoft’s PR team denies any direct connection, it seems
fairly obvious that its recent lobbying and media relations efforts were
preemptive strikes in anticipation of a harsh ruling. In September, for
instance, Microsoft invited an envoy of key academics and
representatives from Washington non-profit groups on a free trip to
Redmond to show off Microsoft technology and discuss policy issues.
Similarly, the strategy of positioning Bill Gates as a ’regular Joe’
appears to have succeeded. On the Monday night after the ruling, 60
Minutes II aired an extremely sympathetic pre-taped interview with Gates
that showed him twirling his wife on the dance floor on his wedding
night, munching on cheeseburgers at McDonald’s and playing with his
In the end, it remains to be seen what Microsoft’s PR troops will do to
beat back the encroaching forces of the inevitable bad news to come.
Today, though, the fast and early footwork seems to be paying off.