Microsoft to revamp image and increase focus on CSR

REDMOND, WA: Microsoft has signaled its intent to rebuild its image from the inside, putting a much stronger focus on corporate social responsibility.

REDMOND, WA: Microsoft has signaled its intent to rebuild its image from the inside, putting a much stronger focus on corporate social responsibility.

The company told its 50,000 employees in an internal memo from CEO Steve Ballmer earlier this month that, for the first time, its mission is more than merely creating and improving technology; it also involves the company's relationships with its customers and others in the industry.

The Ballmer memo, a copy of which was seen by PRWeek, tells the staff, "Our mission is not just about building a great technology; it's also about who we are as a company and as individuals, how we manage our business internally, and how we think about and work with partners and customers."

Microsoft PR director Mark Murray told PRWeek, "There's no sea change ahead, just a continuation of our effort to improve. But it is a call for action. So we'll make adjustments to how we manage the PR of the company in accordance with the values Steve laid out. We'll also look at further adjustments we need to make, whether it's with the industry or our customers, or rebuilding trust in the company."

Murray said all elements of Microsoft's ongoing PR activities could get involved, "whether it's our PR partners, internally, or our agencies, Edelman, Waggener Edstrom, or Sandler."

Microsoft has been beset by its image as a greedy, corporate megalith, highlighted by the drawn-out antitrust case. Mark Anderson, an industry analyst who has consulted with Microsoft in the past, said, "(This) is an effort to rebrand the company. After two years as CEO, Steve understands what the problems really are, both externally and internally, and is making a concerted effort to address these issues. But to rebrand Microsoft globally - if it can be done - is a five- to 10-year job."

Despite Murray's hesitancy on the subject, Anderson also believes that the plan will involve a major change in the company's PR efforts.

Dated June 6, the memo was issued shortly after a retreat of several days by the executive staff, "where we had some breakthrough discussions about the company's mission and what we value, wrote Ballmer.

"To meet the expectations people have of us as an industry leader, and to take advantage of the opportunities reflected in our mission," Ballmer wrote, "there are a number of things we must prioritize and value as a company."

Specifically, Ballmer listed several "values the company plans to prioritize, ranging from "excellence in relationships, "trustworthy computing, and "broad customer connection to "innovative and responsible platform leadership, "enabling people to do new things," and "a global, inclusive approach."

Starting with the upcoming August review, Ballmer said every employee will have a formal discussion with their managers of how they are doing on those values. "I will meet with every VP and their top staffs over the next five months to get more discussion and input on ideas to help us make those ideas actionable, he wrote.

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