Microsoft PR machine gears up for appeals

nullREDMOND, WA: Forget Judge Jackson and focus on the Appeals Court. That seems to be the latest communications missile deployed by Microsoft in the PR battle surrounding its seemingly never-ending federal antitrust trial.

nullREDMOND, WA: Forget Judge Jackson and focus on the Appeals Court. That seems to be the latest communications missile deployed by Microsoft in the PR battle surrounding its seemingly never-ending federal antitrust trial.

REDMOND, WA: Forget Judge Jackson and focus on the Appeals Court.

That seems to be the latest communications missile deployed by Microsoft

in the PR battle surrounding its seemingly never-ending federal

antitrust trial.



In the wake of the US District Court ruling released last Wednesday,

which ordered Microsoft split into two separate companies, the Redmond,

WA-based software giant issued a VNR and written statement by Bill Gates

asserting its commitment to appealing the case and calling the verdict

’unjustified.’ Gates also made himself available to reporters for

questioning via a live satellite press conference, in which he

reiterated the company’s position that it had done nothing wrong and

would be vindicated.



For the first time, Gates implicitly conceded that the company’s PR

efforts might have been off-base: ’Microsoft and the whole story of the

PC was missed here. I should have taken the opportunity to go and talk

about this industry and what it has meant in terms of empowering

people.’



What lies next for the company in terms of PR remains unclear. Gates is

said to be setting up face-to-face post-verdict ’debriefing’ meetings

with groups of key employees, and may post full trial briefs and other

relevant Department of Justice information on the company’s corporate

Web site.



Reaction from the hi-tech PR community was fairly subdued. ’Nobody’s

talking about this, because nothing is really going to change for

years,’ said one Silicon Valley pro.



But the Crisis Management Institute’s Larry Smith countered that

Microsoft’s fairly low-key reaction was right on the mark. ’Talking to

too many reporters at this point just keeps the lawsuit in the

headlines,’ he explained.



’There are other more important audiences to consider. They need to keep

morale up for employees and reassure shareholders about the strength of

the company.’



On the other hand, Richard Laermer, CEO of NYC-based hi-tech firm RLM

Public Relations, thinks the company has not gone far enough to court

consumer views.



’If Gates really is perceived as a bully, he should go out on the road

to prove he’s not. I would have him take a ’Springfield’ tour, visiting

that town in every state, and show people who believe they’re going to

be screwed by the break-up that he’s just a regular guy,’ said

Laermer.



’You know that Congress will be watching, and if a thousand of their

constituents turn out to give Gates a rousing ovation, it’s going to

make a difference.’



Interestingly, Microsoft appears to have a head start in the court of

public opinion. Just prior to Judge Jackson’s final ruling, a Gallup

opinion poll showed that 54% of US citizens believe the company should

not be split up and that 69% still have a favorable opinion of

Gates.



Microsoft’s PR minions, including company reps at Edelman/DC and chief

antitrust trial corporate spokesperson Jim Cullinan, did not return

calls for comment.



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