It may well be the end of the world as he knows it, but Bill Gates still feels fine.
It may well be the end of the world as he knows it, but Bill Gates
still feels fine.
Clearly, Gates’ defiant public stance following the federal government’s
whupping of Microsoft - ’common sense stands on our side’ - evinces
Texas-size denial about the effect that Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson’s
ruling will have on the public perception of his company. Yes, many
consumers won’t think anything less of Microsoft so long as their
Windows-driven computer works in the morning. But the PR challenges that
lie ahead for the company in the wake of the court decision are
Shareholders, who saw the company’s market capitalization fall by nearly
dollars 80 billion in the hours before the ruling was released, will
probably want more than a pat on the hand and a ’keep your chin up’ pep
talk. The company’s employees will have to be assured that one of the
suggested possible outcomes (the government splitting Microsoft into
three separate companies) will not affect their job status. And then
there are those who live in and around Washington state, where 40% of
the company’s stock is concentrated - Microsoft may well find itself
being questioned for the first time by this core of loyalists. The
company’s PR minions, ranging from the Waggener Edstrom folks to the
in-house team to the all-star BSMG and Edelman squads in DC, clearly
have their work cut out for them.
Perhaps the problem is a combination of arrogance and self-pity: despite
its size and market domination, the software colossus still seems to
view itself as the little guy, unfairly targeted by know-nothing
technophobes who seek to destroy what they can’t control. If this is the
image that Microsoft continues to put forward, whether intentionally or
not, the company will soon find itself teetering even more precariously
on the edge of the PR precipice.
VCs don’t know diddly about PR
This week’s feature (p26) explores the symbiotic relationship between PR
agencies and venture capital firms. What we find is that this
relationship has evolved past a cozy ’I scratch your back, you scratch
mine’ association to assume some more troubling dimensions.
One certainly cannot argue with the practice of VC firms channeling
clients towards their favored PR agencies: after all, it underscores the
paramount importance that the hi-tech industry has bestowed upon PR. But
does it disturb anyone that VCs sometimes encourage clients to ditch PR
agencies they are perfectly happy with, or that VCs are becoming the
arbiters of what constitutes good PR for a start-up? We all know that
measuring PR results is a dicey practice - does it make it any easier to
have an impatient venture capitalist enter the mix?
One VC says, ’We are very proactive in getting the right PR for our
companies,’ but who is a VC to say what is the ’right’ PR? How many
press releases equal one blurb in the Industry Standard? A PR pro would
never be so bold as to say what the ’right’ level of funding is. PR
firms and VCs may be in bed together, but we’d rather it lead to PR pros
becoming CEOs than VCs grabbing the marketing reins.