Microsoft PR parries antitrust verdict blow

SEATTLE: In the wake of last Monday’s ruling that Microsoft violated US antitrust law, the company’s massive crisis communications engine has revved into gear, using nearly every available medium to broadcast its side of the story to the world.

SEATTLE: In the wake of last Monday’s ruling that Microsoft violated US antitrust law, the company’s massive crisis communications engine has revved into gear, using nearly every available medium to broadcast its side of the story to the world.

SEATTLE: In the wake of last Monday’s ruling that Microsoft

violated US antitrust law, the company’s massive crisis communications

engine has revved into gear, using nearly every available medium to

broadcast its side of the story to the world.



Even before the ruling was released, Microsoft held a conference call

with conservative allies and other pro-Microsoft groups to drum up

support in anticipation of bad news. A live satellite press conference

with Bill Gates quickly followed the release of the decision, as did

press releases detailing Gates’ reaction and the company’s intent to

appeal.



According to Microsoft corporate PR director Greg Shaw, the overall

strategy was - and will continue to be - to emphasize how hard the

company tried to reach a settlement and to continue to educate

customers, employees and shareholders about the company’s commitment to

technological innovation.



Ever since Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson’s first ’finding of fact’ in

January, Microsoft has worked to reposition the trial as a debate

pitting technological innovation against government regulation. The

company has even formed its own action group, the ’Freedom to Innovate

Network,’ which provides links to elected representatives and publishes

its own newsletter.



Looking to the future, Shaw said Microsoft’s mammoth PR operation will

strive to ’make sure that our point of view is spoken as directly as

possible to our customers. We will look at every possible communications

vehicle to get the message out that Microsoft remains dedicated to its

heritage of making great technology products.’



However, despite the best efforts of Shaw and the various agencies on

Microsoft’s payroll, more than a few pros believe the company is headed

down the wrong PR road.



’In any situation, you need to identify your key audiences - and in an

appeal, that’s the courts,’ said the Institute of Crisis Management’s

Larry Smith. ’It’s highly unlikely that any PR efforts will influence

the judges. They need to concentrate on winning the confidence and

support of their employees, shareholders and partners, not wasting time

and effort trying to court everyone in the general public.’



Applied Communications VP and principal Tim Marklein, who heads up his

agency’s Oracle account, said educating the public should be last on

Microsoft’s priority list. ’The short answer to what they should do is

listen,’ he said. ’Their strategy for the past few years has been about

a lot of talking and not enough listening.’



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