What a drag. There’s just been a story about your impending product release - your most important in years. You know the writer got most of his points from your arch rival. Now you’re going to have to try to get the ear of other journalists and reviewers and turn around the spin before they start picking up on the article. But there’s no guarantee they will write anything, or see it your way if they do.
What a drag. There’s just been a story about your impending product
release - your most important in years. You know the writer got most of
his points from your arch rival. Now you’re going to have to try to get
the ear of other journalists and reviewers and turn around the spin
before they start picking up on the article. But there’s no guarantee
they will write anything, or see it your way if they do.
So what’s a poor PR pro to do? Of course, you’re going to try all the
persuasive lunches and telephone briefings that you can. But these days
there is another, increasingly obvious tool in the armory when it comes
to corporate wars of words. In addition to putting in hours with the
influencers, the journalists and analysts, just go direct to the
You don’t get corporate wars much fiercer than in the hi-tech industry,
and it’s here that we are increasingly seeing tactical Web sites being
created simply to influence opinion on a particular product or
These are not the marketing sites that we’ve come to know and love that
seek to persuade us of the virtues, benefits or coolness of a product or
brand. There are few bells or whistles. Their purpose is quite
explicitly to ’dis’ the opposition.
When Microsoft’s Web site started carrying a document entitled ’Windows
2000 server: A Prime Choice over Novell’s Netware 5.0,’ Novell decided
not to take it lying down. Not only did it send in the lawyers, claiming
a number of false statements, it also created a special section on its
own site. ’The Novell Advantage over Windows 2000’
(www.novell.com/advantage/w2k.html) rebuts Microsoft’s arguments point
by point, and also carries a ’Did You Know?’ section with links to
negative press about Microsoft and Windows 2000.
Sun Microsystems, meanwhile, has not been nearly as polite. On its
’Realitycheck’ site (www.sun.com/realitycheck/), under the heading ’The
Straight Dope on W2K,’ Sun asks: ’Would you drive up to the starting
line with a vehicle containing 63,000 potential defects?’ It is
referring, of course, to the Internet economy as the Indy 500 and to
Windows 2000 as the defective car. Sun quotes The Wall Street Journal,
trade publications like Computerworld and Smart Reseller and research
firm The Gartner Group to back up its arguments.
Not that Microsoft wasn’t asking for it. The ’Dot-truth.com’ section on
its corporate Web site, subtitled ’The dot-truth is out there,’ is
dedicated to trashing Sun and just about any favorable comparison it
makes between its Solaris operating system and Windows 2000. Microsoft
also drags in Gartner Group and unspecified ’press reports’ to lend
credibility to its arguments.
Sites like these will only grow in number. They’ll especially be used in
business-to-business contexts, where corporate clients will care enough
to check out all the arguments before spending large sums of money. The
trade journalists who have traditionally held such power in these
contexts will be ’disintermediated’ by such a development - slowly edged
out of the loop as corporate PR pros go direct to the audience. The
warring sides will use journalists’ words as so much disposable
ammunition, but that’s all it will be. And their own reputations will
not shine as the words of journalists are increasingly pitted against
those of their colleagues.
- Stovin Hayter is editor-in-chief of Revolution. He can be contacted at