Campaign: Corporate PR - Microsoft fights negative perceptions

Campaign: Microsoft People Programme Client: Microsoft PR team: Edelman and in-house Timescale: January 2003-ongoing Budget: Around £80,000

Following a series of well-publicised reputation issues, Microsoft needed to challenge negative consumer attitudes in the UK. Edelman was tasked with a PR campaign to counter reputation weaknesses in the areas of trust, ethics and honesty. The campaign used Microsoft's first place in The Sunday Times's Best Place To Work league in March 2003 to focus on HR, culture and internal comms.

Objectives

To demonstrate Microsoft's HR leadership to the business community and opinion-formers. To build Microsoft's reputation as an employer of choice.

To build a profile of senior HR executives, including Steve Harvey and Kay Winsper, as industry commentators.

Strategy and Plan

Because Microsoft had a strong HR reputation, the team decided to focus on this to build a more positive perception of the wider company. Microsoft's 'Best Place To Work' status was used to launch 'Inside the best place to work in Britain', where journalists were able to view on-site facilities such as a well-being centre and games zones.

To build relationships with key commentators, a series of 'leadership days' was launched. Harvey met political opinion-formers, civil servants, business peers, associations and tier-one media to discuss topical HR and business issues. Meetings with journalists were themed, with specific objectives to ensure targeted features appeared.

Exclusive media pitches were created, each focusing on a different area of Microsoft's HR strategy. For The Daily Telegraph, focus was placed on how the company uses its own technology to support its core business objectives. Harvey was profiled in daily nationals including The Independent On Sunday and The Times. BBC Breakfast examined Microsoft's flexible benefits, including an on-site creche, 'bring your daughter to work day' and childcare vouchers. A 'Corridor Warriors' press release for EuroBusiness and The Daily Telegraph looked at how a wireless-enabled building affects productivity and how Microsoft staff use technology to communicate on the move.

Edelman teamed up with Campaign For Learning to organise a job swap between FT journalist Lucy Kellaway and Microsoft head of internal comms Winsper, who wrote an article on her experience, which appeared in the paper.

Measurement and Evaluation

Edelman identified 52 pieces of coverage across print and broadcast media, with a 100 per cent increase in reactive HR media enquires compared to the previous year.

Coverage appeared in The Times, EuroBusiness, Personnel Today, Eve, and on BBC Radio 4 and Breakfast.

The FT ran a full-page Microsoft profile, with comments from Kellaway about the culture of the company.

Results

Due to its increased profile, Microsoft's HR team now conducts quarterly 'best company' days, when more than 100 companies visit Microsoft to view its HR 'best practice'.

Harvey and Winsper have been approached as HR commentators and to provide case studies and forewords for books, including the Henley Management College book on mentoring and the CBI Best Practice Guide. Winsper has been asked to join the editorial board of HR Director.

Former Computer Weekly reporter Ross Bentley says Microsoft was keen to help and worked hard to plug its 'best place to work' image, although 'the answers I received were a bit on-message'.

Independent On Sunday reporter Kate Hilpern says: 'Organisations like that often aren't very media friendly, but Microsoft was brilliant.'

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