As Bill Gates stepped down from his full-time job as chairman of Microsoft today (27 June), senior PROs praised his contribution to an industry on which he famously said he would spend his last dollar.
According to George Colman, co-global Microsoft client lead at Weber Shandwick, it is impossible to overstate Gates' influence on the technology PR industry.
'If Bill Gates had decided to focus on advertising and been as successful, PR would not have the influence that it enjoys today in technology,' he said.
'If you look at Google and other hi-tech growth companies, they all rely on talkability rather than advertising. This is a direct copy of Microsoft, where PR has always been the major marketing aspect.'
Edelman European CEO David Brain said Gates' key contribution was his most recent. 'Microsoft is the banner child for enfranchising bloggers to speak on behalf of their own companies,' said Brain.
'The main reason for Microsoft's recent success has been its 5,000 bloggers, who give the company a much more human face.'
Colman added that Gates' method of enfranchising his employees, rather than imposing a top-down structure, had been crucial to Microsoft's PR success.
'Gates created a culture of evangelism to which everyone could contribute,' he said. 'This philosophy then trickled down to every level of the company and it was Gates who gave Microsoft PROs freedom to be innovative.'
Brain said: 'Microsoft's success has shown that employees can have a macro effect, with companies communicating from inside to out.'