Microsoft brings in Brit to shake up comms operation

Microsoft has appointed a British PR professional to its top communications role, based in the firm's global headquarters in Washington DC.

US role: Sproule will be responsible for all global communications
US role: Sproule will be responsible for all global communications

Simon Sproule joins the technology giant from Nissan, where he is VP of global comms and investor relations. He will join Microsoft as VP of corporate communications in March and will be responsible for all global communications – including public aff­airs, media relations and executive communications.

One former colleague suggested Sproule would shake up Microsoft’s communications. Bob Pickard, former North Asia president at Edelman, said: ‘Microsoft values people who put their ideas on the table and Simon is a fearless guy. He is not from a tech background but will bring in fresh ideas.’

Before joining Nissan, Sproule was the VP of comm­s for Jaguar and previously worked in Ford’s UK press team. At Microsoft, he will report to Mich Mathews, senior VP of Microsoft’s Central Marketing Group, who is also British. Sproule replaces Larry Cohen, now chief of staff at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In recent months, Microsoft has faced sustained press and public criticism of its Vista operating system, which was delayed several times bef­ore launching in 2007.

A major advertising campaign starring US comedian Jerry Seinfeld and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, which reportedly cost the PC giant US$10m, subsequently led to considerable negative coverage. The New York Times, for example, reported on 3 February that the campaign had ‘failed miserably’ to improve per­ceptions.

Microsoft announced last month that it would shed 5,000 jobs after disappointing results for the fourth quarter of 2008. Its global revenues increased by two per cent in the fourth quarter of 2008, but net income declined by 11 per cent. The company blamed falling demand for PCs.

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