Saturday, April 21, 2007

microsoft: sorenson needs a PR lesson

Chris Sorenson, Microsoft's Asia-Pacific head of smartphone strategy, has unfortunately committed one of the most basic PR sins - opening his mouth when he should have kept it closed.

How can I tell? When asked to comment, an official Microsoft Australia spokesperson (read=voice of official PR policy) replied, "I am not interested in commenting".

Uh oh. Let's get to the facts.

In an article published yesterday, David Bruce of ZDNet Australia reported:

Apple's soon-to-be-launched iPhone will be irrelevant to business users because it is a "closed device" and does not support Microsoft Office, a senior executive with the software giant said this week.

"It's a great music phone, and I'm sure it will be fantastic and have an interesting user interface," Microsoft's Asia-Pacific head of smartphone strategy Chris Sorenson told press during a recent visit to Australia.

"However, it's a closed device that you cannot install applications on, and there's no support for Office documents. If you're an enterprise and want to roll out line of business applications, it's just not an option. Even using it as a heavy messaging device will be a challenge," the executive added.

What this non-PR person has said is that "Microsoft believes that anything that doesn't run Microsoft applications is irrelevant to business". What he intended to say wasn't this - but this is what came out.

I'm not here to be an apologist for Apple or Microsoft. Nor am I here to laud the merits of either the iPhone or Microsoft Office.

What I do want to remind all product managers is this - it is the job of the press to write stories on topics that will grab eyeballs, not tell your story the way you want it told.

Reporters will do what it takes to get a story - and it doesn't matter if it is the story you want to tell. This can't be the story that Microsoft wanted to tell. Please tell me it isn't.

We all know the Apple iPhone is a hot story, and by association, Microsoft's thinking on the iPhone is hot. Reporters are circling Microsoft like sharks circling a floating cow with some shaving cuts, looking for someone to say something. . . anything. Microsoft PR knows this.

So kudos to David Bruce. And boo to Microsoft for not planning correctly.

If you have a hot story brewing either inside or around your company and you need to control the "official story", follow these instructions:

1. Make it clear to everyone that all press inquiries should be directed to your PR department or a designated official spokesman. NO ONE SPEAKS TO THE PRESS WITHOUT PRIOR PERMISSION.

2. Instruct all your executives - the Masters of the Universe whose every utterance is law and who loooove to think of themselves as Great Thinkers - to either say nothing or stick to a predetermined set of speaking points.

3. Be prepared for damage control when bright, well-meaning but unfortunately ill-advised employees in highly-placed positions screw up.

It's going to be a long weekend for Microsoft. I have a feeling Microsoft has had a lot of long weekends of late.

No comments: