Archive for the ‘microsoft’ category

How Microsoft and Waggener Edstrom create stories

March 28, 2007


Update 3: This story is now on both techmeme and Slashdot.

This morning I came across a great article on the Wired blog network. Fred Vogelstein, a journalist for Wired, writes about how he got hold of a dossier on himself, produced by Microsoft and their PR firm, Waggener Edstrom. Chris Anderson, Wired Editor in Chief, has also posted his comments on the story as have Waggener Edstrom President Frank Shaw.

I have been in several interview sessions with both Swedish and American journalists, and have learned both from experience and smart PR people that this is the way it works. Not only for Microsoft but for anyone that strive to control the message, or simpy get his story out.

That’s right. It’s all about stories. It’s where it begins, and it’s where it ends if you’re successful.

The material produced by Microsoft’s PR machinery is impressive, but not jaw-droppingly exceptional. We did just as extensive research on the journalists involved when the most successful articles that I was part of were planned. If you want to tell a story, you’d better tailor it to the audience if you want it to become a story that they’ll want to tell others later on. A press-release is the opposite of this, more often than not resulting in no story at all, or worse – a story concieved by the journalist instead of yourself. Manipulation? Not really. It’s about being proud of what you do and wanting to tell the story.

Back to the “dossier” in question. You can read it here. It’s basically a preparation of an interview, a followup after it’s done and a discussion on how to proceed. The preparation is the “juicy” part, containing a thourogh background on Fred Vogelstein and Wired Magazine. What really catches my attention isn’t that, though, but rather the very nice follow-up on the interview at the beginning. This is just as essential as the preparation – analyzing what went well and what went worse and how to go forward, is just as important as meeting the journalist in the first place. This is where I learnt the most about myself and the press.

There is a common misconception that stories are created by newsagencies, papers and journalists. While true in many cases, reality is that most stories are merely told by them. Somebody else created the story, and that somebody certainly have their own agenda. Most of us know this, but we all tend to forget it whenever we read a juicy story in the news. One of the keys to good PR in news media is to learn how to create the story, and how to tell it to the journalists in an engaging way. Sometimes this involves “planting” it over the course of days, weeks or months before the actual interview. Sometimes it’s more spontaneous.

I can see how the release of this information may reflect badly on Microsoft, but in my opinion this “dossier” is a good example on how to do effective PR for news media. I’d say that it’s pretty similar to the preparation and follow-up meetings I’ve had with the PR folks before and after interviews, with the notable difference that it’s in written form. Reading technology press I often see stories that would’ve been orders of magnitude more interesting if the one with the agenda had done a better job, much like Microsoft did in this case. Just take a look at the end result of their efforts.

What surprise me the most in this “dossier” is that they’ve misspelled Lenn Pryor’s name, and that he is described as being “scared” of the Channel 9 initiative. That’s not really the impression I’ve got of Lenn, but then again I’ve never actually spoke to him directly, I’ve just been reading his blog since ages.

News is all about stories. Journalists loves them, as do readers. Most good journalists actively search for stories, and being able to let them find yours is not bad. It’s what makes successful news media PR.

On another note: Waggener Edstrom sounds vaugely Scandinavian. Makes me wonder about the history of the company…

Update: I noticed that Robert Scoble made a comment over at the Wired blog, stating that he’d never been briefed my PR department before doing Channel 9 or blog posts. Blogging is a completely different beast compared to what we are talking about here. Starting a conversation with customers is essential, and this just won’t happen through news and magazines. That said, news is news even if it is a blogger blogging them – crafting a story is as relevant as it’s ever been.

Update 2: This story has showed up on techmeme.


Microsoft goes fox hunting

March 21, 2007


It caught my attention that Microsoft have abandoned Visual FoxPro. However, they are not denying it ever existed. (Sorry, but I just can’t get over the project green thing). They’re also releasing some of the sourcecode under its shared source initiative. Support will continue through 2015.

There are many ERP packages based on FoxPro out there, the most well known probably being Sage Pro. Sage have removed all references to FoxPro from their website, but I bet there’s lots of customers still running the software out there.

Don’t get me wrong, it was about time this product got killed. But there’s lots of homebrewed “ERP” systems out there based on it, as well as large products such as Sage Pro. There’s also a huge developer and consultancy community around this technology. This is going to be a big challenge for a lot of different people.

Update: Mamut is also based on FoxPro. No word on their website how this will affect them, though.

The grass is greener…

March 20, 2007

Green Grass

Microsoft is abandoning Project Green, which effectively makes it the largest, most ambitious piece of Vaporware in computer history. The merger of Axapta, Great Plains, Navision and Solomon was the threat vision that Microsoft pushed to ERP ISV:s a few years ago. I remember participating at a “Microsoft Certified Partner” meeting with one of my previous employers, listening to their vision of project green. It was beautifully described as four lines (one for each product), entering a cloud out of which a beautiful green line emerged.

Now they’re trying to rewrite history, saying that this never was the intention.

This gets me upset, for the simple reason that I bought it at the time. However, thanks to some smart people that found it worthwhile to teach me a thing or two, I realized the vaporware factor in project green a long time ago.

But what about the developers? What about the dealers? And what about the customers? The one’s that built their business upon a false promise of a new platform (yes, I’m talking about the MBF)?

Updated: Changed the MBF link to the real PDC PowerPoint presentation (which I loved at the time, by the way…) instead of Google’s cached HTML version.