Pilot Light

Inferno is a PR consultancy. This is not. This is Inferno’s blog.

Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft

In matters of grave importance, style is the vital thing

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Ok, so that is somewhat of a bastardasation of a quote from my favourite Oscar Wilde play – The Importance of Being Ernest, but it still rings true. In an age where style dominates substance in almost every industry, PRs need to take advantage of this trend. How many times have you invited press to an event where frankly there was neither the space nor the atmosphere to truly engage with them? Or do you have a default venue for all your events?

Why not mix it up and go for other venues that offer eclectic themes or have a brilliant atmosphere? Inferno managed the launch of Microsoft Surface in the UK at The Haymarket Hotel and it was a massive success (if I do say so myself). Seriously though, we kept it informal and flexible – which I think the press truly appreciated. Plus I’m betting the free flowing booze didn’t hurt. We had the Surfaces in two different rooms and gave the press the opportunity to have real hands on experience with the devices. There was also a big-ass pool in the center of the basement, which was amazing!!

There is always a temptation (especially at the launch of business products/services) to make things formal and adhere to a strict timetable. But remember, journalists are people too. They enjoy the same things you do and I assume that no one wants to go to a boring event with loads of corporate speak. So take a leaf out of our book and keep it low key and interesting.



Written by pilotlight

25/03/2009 at 5:59 pm

Posted in PR, Tech

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Surface to Air

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Point away from face

Wednesday we launched Microsoft Surface to the UK media and managed to get it on air with More 4 News, BBC Working Lunch (that’s still to come) and others. OK, now I’ve explained away the marvelous pun-headline of this post, I can go back to blowing Inferno’s trumpet. And so I should; the team did an amazing job. The US and UK clients, and all the partners involved, have been bombarding me with compliments – I love my job when I get this kind of feedback, unsolicited, from clients.

What is great though is the fact that my guys and gals at Inferno get to work on launches like this. Without taking anything away from the team who helped develop everything from the concept for launch, through to the partner liaison and deciding what compelling content needed to be included, the fact is that Microsoft Surface is an awesome piece of innovation. Surface is going to change the way information is displayed to consumers by businesses – In banks, in stores, in airports, on tables, on walls. This is where technology is going and it’s exciting, engaging and pervasive. To be working on such futuristic-type technology here and now is a real thrill. There are few other companies in the world doing anything like this and being able to craft messaging, strategy and events around this kind of pioneering technology is amazing as well as fun.

What makes it even more amazing though is when we are given a rare glimpse into the future – something the guys in Microsoft Business Division over in the US did recently. They put together a video on technology in 2019, which you can view here. While this looks incredibly far-fetched, I’ve worked with Microsoft on some of the developments and I would halve the timeline to this becoming a reality. This stuff will be here, or close to it, in five years not ten and I personally can’t wait.


Written by pilotlight

20/03/2009 at 11:21 am

Posted in Business, Media, PR, Tech

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Fireflies before the storm 2.0

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Field Guide

I’ve been working on Gordon Frazer’s (the MD of Microsoft UK) speech for the forthcoming CBI Summit taking place in London on 12th June. The whole summit this year is looking at the issue of Talent and the UK economy.

It’s a fascinating topic area and of course incredibly relevant for all businesses (how many PR agencies out there are not involved in their own ‘battle for talent’ right now? I know we are!).

The CBI has asked Microsoft to talk about the impact of technology on new talent, on the next generation workforce or ‘Generation Y’ as it has been imaginatively dubbed(!), and provide some advice and insight to assembled UK business leaders around how technology must be used to shape the business leaders of tomorrow. And to also help companies attract and retain the very best talent from this new pool.

Given that Microsoft has a young and dynamic workforce already, and is (one would hope) a little way ahead of most companies in the use of new technologies, I decided it would be a good idea to talk to a couple of Microsoft UK’s most prominent bloggers about the impact of their blogs – not just on the way they use them for their jobs (although this is fascinating in itself), but also how they make them feel and the impact this has on their loyalty to their employer.

I spoke to Steve Clayton and Darren Strange, as these guys have two of the most well known and linked-to Microsoft UK blogs, and because Inferno has been lucky enough to work with them both closely around their blogging in the past.

Both have very kindly given us permission to reproduce the interviews and I really think they give a great insight into why and how business people blog on a number of levels – from how it can help them in their jobs, how it brings a new layer of interest and passion for their work, to how it makes them feel about the company they work for.

I also think what Steve and Darren are kind of pioneering here is how potentially blogging will really begin to impact all businesses over time – just as the internet 1.0 snuck in and overtook the business world only after the hype had died down and the bubble burst, so I think blogging has the potential to really take business into new realms – and in this sense, to borrow an old quote from Lou Gerstner, Darren and Steve may well be the new “fireflies before the storm”…

Steve Clayton, ‘Geek in Disguise’

Steve is the CTO of Microsoft UK’s Partner Group.

How do you ‘see’ your blog? I mean, what does it mean to you and what does it allow you to do?

I see my blog as my way of talking to many more customers and partners than I ever could face to face.

Perhaps more though, I see my blog as a way of helping to change opinions about Microsoft. I try to talk as openly and transparently as possible and this pays dividends as I can see people’s opinion slowly changing. I try to talk on my blog as if I were chatting to a friend at the pub in an informal style that encourages conversation.

It took a lot of patience to build my readership but now I’ve made a number of great contacts through my blog. The most fun element has been the “Microsoft: Change the World or Go Home” thread I kicked off with Hugh MacLeod. It’s had some great coverage and was recently called “Moonshine Marketing” by Microsoft Watch and “visionary” by David Brain of Edelman. Very rewarding!

That is pretty cool. Obviously though, you are a Microsoft employee. What does blogging bring to the job you do?

It allows me to extend my reach incredibly – instead of talking to a few hundred partners a year through face to face meetings I can talk to thousands and engage in a conversation with them.

It allows me to share information faster than usual methods and is better than email as people can choose to subscribe to my blog and get updates as and when I post. It’s their choice which people enjoy rather than a deluge of email or newsletters.

Anything you can tell us about the number of visits and comments you receive?

I receive about 800 page views per day and probably around 10 comments per day. Last month saw 450k page views and 17k visitors though the stats are less important than the conversations!

We hear a lot about Microsoft having a very open and trusting blog policy. Is this true and how does it make you feel as a Microsoft employee?

My blog takes up a fair bit of time to write posts and respond to comments but I think it’s worth it. Here is one piece of feedback I got that proves it to me

“Steve, I am now beginning to enjoy Microsoft. Previously I, and I suspect millions of others, perceived MS as a leviathan without a heart. No pulse or warmth. Not a human in sight except Bill in front of a cold global software assembly plant staffed by humanoids. By blogging, you and your colleagues have opened up MS to reveal that the innards are indeed made up of warm, people with hearts, with families, have smiles and wow, you do have senses of humour! This is incredible. Who’d have thought that a corporation like MS was human after all!? We do now. All because you are engaging with us at our level and this is a conversation I relate to and like very much. I hope many more do too.”

I can’t imagine not having my blog now. It’s fantastic that a company of our size allows its employees to speak openly and freely and engage with customers and partners directly. It’s doing a HUGE amount of good for the company and I personally feel quite proud to be able to have the potential for such impact.

Microsoft could easily have said “employees don’t blog” like Apple has but it’s one of the best decisions we have ever made. We’re the most passionate people about our company so we’re the best people to be out there talking about it. Darren and I have both said recently that if we couldn’t blog, we’d seriously consider whether we’d continue working here. It’s THAT important.

Thanks for that Steve

Darren Strange, ‘Office Rocker’

Darren is UK product manager for the 2007 Microsoft Office System.

How do you ‘see’ your blog? I mean, what does it mean to you and what does it allow you to do?

I see it as a way to have an ongoing conversation with my customers. It is a channel for me to express how I think about the issues I work on, to influence and be influenced in a public forum. I also see myself engaging in the process to change public perception of our company by being an authentic voice people can relate to.

Well of course, you are a Microsoft employee – how does it help you in your job?

I use the blog to put different perspectives out there and hopefully to seed discussions and press engagement. I also use it to correct inaccurate articles in the media or to present a more balanced view of the issues.

The blog has been vital in ensuring I keep seeing my product from the perspective of my customers. It stops me getting institutionalised and provides a constant ‘pulse’ of customer opinion which keeps me honest. I’ve also made new friendships and important customer contacts via the blog.

Anything you can tell us about the number of visits and comments you receive?

I don’t really track this anymore but I just looked it up and its about 230,000 hits a month. I’m 172nd in Microsoft [worldwide] in April (which is in the top 3%). I sometimes get a lot of comments and sometimes none. I look for dialogue though so comments is a good measure as is inbound links from other blogs. Technorati track this and my rating oscillates about 50,000 but was as low as 15,000 during launch [of Microsoft Office 2007].

How does having a blog make you feel? Both on a personal level and as a Microsoft employee?

Well it is a lot of work to blog but it has now become a way of life. I think blogging makes me more observant and more thoughtful. It makes me think harder about issues and means I have stronger and more interesting perspectives on life. A downside is that you can ‘disintermediate’ if you start seeing everything that happens to you as a potential blog post which is why I don’t blog on holiday however on the whole I find it means I live more in the moment and life doesn’t pass me by.

I like the feeling that I can talk back to my critics and it has trained me to always listen and always find the good in the other point of view. I think this has made me a better spokesperson and maybe even a better person.

I am proud of Microsoft and I feel that through the blog I’m able to do my bit to change how people think about us.

Thanks Darren

Written by pilotlight

07/06/2007 at 1:12 pm

Posted in Blogging, PR, Tech

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