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MS PR Firm Becomes The Story

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Big corporations hire public relations firms to ensure that their message gets out as intended, to avoid embarrassing gaffes by staffers unaccustomed to dealing with the press, and so on.

So, imagine how thrilled Microsoft must have been when their PR firm, Waggener Edstrom, inadvertently sent Wired Contributing Editor Fred Vogelstein his own secret file. (No doubt, Redmond staffers immediately began securing chairs and other loose objects in Steve Ballmer’s office.) The contents of the reporter’s file didn’t include any bombshells, but said things like, “It takes him a bit to get his point across so try to be patient” and “He is digging for tension where it does not exist. We have to be hard core on this point and communicate in no uncertain terms the level of executive commitment and support for Channel 9 and 10.″ (Via TechCrunch and Wired.)

It must have been slightly surreal for a firm used to dealing with the PR disasters of its clients to have its own day in the spotlight. Spinmeister Frank X. Shaw, President Waggener Edstrom Worldwide and head of the Microsoft team at the firm, wrote about the incident at the appropriately named Glass House blog. His comments weren’t directed at explaining the email screwup – rather, he pointed out that nothing nefarious was involved in compiling information about reporters. In fact, doing the research was their way of ensuring that the interview went well, that the interviewees didn’t waste the reporter’s time, that the reporter got the best possible story, etc.

Not a bad spin, really, considering what he had to work with – if Waggener Edstrom can turn this into a positive thing, or at least blunt the impression that some of their employees are careless techno-dummies, it will show why they get the big bucks for what they do.

Continuing the theme, Wired Editor in Chief Chris Anderson quipped, “Some choose radical transparency, some have it thrust upon them.” Coincidentally, the cover of the April issue of Wired explains, “Why Exposing Yourself is The Future of Business.” For Waggener Edstrom, the future is here.

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MS PR Firm Becomes The Story
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