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Why Microsoft Pays Waggener Edstrom the Big Money

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The Long Tail: The Microsoft Memo: Some choose radical transparency, some have it thrust upon them Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief over at Wired, has a post out today that contains a massive email briefing by Microsoft’s PR firm Waggener Edstrom to a Microsoft executive about an interview with Wired Magazine.

It’s a rare inside glimpse of how well a top PR agency does its research when dealing with the press. Obviously both Waggener Edstrom and Microsoft take a cover story in Wired about transparency at Microsoft very, very seriously.

The memo (which you can read here) is a pretty bad PR screw up though for a PR company to make. Not writing it so much as accidentally emailing the briefing to the reporter, Fred Vogelstein, you are writing about. There are slightly derogatory things written in the piece about Fred, but that is to be expected when Waggener Edstrom thought the piece was private and would never see the light of day. But that just goes to illustrate the old adage about anything you say in email being able to be seen by the world, no matter how private you think it is at the time (Microsoft has had this bite them in the past — like when former Microsoft exec Jim Allchin wrote that if he didn’t work for Microsoft he’d be using a Mac). By the way, now that Allchin actually *is* no longer working for Microsoft anyone know if he’s bought a Mac? Hah, I didn’t think so.

The Microsoft memo is an interesting read for sure, but I’m not sure that there is so much that is really incriminating in it.

Am I surprised that a PR agency would brief one of their clients on an important press interview? No.

Am I surprised that they would remind their employee being interviewed about important points that they would like to get across and written into the article? No.

To me this is what I’ve always assumed that PR firms pretty much do. This is part of why they get paid the big bucks.

I do believe that much of the transparency that you see through the blogging and Channel 9 and 10 initiatives at Microsoft is legitimate, actual, authentic and real. And I think Microsoft deserves credit for being one of the most innovative companies in encouraging their employees to blog. Much more so than Apple.

I believe that much of the blogging at Microsoft is legitimate because there is just no way that Microsoft could spend the money for Waggener Edstrom to try to do the level of research that they did in this report on every single interaction that goes on with the public day in and day out through Microsoft’s army of bloggers. And I’ve interacted a lot with Microsoft bloggers and have never felt like there was this level of scrutiny on me or my blog.

Certainly an interesting read on how the inside PR machine can work, but not unexpected and not what I think is the norm for the actual authentic conversations that happen every day in the blogosphere that Microsoft ought to still be commended for.

You can read more on this story directly from Frank Shaw, Waggener Edstrom’s President, here and a post on the matter by the Wired writer involved, Fred Vogelstein, here.

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