06:49 AM

Microsoft Tries Blogger Outreach But How Serious Is It?

On Monday, The Conversation Group set up a "Blogger Roundtable" for Microsoft's Online Services Group that invited leading bloggers to offer their advice on how to improve communications (please see end for who was there.)

It was an interesting exercise and although MSFT executives were quick to admit they had poor relations with bloggers I question how serious the software giant is in improving relations.

For a start, there was no one from Microsoft's several hundred strong global communications team present. I recently spoke at a large internal conference of its communications team and got great feedback and great questions, so I know they are many great people within Microsoft thinking a lot about blogger relations.

Also, Microsoft pays a fortune to its long time PR firm Waggener Edstrom yet there was no representation from this firm. I mentioned this to Ron Markezich, Microsoft VP and in charge of Online Services. "There was a guy from Wagg-Ed at the back of the room but he got bored and left a while ago," he said.

Seriously not serious . . .

Which makes me think that this exercise was not a serious attempt by Microsoft to figure out how it should relate to key influencers. This is a shame because Microsoft got some excellent advice from the group. But you can lead a horse to water...

How will that advice be translated into action if the people ultimately responsible for MSFT communications weren't present?

Another reason why Microsoft is not serious about soliciting advice: If it were serious it would pay for it.

Why is this incredibly rich corporation seeking free advice on how to better promote its products and services and to tell its stories to the world? It wants us to help it continue to make huge amounts of money (nearly $6bn in operating profits in its most recent quarter.) but is MSFT helping any bloggers to pay the rent? As far as I can see MSFT does not sponsor blogs. So if it doesn't support the blogosphere how come it is asking for support in return?

Learning from Intel . . .

Intel has assembled a group of influential bloggers of which I am a member, they are called the Intel Insiders. Intel, however, does support the blogosphere. [Intel is the main sponsor of Silicon Valley Watcher and asks for nothing in return except to host its Intel widget (see sidebar).]

Also, Intel rewards its Intel Insiders and that's what Microsoft needs to do. It needs to be like Intel and use its wealth to support the blogosphere through sponsorships and pay for the advice it gets. After all, if the advice is free then that's how it will value that advice.

If we are being asked to help Microsoft pay its rent then it should help us pay our rent and support my work and those of my colleagues in the new media. That's how Microsoft can continue to engage this community.

Social media insiders . . .

From my experience with the Intel Insiders and now Microsoft's attempts to corral a similar community of influencers, there is a business opportunity here to create an independent "social media insiders" group that could provide very valuable advice to many corporations on how to communicate in this new world.

- - -

People present today:

Salim Ismael

Rod Boothby

Geva Perry

Ben Metcalfe

Chirag Mehta

Tom Foremski

Steve Wylie

Deb Schultz

Chris Heuer

Brian Solis

David Libby

Ohad Eder-Pressman

Adrian Chan

Steve Gillmor

Jeff Nolan

David Spark (as moderator)

From Microsoft:

Ron Markezich, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Online

David Howell, Director, Microsoft Online Engineering

Bharat Shah, General Manager, Microsoft Online Engineering

Eron Kelly, Sr. Director, Microsoft Online

Alex Payne, Director, Office Client Product Management

Andrew Kisslo, Sr. Product Manager, Office Client