Microsoft is in the news again in what many are calling another ethics brouhaha. I think it’s just another bone-headed marketing move from a company that still thinks it can pay or push or bluff its way into message control. Like many big companies and their PR firms, they just don’t get social media.
Now, Microsoft is using the Wal-mart flog defense — that it was an unauthorized move by a low-level employee, that no offer of payment was involved. And I’m Queen Elizabeth.
The story: Microsoft offered to pay O’Reilly author and blogger Rick Jelliffe, who blogs about XML issues, to change some Wikipedia entries concerning the OpenDocument Format (ODF) and Microsoft’s Office Open XML.
No big deal, says Jeliffe. Very big deal says Slashdot, CNN, and scores of others.
Wikipedia, to their credit, refused to allow the paid updates. Not, I’m sure, that others aren’t getting paid to write Wikipedia entries and not blabbing about it.
So what should Microsoft have done? They should have asked half a dozen well-respected geek Microsoft observers to look at the entries and provide written opinions on whether they needed to be corrected. Then they should have compiled all those responses and presented them to Wikipedia. And they should have blogged about the fact that they did that.
And the real bottom line is that Microsoft should concentrate on making products so great that their customers will love and defend them. And they should fire their PR firm. They are getting really bad advice lately!
As David Pogue pointed out in his January 1 column, this is far from Microsoft’s first PR scandal. They just don’t learn.