My Third All-Time Favorite High-Tech PR Gaffe

Until today, I had two all-time favorite high-tech public relations (PR) oops-es:

  • The first was when some company sent The New York Times a softcopy of a press release in Microsoft Word without first accepting all the revision marks. The journalist who received the press release changed the view in Word to show the complete revision history and got to see a live demonstration of the corporate weasel-wording process.
  • The second was when Google’s new head of investor relations sent a PowerPoint slide deck to analysts and forgot to sanitize the notes section, inadvertantly leaking both confidential financial projections and a new product announcement. I blogged about that one, here.

Ever wonder why most PR people now convert both Word and PowerPoint documents to PDF before sending them out?

Well, today, I have a third all-time favorite. See this amazing story where Microsoft (and/or their PR firm Waggener Edstrom) accidentally mailed a briefing document prepared for a spokesperson to the journalist that was interviewing him, Fred Vogelstein of Wired.

If you’re at all interested in PR then you have to read the briefing document, here.

If you’re not interested in PR you should probably read it anyway, because you will get a first-hand education into just how much work large companies spend on pitching stories and preparing spokespeople for press interviews.

In my opinion, Waggener Edstrom president Frank Shaw should have eaten some humble pie and/or simply shut up, but instead — as I suppose would be every PR maven’s instinct — he tried to make lemonade out of lemons here. It didn’t work for me at all nor, judging by the comments on his post, did it work for most other people either.

Wired editor in chief Chris Anderson has an interesting and fairly charitable post on his blog, here.

One response to “My Third All-Time Favorite High-Tech PR Gaffe

  1. The interest is in the dynamics, not the content. Reminds me of Clinton and not inhaling. Big media circus at the time, but once it was done, it was done: since then, politicians have been able to admit to the same thing without big press stories (or even win a few laughs, e.g. Obama: “that was the point”). The next accidental leak of a dossier won’t be news (I hope).

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