Today’s announcement of new Skype bots was supposed to be a routine affair. But Gizmodo received an inadvertently missent email from Microsoft about the announcement, and its attachment pulled back the curtain on how the technology giant meticulously approaches speaking to the press.
The email includes a seemingly standard discussion of the blog posts they are drafting for the announcement. But things get more interesting towards the end of the email. Microsoft’s press team has been trying to pitch an interview with Gurdeep Singh Pall, Corporate VP for Skype, to WIRED. But WIRED passed due to scheduling. They settled on moving the interview to TechCrunch and Fast Company and included a “Briefing Doc” to prepare everyone for the change in interviewer.
The “Briefing Doc” turned out to be about a one and a half page dossier on Fast Company senior writer Mark Sullivan. The dossier contains a brief history of what news outlets Mark Sullivan has written for or appeared on, his writing style, and tips and tricks for the interviewee to know in preparation for speaking with Mark. The dossier then goes on to list his opinions (both on and off the record) on Microsoft’s products like Skype or their strategy for Conversation as a Platform, and his views towards Microsoft’s competitors.
The inadvertent email demonstrates Microsoft does their homework when talking to the press. And it shows they take reporters seriously before speaking with them. But it is also is one of those things that is never supposed to make it out of Redmond, and it does have a bit of a big brother vibe to it.
This also isn’t the first time one of Microsoft’s dossiers on a journalist has been leaked. Gizmodo updated their article to reflect the last time this happened, which was pointed out to them via Twitter.
And other Microsoft watchers opined on the company’s long-standing practice, mostly lightheartedly.
This might actually be an argument for "the end of email" that Microsoft could get behind…
— Mary Jo Foley (@maryjofoley) August 3, 2016
It is reasonable for a company to centralize and share their collective knowledge on issues like each and every time they speak to the press. What might be most surprising about this is that for a company that is so clearly doing a meticulous job of collecting this information, Microsoft seemingly doesn’t have a meticulously thought-out process for making sure it stays within the company.
A Microsoft spokesperson did provide an official response to Gizmodo’s story. You can read Microsoft’s official comment on the story below.
As you might expect, we work to make sure all of our spokespeople come into any interview prepared. This includes being clear about what the interview is about, as well as giving them context on who they will be talking to. It also includes reminding them about previous interactions with the reporter, a synopsis of recent coverage and relevant information the reporter might have shared via other public sites like Twitter. We do this to ensure the interview is a good use of time for both parties.
It’s always interesting to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how companies do business. Let us know in the comments what you think about Microsoft’s process of managing public relations.