Perhaps the strangest incident of Microsoft marketing's anti-media campaign I experienced was The Strange Incident of the New President.
I was a part-time editor at a city magazine, which had decided to add a four-page computing supplement. We had no problem getting editorial content; we needed advertising to fund the fledgling effort.
Around this time, a Microsoft marketing firm invited us to the downtown office to meet the new head of Microsoft at an international division outside of the USA. Ah, a human interest story, perked up the managing editor of the magazine. So we headed downtown.
The managing editor and I crammed into a tiny interview room with the new prez and a PR [public relations] woman, and we did a Q&A. Then the PR person got a phone call and left the room. The managing editor and I figured this was a great time to pitch the new prez our new supplement, and would Microsoft be interested in supporting us with ads?
The normal routine is for a corporate president to feign interest, and then give the name of the proper person to contact for such lower-level activity. Instead, this guy froze up, looked panicked, and began to sweat. He didn't say a word. The managing ed and I looked at each other, and shortly thereafter the PR person returned.
Afterwards, we left, disappointed. We had no story (the new prez clearly didn't understand the business yet) and no ads.
The next day I received a call at home from the PR person, who began yelling at me. How dare I speak to the president (1) about such topics and (2) when she was not present. I apologized, because I didn't know how else to react. Later in the week, when I was back in the offices of the city magazine, the managing editor told me she got the same threatening phonecall and had been in tears. It was then that I first understood Microsoft is evil.
I since learned from other editors that this was standard operating procedure for one Microsoft's marketing/PR firms. Scream at the media to get them into line. Didn't work for me, and knowing that was useful when a similar tactic was tried on me year later -- but that's another installment.
And the reason the new prez froze up? Company executives are instructed to never speak to the media without a PR person being present. Can you imagine the turmoil going inside this man's head? Must ... not ... speak ...