Last night one of the people who’ve been on the ScobleShow (my video show) wrote me and told me he was fired for appearing on my show without PR permission. I won’t tell you who that was since he’s interviewing for a new position now, but it made me realize that when I aim my camera at someone that there are real consequences for doing so. Now, the guy in question should have known that would have pissed someone off. Most big companies, in their employment agreements, have in there that you aren’t allowed to talk with the press unless given permission by the PR departments.
This rule drives many people nuts. I got yelled at at Microsoft for talking to the press a few times. But they stopped bothering when they realized that I was talking to the press on my blog anyway and generally I wasn’t causing too many messes that needed to be cleaned up. Heck, the executives did enough of that and I was paid a lot less so my messes were cheaper.
Being in the public eye is NOT easy, NOT for the timid, and NOT for those who don’t have a good read on the corporate membrane.
I’m reminded of this again when I read David Weller’s blog at Microsoft where he points out some of the difficulties of representing a big company in the public eye. I see both points here, by the way. Doing the kind of blogging that I was doing at Microsoft is much harder than it looks. You’ve got to have great relationships across the company to be able to do things like tell people they should be fired for not doing something, like I did at Microsoft, without being fired yourself.
Plus, today, Microsoft is changing its approach to PR. Why?
Two words: Steve Jobs.
Steve has gotten the most fantastic amount of PR the world has ever known by making everything secret.
You can say a lot of things about Microsoft but one thing I came away with after my three years inside there is that it’s a learning company. I’m sure right now they are arguing out all sorts of things about the iPhone launch and thinking about how they will apply the lessons from this period in time to Microsoft.
I’m hearing from my friends on the Windows team that Steven Sinofsky and his team (Steven runs the Windows team) has made it clear he doesn’t want anyone talking about the next version of Windows. Hey, Steven is learning from Steve.
Steve Jobs is MANUFACTURING great PR by keeping everyone’s mouth shut. Heck, I’ve met some people I KNEW had an iPhone and they were so scared of retribution or consequences that they wouldn’t answer a single question.
Have you noticed that no one has started talking about the next version of Windows? I have. That’s on purpose. They learned their lesson and realized that letting you see inside the meat factory is a little too messy for this new world of PR. Rather keep all that mess behind corporate walls and come out when something is actually finished.
This also is the reason why I haven’t had many developers on my show. I’d love to have more. But PR departments keep the developers away from the press because the PR departments know that developers:
1. Are likely to tell the unvarnished truth.
2. Aren’t skilled in explaining/demoing what their product does.
3. Might be boring or unprofessional on camera.
It’s a real problem and I’ve been working with several of the PR folks to gain their trust so they’ll let me a little deeper inside their companies to look around like I got to do at Microsoft. But it’s not an easy process.
Anyway, when interviewing people from now on I’m going to make sure they have PR’s approval to appear on my show and/or understand the consequences of doing that.
It’s not worth getting people fired just by turning on my camera because they didn’t check with PR first.
That said, if you want to get on my show I’ll be filming for the next two days in front of the Apple Store in Palo Alto on University Ave. Come on by, bring your PR person too!