More like PR fluff than Bill Gates’ answers

According to "Bill Gates Answers Most Frequently Asked Questions," the first question that’s important for him to answer is "What kind of role did fate or luck play in your success?"

This 3-page Word document, available for download from Microsoft’s website, has eight pretty limp questions which have Bill Gates’ words as answers, including on that one.

I’m wondering who on earth such a document is aimed at. As it’s a freely-available download, available from 14 December (so it’s new on the website), I guess it’s aimed at literally anyone who visits the Microsoft website and finds it. There’s nothing in the document properties to give you an indicator: the dialog is totally blank, actually, so anyone could have written this. Why should I trust it? Who can I contact with any questions about the questions (and answers)? No credibility here.

In any event, why do such a weak effort as an FAQ by Microsoft’s top man? You can find all the answers in this doc by reading any of Gates’ books, something anyone who watches Gates and Microsoft will have done. Indeed, you can get much of it by spending a little time browsing the corporate and press sections in Microsoft’s website and Gates’ site.

I’d like to see an FAQ that has some real meat, some credibility, in which we can see Bill Gates talking about major business topics. I’d like to see him expand greatly on much of what he spoke about in his CEO Summit last May.

So this 3-pager seems such a waste of a PR opportunity. But, I don’t know what the specific objectives are in doing this. Nevertheless, it just looks like PR fluff. Maybe in time for Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas, it’s a nice Christmas theme at the moment on Microsoft’s site. And there’s a definite Amazon-ish feel to the Gifts that Click – Holiday Guide 2004 section where you can buy Microsoft products. The only thing missing is 1-Click ordering!

2 thoughts on “More like PR fluff than Bill Gates’ answers

  1. Neville,
    It probably is so fluffy because of our securities laws here in the States. If he says anything that could even remotely affect their stock price, he’s risking more than it’s worth.
    Take a look at a lot of the news articles written by the business journals and papers here, and the quotes you will see generally end with something along the lines of, “CEO Smith said in a release.”
    Reg FD and Sarbanes-Oxley have taken a lot of depth out of our business reporting. Blame the lawyers.

  2. Good points, Mark. I would agree that any publicly-listed company has to be mindful of securities laws and regulations when communicating.
    This is especially true where what’s being communicated may influence people’s actions with regard to things like the share price. So that’s a risk always to balance in any organizational communication.
    Yet in this case with what I will still call the ‘PR fluff piece,’ I really cannot see what regulatory risk Microsoft might run if they had produced a more meatier FAQ. Easy to generalize as well as criticize, I know. So what do I mean by ‘meatier’ anyway?
    Well, as I said in the post, further commentary on some of the interesting topics Bill Gates spoke about at his CEO Summit in May. He commented there about blogging, for instance – that’s one topic I’d love to hear more about from Microsoft’s leadership as to where they see this going from a business perspective.
    Maybe I should be asking Robert Scoble for some pointers on leadership views about that…

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