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Microsoft PR Firm Fails at Word of Mouth

posted by admin on October 21st, 2008

Just a few hours after publishing my last post on the best free web apps for students, a confusing message came in through the contact form. I normally wouldn’t bother sharing this, but it’s a great example of the wrong way to use the web for word of mouth:

With the current financial crisis, it’s good to know college students can
still get a break on the tools they need to succeed in school. Throughout the
academic school year, Microsoft is offering eligible students the opportunity to
purchase Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007 at a special student rate.

As part of Microsoft’s The Ultimate Steal program, eligible students must be
enrolled in a valid academic institution and carry at least a 0.5 course credit.
Students can find program details at At that
site, they can purchase Office Ultimate 2007 – including Word 2007, Excel
2007, PowerPoint 2007, OneNote 2007, Groove 2007 and the many other valuable
tools in the suite – perfect for outfitting a new laptop – for $59.95.

And, new this year, students can upgrade their purchase to include Office
Language Packs (want help with that Spanish homework?), Microsoft Office Visio
Professional 2007 (great for engineers or others that do a lot of diagramming)
and/or Windows Vista Ultimate (includes security, mobility and entertainment

Given that Office Ultimate 2007 typically retails for approximately $600, this
is a deal that students cannot afford to miss.

Additional resources:
•Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007:
•Other products/solutions by which Microsoft is extending high-quality
oMicrosoft Office Live Workspace:
oMicrosoft Live@edu:

Please let me know if you have any questions.

No personalization? No reference to the content of the site? My guess is a Microsoft PR rep from Waggener Edstrom Worldwide has a web alert set up for phrases like “student” and “Microsoft”. Our site comes up, they find the contact form and paste in that handy message. Job well done.

Except not. They haven’t engaged us in conversation. Instead of taking this opportunity to explain the value of Microsoft’s products in a context that’s important to us, they’ve slapped us in the face with a canned PR message. We’re left feeling even more alienated and sympathetic to Google.

Word of mouth is about making the effort to genuinely connect with people, something a billion dollar marketing budget can’t replace.

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