It never ceases to amaze me that billion-dollar companies like Microsoft that can afford the best PR advice mess up their public relations so badly.
Much has been written already about the incoherent and insensitive letter sent to employees in the Microsoft Devices Group that meandered around until it finally got to the real message towards the bottom of the post.
The company is going to lay off 12,500 employees.
The letter came from Stephen Elop, former Nokia chief executive, and now head of Microsoft digital.
I guess the company is into transparency, because the Microsoft News Center actually posted the letter online. Maybe they wanted to give people a good laugh.
While reporters have scoffed at the letter, pointing out its deficiencies, I didn’t notice that anyone actually took a crack at what Elop could have written instead.
Back in my agency days I counseled more than one company on how to handle the news of what Microsoft euphemistically calls “right sizing.” So I know something about this topic, which calls for crisis communications. Because that’s what it can turn out to be – witness the Microsoft debacle.
To read the original letter click here. It’s way too long, for starters, and why would the company want to give so away so much information to its competitors? The letter is so poorly written and filled with jargon that it will take your breath away. When you’re done, come on back and read my version. Let me know what you think.
What Could Have Been Said
The point of these kinds of communications is to get out the bad news as quickly as possible. In my version, I state the cause of the layoffs — a consolidation of business units — to give context to the bad news that follows.
The excruciating details about all the plants that will be closed and the transfer of manufacturing operations should be communicated by managers to their direct reports. The news will affect each of them differently. The message needs to be individualized. Here goes:
This letter is to update you on Microsoft’s strategy for our digital business, which will focus on building the market for the Windows Phone. This will entail delivering additional lower-cost Lumia devices by shifting select future Nokia X designs and products to Windows Phone devices.
Our plan is to consolidate the former Smart Devices and Mobile Phones business units into one phone business unit that is responsible for all our phone efforts. Jo Harlow will lead our phone business.
Unfortunately, this consolidation will result in an estimated reduction of 12,500 factory direct and professional employees over the next year. It was a difficult, but necessary, decision so that we could become more agile and competitive. The employees who are affected will be eligible for severance benefits. Human Resources will meet with each employee to describe those benefits in detail.
Today and over the coming weeks leaders across the organization will hold town halls, host information sharing sessions, and provide more details about how the company will be moving forward to make Microsoft a leader in the niche for more affordable smart phones.
Our digital team is committed to building “best in class” applications, operating systems and cloud services.
I will be communicating with you on a regular basis as we implement exciting new innovations in our Windows smart phone business.
What did you think of Microsoft’s original letter? Do you think my version does the job?