Microsoft recently embarrassed itself by accidentally posting rough drafts of its marketing materials, according to Slashdot. The rough drafts can be viewed because Microsoft forgot to remove “track changes” information before posting several marketing pieces on its website. Although those changes weren’t obviously visible, you can obtain the summary of edits and other information by using wWare. In a cruel twist of events, it appears that Microsoft could have avoided the issue by using a simple Microsoft tool to remove “tracked” changes.

According to Slashdot, Programmer Michael Zalewski used the Microsoft tool to uncover all the changes Microsoft made in writing news releases and other documents. Because Slashdotposted the link, thousands of people have gained access to Microsoft’s competitive information, press release changes, etc. If you review the first URL, you can actually see the evolution of sources, quotes, numbers.

To people unfamiliar with marketing, it may be alarming to discover how news releases and other materials are written. Some people may be under the impression that all press release quotes were spoken by the actual source. However, a news release writer can develop a quote and attribute it to any source, as long as the quoted source takes ownership of the attribution and no plagiarism has taken place.

It’s often the last minute before the news release writer finalizes the source for a quote. The writer or marketer may need to deal with internal and external stakeholders, all of whom have their own reasons for changing quotes and attributed sources. However, any professional marketer or news release writer will ensure that anyone mentioned in the release “signs off” on quotes.

Professional marketers and writers develop news releases, including quotes. They also write professional speeches, memos, customer letters, sales letters, ghostwritten articles, and briefing notes. Even the President of the United States has a speechwriter. In fact, when I worked for the Canadian government, I wrote memos, letters, briefing notes, “Question Period” responses, and other materials for a federal cabinet minister. Whether in a corporate or goverment environment, spokespersons rarely speak off the cuff. Except for Dan Quayle.

This process offers many advantages. Messages are consistent and integrated throughout all corporate materials. Speakers/sources are handpicked for credibility, ability to position messages, and relevance. All the messages have been pre-screened by key stakeholders or even legal teams, reducing risk. By involving a professional in writing a news release, companies can reduce the likelihood that an exec will over-commit them, say something incorrect about a feature/benefit, or go off-topic. The company leverages its full investment in marketing. And that’s good for the company and its shareholders.

(c) 2004 by Andrea Coutu. Vancouver Marketing Consultant. All rights reserved.