Slack’s ‘friendly advice’ for Microsoft: Brilliant PR strategy or patronizing ploy?

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Slack made headlines yesterday with its full-page newspaper advertisement preempting Microsoft’s announcement of its new Slack competitor, Teams. If the goal was to steal attention away from its larger competitor, Slack succeeded. On GeekWire, for example, the story about Slack’s ad attracted three times as many readers yesterday as our story about Microsoft’s actual announcement.

As some readers noted, the ad was an homage to Apple’s similar open letter to IBM in the 1980s, at the dawn of the PC era. But Slack’s ad also drew some negative reaction yesterday, as a relatively young startup publicly lectured the 41-year-old tech giant on the finer points of customer satisfaction and product development.

We discuss and debate the approach on this episode of the GeekWire podcast.

GeekWire reporter Taylor Soper, one of our resident millennials, questions the very medium in which Slack chose to deliver its message. “I don’t know if they were literally trying to reach people with this, or just make it a stunt that tech news publications like ourselves would write about,” he says. “We don’t read newspapers anymore.”

GeekWire co-founder John Cook disagreed. “It’s still a full-page ad in the New York Times. It’s reaching a good number of folks, and potential business leaders. It was an interesting PR approach — I think effective,” Cook says. “I like the idea that they’re directly commenting and saying how they’re different from their competitor.

However, he added, “The tone of it was quite interesting. It was a little condescending, I think. And then the other thing: Is Microsoft really this powerful and dominant that you need to take out a full-page ad in the New York Times to say that you’re standing up for this market segment? I don’t know. It seems like something you would write about Microsoft back in the monopoly days.”

On our Facebook Live stream of the discussion, media strategy specialist John O’Brien commented, “Slack ad was genius. They knew it would go viral (paper-online-everywhere). Notice how you’re not talking about MSFT Teams!”

Yeah, we had to agree with him on that.

Listen to the podcast above or download the MP3 here.

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