PR nightmare: Could you have done better?

The Times of London put Microsoft’s PR rep Oona Rokyta on her heels with a story that had more legs than legitimacy. Could you have handled the situation better?

Every experienced PR pro has been there before. The phone rings and it’s a reporter with an asinine story and a tight deadline.

That’s what happened to Oona Rokyta, of Microsoft’s PR agency Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, a couple weeks ago. And as the story ricocheted all over the media world and the blogosphere, all she could do was bite the bullets, one by one. And they’re still coming.

Here’s how the thing went down:

On Jan. 15, The Times of London called, wanting a Microsoft comment for a story it intended to run the next day, about “Big Brother-style” “‘spy’ software” that Microsoft was hoping to develop; the software would be capable, the paper would report, “of remotely monitoring a worker’s productivity, physical well-being and competence” by tracking employees’ biometrics, like heart rate and facial expressions.

Though Rokyta and her colleagues knew Microsoft had had a slew of patent applications published in December, this was the first she’d heard of this one. And the reporter told her she had 45 minutes to refute the story.

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