Most people think empathy is just something you reserve for your life and your family and your friends, but the reality is that it’s an existential priority of a business.” –Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft
When I came across the quote above I realized it was exactly what I was looking for to suit our theme of corporate empathy. Then I realized who said it. (In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a little biased. I have consulted for Microsoft, and I own two Microsoft computers that I love. One of which I purchased right after I ran into John Thompson, the chairman of Microsoft’s board, who bought me a drink and convinced me to try a Surface. I even voted the Microsoft ad my favorite among the Superbowl ads.)
Yet, it wasn’t always thus. Earlier in my career, as director of corporate communications at Lotus, Microsoft was our sworn enemy. They had these little programs called Excel and Word, and we had Lotus 1-2-3 and Manuscript. We were bigger, better, and had better technology. Well, you know how that battle turned out.
I then measured the battle between Intuit and Microsoft for Intuit. Once again Microsoft was Goliath to Intuit’s David. How can you not side with the underdog?
The new Microsoft
But after Mr. Thompson was kind enough to buy me that glass of wine, (amazing how a good Cabernet can foster empathy), I started to view Microsoft in a different light. I began seeing Surface laptops in client offices. I checked out the Microsoft Store and ended up buying a Surface 3 to replace my stolen iPad. Shortly thereafter, my main computer died and when out for repair, and that little Surface 3 tablet ran all of Paine Publishing flawlessly for months. This was not the Microsoft I remembered, where CTL-ALT-DEL was the answer to all the glitches.
Turns out that the “new” Microsoft is a result of the new CEO, Satya Nadella. Yup, the guy who believes that empathy is an existential priority for a business. He’s right of course. But it is interesting to see how such a lofty sentiment can help a company transform from a much maligned monopoly into a company that spends $5 million on a Superbowl ad to promote accessibility for kids with disabilities. And is the second most valuable company on earth.
Part of their reason for their success is that Microsoft has always been at the forefront of communications measurement. Back in the early ‘90s, The Delahaye Group was measuring Microsoft’s media coverage and using the data to identify strengths and weaknesses in their products and positioning. They were among the first global companies to establish consistent metrics for all of their PR teams—and not just to justify budgets. Metrics at Microsoft are a core tool for its communications teams, both to ensure consistent messaging and to better understand how the world at large is seeing them. I’m not privy to how they measure their corporate empathy, but I’m willing to bet the results show up on a dashboard somewhere.
So for all those reasons we name Microsoft our Measurement Maven of the Month. Congrats! ∞