11:45 am Jul. 19, 2012
Hillary and Bill Clinton's former consultant and pollster Mark Penn is leaving the communications firm he's been in charge of for the last seven years to join Microsoft as a vice president.
In a statement, Microsoft said Penn will answer to the company's C.E.O. and work "to develop and deliver breakthrough ideas that meet consumers’ changing and dynamic needs."
Being that Penn is supposed to be a message and marketing guru (Microtrends!), that probably translates to advising Microsoft leadership on how best to counterprogram the idea that the company is a legacy-weighted dinosaur in the age of Apple, Facebook and Google. Or at any rate, on how to do so more effectively than C.E.O. Steve Ballmer, whose response has effectively been to say that there are more PC users now than there were in the 90s and that Microsoft's search engine, Bing, "delivers more relevant results than Google."
Notwithstanding the tech-heavy context, Penn will be presumably be sending his employer into battle with a repositioning strategy that is poll-tested, but also (notwithstanding the hi-tech context) predicated first and foremost on managing the traditional media.
Here's Penn from a 2009 appearance in Manhattan, in which he tried to explain how Barack Obama's social media presence had moved him past Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary.
"[E]very one of his major social media successes was proceeded with a major television or media event. His announcement, how it was covered, his '60 Minutes' interview, his speeches. And it typically, those big media events, then as I said before, drove people, I think, to an online operation there. It’s like having a million operators waiting. And I think that this is the one-two punch. And I think people very much forget the one part of the one-two punch, which is why traditional media actually played such a big role in these social media success. "