BACKGROUND: Cloud computing is the buzziest of buzz phrases. Everybody claims it, but few know exactly what it means. Multiply that by the inherent issues facing Microsoft: the perception that the company was irrelevant and a wide-spread belief that Microsoft actually did not want to support cloud technology because it threatened its traditional software investments.

Take that disbelief and multiply it by Latin America. 19 countries with different languages, cultures, and levels of technological maturity. How do we jumpstart belief and excitement?

OBJECTIVES: Despite these challenges, PN and Microsoft research clearly showed that cloud computing represented a great business opportunity for Microsoft in Latin America.

We needed to pull out all the stops. The company wanted to inspire businesses, consumers, SMB’s, and government decision-makers in Latin America them to use the cloud to achieve their greatest potential – their “impossible”.

That’s when we decided to turn an upcoming visit from Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, into a road show demonstrating how they were at the leading edge of cloud computing. In one week Ballmer would visit Latin America and we were determined to squeeze every opportunity out of each stop.

The Porter Novelli team began the behemoth task of driving the agenda for what the region needed by coordinating between the company’s Corporate PR team, the Executive’s PR team, as well as the individual PR teams in each of the countries he was visiting.

Our goal was to quickly demonstrate:
• Experience. Almost 15 years’ experience running some of the largest, most reliable cloud services in the world.
• Commitment. Microsoft is completely committed to the cloud: evolving existing products, creating new offerings and building the infrastructure to support cloud services globally.
• Leadership. Only Microsoft provides a comprehensive set of cloud services with the reliability, security and global reach you should expect for your business.

WHAT WE DID AND HOW IT WORKED: In five days, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer visited four countries, met with four presidents, and was our key spokesperson for four regional and global announcements and events.

First Day: Steve’s LATAM tour got off to a good start in Colombia, driving strong coverage on his announcement of Microsoft Online Services in 8 countries in the region, as well the company’s cloud strategy, its commitment to Colombia, the strengthening of the company’s business in the country and finally Ballmer’s meeting with President Alvaro Uribe.

A high PRIME score of 146 (0-200) was driven by pick-up of messages tracked on online and print media only. It was augmented by positive social media activity throughout the day, including commentary, images and video—particularly on Twitter—by a good mix of enthusiasts and media.

Second Day: Ballmer’s visit to Argentina was highlighted by a speech at the Universidad Argentina de la Empresa. We orchestrated his meeting with a group of CEOs from leading companies in the country, a partner roundtable and a lively town hall meeting packed with almost the entire 200-strong Microsoft Argentina team. Towards the end of the day, he continued the story by committing to cloud-based job creation with President Cristina Kirchner. PRIME score was 126 (0-200), a solid result with high overall tone and a somewhat lower pickup of messages carried over from the prior day’s announcement. Social media maintained active conversations about Ballmer’s tour, particularly around his university speech.

Third Day: On to Brazil. PRIME was 140 (0-200), an outstanding result with a strong pick-up message driven by the positive announcements concerning education and job creation in Argentina. Meanwhile, social media focused its conversation on Ballmer’s visit to Brazil and his speech at the University of Sao Paulo, for which the bulk of coverage focused on the first global announcement from Latin America of the next version of Messenger.

Fourth Day: Ballmer’s visit to Brazil centered on the unveiling of the new version of Windows Live Messenger, Microsoft’s support of an initiative by the Brazilian Ministry of Education and the opportunities for Microsoft in the cloud. PRIME was 154 (0-200), the highest score of the week with exceptional message pick-up driven by the positive repercussions around the Messenger announcement and Microsoft strategy in the cloud.

Fifth Day: Mexico. This was a day dedicated to the issues around the cloud, from broadband access to security, privacy and local innovation. An inspired speech by President Calderon at Microsoft’s Public Sector Leaders Forum summed up the key challenges to move societies forward, and a custom version of the “All In” speech tailored for government elites—a great delivery by Ballmer with only a few mentions of the word “cloud”—proposed the solution.

PRIME score was 144 (0-200), closing a straight week of coverage with daily scores over 140 (172 analyzed placements/143 average score for the week). Our news focus paid off with message pickup for the week at 4.5/5. Coverage continued for the next several days and clearly a strong cycle was set in motion that is impossible to ignore by neither our customers, nor our competitors.
Social media activity picked up on all our announcements during the week, with influencers, media, customers and even government.

At the same time in the US, Steve Ballmer’s LATAM tour continued to drive moderate coverage volume during the week. Thus far, the tour has generated in the U.S. 20 news/feature stories, 29 blog posts and 8 reposts for a total of 57 English-language coverage placements.

In closing, Ballmer’s visit generated over 450 news articles in Latin America, of which 172 were analyzed through PRIME for a combined score of 143 (0 – 200). The highlight was a remarkable message pickup of nearly 4.5 (on a 5.0 scale) which reflects very well on the team’s approach of combining thought and product leadership with the positive impact of technology for the future of countries development. Landing different messages every day along the same theme gave Ballmer the opportunity to be relevant in each country while shedding light on the offerings of multiple products and segments in a controlled way.