Frank X. Shaw | Influence 100

Frank X. Shaw 

Corporate VP, Communications 



Frank X Shaw impressively continues to shepherd Microsoft through an unrelenting storm of criticism and changes, whether that’s speculation around industry-altering acquisitions, ambitious or sometimes disastrous product launches, political backlash and, more recently, Shaw occasionally has to wade into threads related to Bill Gates’ divorce.

But even with the day job he has, Shaw makes time to shape the industry’s future. He recently launched a LinkedIn series to unpack what it means to build trust. As part of that, he had a conversation with journalist Casey Newton, during which they discussed how one of the best ways for PR people and journalists to build trust is for the communications people to reveal things they should not and take a risk with a reporter.

When Shaw joined Microsoft in 2009 as its head of communications, it was perhaps one of the most seamless agency to in-house transitions the industry has witnessed. One of the reasons for that, of course, was Shaw’s former role as president of the Microsoft account at WE Communications where he spent most of the first two decades of his career. In essence, this meant Shaw had spent nearly his entire career learning every facet of Microsoft’s business.

This knowledge has been integral in his role as head of global communications, seeing the tech giant through major changes — not only in its management but also in its overall business strategy. Which probably helps to explain why Shaw is only too happy to take Microsoft critics to task on Twitter. 

Amid considerable transformation, Shaw’s institutional PR insight remains unparalleled and has yielded considerable benefit to the company —and stands as a notable example of reputational stewardship for the industry-at-large.

Can you share a moment in your career when you saw PR's direct impact on business performance?
This past year we saw direct links between news we drove for a variety of products and new customer signups for those products/services.

What are the communications industry's biggest challenges and opportunities in the year ahead?
There are two big challenges. First is the ongoing fragmentation of media, and our need to reach new outlets/influencers as well as existing outlets; and second the disinformation that flourishes on many platforms.

What have you most admired about this industry over the past year?
The focus on better engagement with employees.

How have you switched off from work and maintained wellness in lockdown?
I've worked to build in time at the start of end of the day to go out, walk/run/bike outside to ensure there is a more consistent sense of the workday being over.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has helped you get through this year or provided inspiration?
I've read a ton of great books this past year. Most recently I've been reading works by Nnedi Okorafor, who writes about African Futurism for all ages and in all formats. I just finished three books by P. Djèlí Clark who also write speculative fiction, several of which are set in a steam punk Cairo. Clint Smith’s ‘How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America’ is incredibly powerful and beautifully written.

If I wasn't working in marketing/communications, I would be...
Writing a substack.

Sum up 2021 in one word.