Microsoft Gets It All Wrong – Launching The ILDC “Friends Club” For Students

Microsoft’s new R&D Center in Israel (ILDC) is going through a lot of recruiting and PR effort. It’s latest PR stunt – The Microsoft Friends Club which is open for “all students, studying for any certified degree in computer science, software engineering, communication engineering or electrical engineering in any academic institution”.

To launch this club, Microsoft announced on a series of free rock concerts – for students studying the above mentioned fields and their friends…

Now, I’m not a PR or a recruiting expert, but it seems to me like Microsoft is shooting in the dark with this campaign:

  1. Unfocused audience – Yes, some of the attendees are going to be engineering students. I guess most won’t…. That’s hardly close to the “engineering students who are about to graduate and are looking for a job\internship” target audience. Even less if we change the definition to “geeky engineering students” who are the top talents Microsoft should really want on its side…
  2. Unclear messaging/branding – Because free rock concerts really gives the “We’re a cool software company that drives innovation. We’re the place you want to be if you want to work on leading edge technology…”. At best, it gives a statement of “We have lots of money… if we through it away like that on students just imagine what we do for our own employees”.

It’s sad that Microsoft’s ILDC chose to ignore successful events and case studies done abroad for this purpose and chose to promote itself as if it was a cellphone company…

If anyone over there at ILDC is reading this post, if you really want an effective campaign for recruiting students just learn from the two  examples below. Both target a very specific audience which is exactly the type you’d want to recruit as a company, and by sponsoring such event you’re getting the right message across: “We’re a cool company that values and sponsors new technology and innovation and the people who create it”.

1. Microsoft Imagine Cup

The Microsoft Imagine Cup is a worldwide competition for students, held by Microsoft, encouraging students to submit new and innovative projects and compete with other students locally and worldwide. As summarized in the case study:

What: The world’s premier student
technology competition, in which
teams and individuals submit their
projects online or in person for a
chance to compete at the global
finals—like the Olympics of technology—
held in a different country each
year.

Why: To inspire young people
to conceive and build innovative
technology solutions to real-world
challenges.

Who: More than 100,000 university
and high school students from 111
countries are registered for the 2007
Imagine Cup.

How: Teams and individuals can
enter nine categories that include
software design, embedded development,
Web development, short film,
photography, IT, algorithms, and a
programming battle called Project
Hoshimi.

Where: The worldwide finals of the
2007 Imagine Cup will take place in
Seoul, South Korea, in August.

More info:
http://www.imaginecup.com

ILDC can encourage such activity via its campus activities. Sponsor a local Israeli cup, and more…

2. Google Summer of Code

The Google Summer of Code is an annual program, in which Google awards stipends to hundreds of students who successfully complete a requested free software/open-source coding project during the summer.

The program invites students who meet their eligibility criteria to post applications that detail the software-coding project they wish to perform. These applications are then evaluated by the corresponding mentoring organization. Every participating organization must provide mentors for each of the project ideas received, if the organization is of the opinion that the project would benefit them. The mentors then rank the applications and submit the ranked list to Google. Google then decides how many projects each organization gets, and selects the top-n applications for that organization, where n is the number of projects assigned to them.

In the event of a single student being present in the top-n of more than one organization, Google mediates between all the involved organizations and decides who “gets” that student. The slots freed up on the other mentoring organization are passed to the next-best ranked application in that pile.

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