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What You Can Learn From Microsoft's 3 Recent Public Blunders

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We're all for innovation and breaking the mold here at Entrepreneur, but once in a while, there is something to be said for simply staying in your lane.

Take Microsoft. It is a huge corporation with a lot of moving parts, as evidenced by the restructuring news CEO Satya Nadella announced this week following the exit of COO Kevin Turner. And while the tech giant made a splash earlier this summer by beating out Salesforce to acquire LinkedIn for $26.2 billion, the year is barely half over, and the company has already had to deal with a handful of embarrassing PR moments by not staying true to itself.

In March, Xbox hosted a party at the 2016 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. The venue where the event was held made the frankly clichéd call to hire women dressed as school girls to dance at the party.

Related: What Does Microsoft Stand to Gain From its $26.2 Billion Acquisition of LinkedIn?

Attendees were dismayed and Xbox head Phil Spencer issued a sternly worded apology, noting that "we represented Xbox and Microsoft in a way that was absolutely not consistent or aligned to our values." The appearance of the incident eclipsed any good will stemming from the fact that Microsoft had also held its 16th Women in Gaming luncheon at the same conference.

That same month, the company rolled out a chatbot named Tay that was meant to speak as if it was a millennial. Case in point, the bot's Twitter bio reads as follows: "The official account of Tay, Microsoft's A.I. fam from the internet that's got zero chill! The more you talk the smarter Tay gets."

Related: How to Build a Brand That Stands the Test of Time

But very quickly, the exercise in machine learning turned into an algorithmic platform for all manner of belligerent racist, homophobic sexist messages. Microsoft deleted the most offensive tweets, and the account is now protected. Users were less than impressed.

And this week, in an attempt to once again reach out to the youths, Microsoft stumbled. A Twitter user named Patrick Burtchaell shared a screenshot of an email his roommate received inviting him to the company's Internpalooza event in Seattle.

The subject line was "Hey bae intern <3," and it only got more cringe-inducing from there, describing the after party as offering "hella noms, lots of dranks" and "the best beats," and signing off with "hell yes to getting lit on a Monday night."

Related: The 8 Values Every Company Should Live By

Microsoft confirmed that the email was real to U.K. tech site The Register, and in a statement explained that it was "poorly worded and not in keeping with our values as a company." There's that word again -- values.

Look, we understand wanting to reach a younger, broader audience and shake off a staid and stodgy reputation. You don't want to be like a regular mom, you want to be a cool mom. But pandering isn't a great look for anyone, especially if it's ineffective pandering.

Our advice, Microsoft? Figure out what you want your values to be across the board and maybe don't try so hard to be cool. Just be yourself.   
Edition: December 2016

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