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Microsoft and Minecraft get their corporate communication wrong in acquisition

Mergers and acquisitions are daily and weekly. The largest this week is a poor example of corporate communications.

Minecraft the target

Microsoft has taken over a small Copenhagen-based games company Mojang for $2.5 billion. Mojang developed Minecraft which has become very popular since its launch in 2009. Players can build cities with Minecarft using Lego-like blocks.

Over 100 million people have downloaded the game on to their PCs since 2009. Players on the Microsoft Xbox360 platform have spent 2 billion hours playing the game in the past 2 years.

Do it but communicate it better

So why should not Microsoft buy it and Mojang sell? Microsoft is earning rent from its operating systems and applications. It needs to diversify. The owners of Mojang have $2.5 billion on the table: why not take it? Yet the way they have both communicated the deal undermines the very foundations of the deal: the devotion the gameplayers have fot it.

Left out a community of players

Let’s look at the communities involved to see how it does not really fit when we look at the corporate communications by both sides of this deal. Let’s take each community and its reactions:

  • Microsoft shareholders: excellent news;
  • Microsoft board: excellent news – profits next year from the accusation according to the plan, a sound base and we look good to the shareholders as we are executing our diversification strategy;
  • Mojang owners: why not for $2.5 billion?
  • Minecraft players?

Gamers made it a success

Where are the Minecraft players in all of this? They built the company because they play the game so often. The developers created the game but the gamers made it worth a $2.5 billion takeover. And that for a company which employs 40 people. The players upload their creations to many platforms.

Will this upload become a copyright infringement under Microsoft?

Will this upload become a copyright infringement under Microsoft?

Their concerns include:

  • Will Microsoft stop them uploading?
  • How will the game be developed now that it goes into the Games division of Microsoft and out of the hands of the original creators in Denmark?
  • What is in the small print which neither Microsoft nor Mojang reveal?

Microsoft and Mojang don’t adress the problems

None of the communications about the sale from either Microsoft nor Mojang really address these issues. Yet these are the people on whom the success and the future of the game depends.

This is what should have been done:

  • Both Microsoft and Mojang should have put up front and centre their commitment to the player community; not just words but in detail;
  • Mojang should have revealed the principles if not the detail of the deal to assure players the game will be developed; and
  • Both sides should have thought of the response of the player community, many of whom are now seething with anger, and worked out how to counter this anger.

Big message: think of the many communities in such a merger or acquisition and speak to them clearly when it is announced.



Make your websites accessible for the disabled — or break the law

Corporate communicators have a legal requirement to make their content accessible by disabled people. One in five of the population has some type of disability. If your website cannot be used by them then you are potentially missing out a good 20% of your potential market.

4 tests

The World Wide Web Consortium,, has done a lot of work to help website designers make their content accessible. It has devised a framework which says sites and features on sites should be perceivable, operable, understandable and robust:


  • Provide text alternatives for non-text content.
  • Provide captions and alternatives for audio and video content.
  • Make content adaptable; and make it available to assistive technologies.
  • Use sufficient contrast to make things easy to see and hear.


  • Make all functionality keyboard accessible.
  • Give users enough time to read and use content.
  • Do not use content that causes seizures.
  • Help users navigate and find content.


  • Make text readable and understandable.
  • Make content appear and operate in predictable ways.
  • Help users avoid and correct mistakes.


  • Maximize compatibility with current and future technologies.

 Quick tests

Even better it has devised a series of quick tests so that when the site is designed it can be tested against simple criteria for accessibility.

Here’s an example of a bad home page:


This site is not readily accessible and breaks the guidelines

This site is not readily accessible and breaks the guidelines


And this is the same page made more accessible:

This is a good site where accessibility is higher: spot the differences

This is a good site where accessibility is higher: spot the differences


The differences are subtle but essential for accesibility.  Who can spot the most differences?

And you can win a free e-elarning course from ContentETC when you get the best caption in our Caption Competition.


Question of the week: who owns the copyright? Answer: your employer!

Gasps of dismay this week from delegates at my copyright course. It always gets them talking when I say that their employer owns the copyright in their work. Even when they do the same work as at work but in their own time and at home.

Photographer forced to destroy images

There’s a famous case when a photographer was forced by her ex-employer to destroy images she had taken in her own time but when employed by them. That really gets them talking.

And then I regularly get a string of questions: “what if a writer takes a photograph?”; “what if I write a novel?”; “what if a photographer writes a picture caption?”

Answer: it’s the employer, is common practice

And the answer to them all is: what is the common practice in the company? If writers commonly take photographs then the copyright is owned by the employer. And if photographers commonly write captions then it is owned by the employer. But few are employed to write novels.

Freelances keep their copyright

The clue is in the word “employer”. If you are in employment then the ownership of copyright is with the employer. But if on some type of service contract — such as a commission – then the creator of the content is the owner.

To really understand copyright and other issues in intellectual property then do our Copyright and Intellectual Property Law e-learning course.

Or you could win a free e-learning course by winning our photo Caption Competition.

Use in-house video creatively: not like Buffalo Grill

Video screens in foyers and instore are the norm now. But be careful what you put on the video screens in your store, at your front desk etc: it is an important piece of corporate communications which can go wrong. Here is a chance to get several messages across, but make sure you get the right ones over.

Don’t watch the screen

Had lunch in a Buffalo Grill this week in France: don’t ask why. Buffalo Grill, a private company, has over 300 restraunts, mostly in France. None in the UK, as far as I know. Inside was a screen showing all the Buffalo Grills in France: picture of the place and a town or city name underneath. The problem was they all looked the same, built to the same design. And each one had the name of the town under it. The only difference in the image in the screen is that some have a red roof and some black one, as far as I could see.

Where am I?  It's the same all over, apart from the colour of the roof.  Why not tell us something about the town it in near to or where it is on the map?

Where am I? It’s the same all over, apart from the colour of the roof. Why not tell us something about the town it in near to or where it is on the map?

The image is the key : make sure it delivers a message, and these did not.

A poor joke

Pictures of the towns in which they are then a pic of the grill would have worked. As would maps of where to find a Buffalo Grill. They are on the edges of towns and cities, easily accessible to motorway traffic. And often accompanied by that bete noir of France, a MacDonalds. But this was a waste of space which became a poor joke.

How important is spelling?

Well,  perhaps you can you tell me…

Admiring the view has just taking on a whole new meaning.”

This is the line taken today from the Nissan UK website, where they are extolling the virtues of their brand new X-Trail model. I already own an older version of this particular car, so was checking out this new model, and came across several “typos”, one of which is in the line above.

My problem isn’t really just the poor grammar (though from a company this size, I have to say I am surprised…). My disappointment is even more pronounced because everywhere else on the site, Nissan emphasise their excellent quality, their attention to detail, their styling touches, etc, etc.

Yet. When I read a line that any human reader will instantly spot as incorrect, it makes me doubt these claims. Clearly the site content has been published without this famous Nissan attention to detail. And this site is their shop window.

Am I being unreasonable?

I don’t think so. As soon you let one – even “trivial” – error creep into your message, some people (people like me) will mark you down. It will erode a lot of the hard work you have put into the whole package. And all because of one simple, and easily corrected oversight.

So the moral is a simple one…

Write your stuff.

Then check it.

Then, check it AGAIN.

And finally? Check it AGAIN ONCE MORE.

Enough said?




M&S: good corporate communications in difficult times

The numbers at Marks and Spencer are not great. But the corporate message is getting across: things are on the up.

The first quarter statement is written soberly. The key messages are at the top. And CEO Marc Bolland gets his message in quickly.

Not the power it had but great slippers

Not the power it had but great slippers

At the AGM M&S revealed that it sells 1 in 5 slippers for males in the UK. That’s a nice nugget to dig out and present to the normally placid shareholders. And was picked up by the Daily Telegraph.  That’s good corporate communications in a challenging time.

Have a go at our Caption Competition and win a free e-learning course of your choice!

3 tips on how to work with centralised content generation

Centralised generation of any content creates opportunities and problems, as I argued in my last blog.

Here are three tips to help overcome the problems.


Train the centralised content generators in what the specific voice of the brand is and what its key words are. This is done by the brand “owners” so that the content generators can keep the brands unique.


Brands need to train the content generators to keep the voice of the brand for its consumers

Brands need to train the content generators to keep the voice of the brand for its consumers


Have regular and frequent meetings of the brand “owners” and the management of the central content generation section. These should review not only the content but also the process. Both sides should look for how they can kill any steps in the process to speed up the generation of quality content.


Regular and frequent review of content and process essential

Regular and frequent review of content and process essential


The staff of the central content generation section should consume the brands they work on looking for what is unique about them.

Central content generators need to look for what is unique about the brand

Central content generators need to look for what is unique about the brand

If you are in media for “brand” read publication.

Have a go at our Caption Competition and win a free e-learning course of your choice!

3 for and 3 against centralised content generation

Centralised content generation – or creating a hub for many publications to generate content – is on top of the agenda for many content generators. It’s been in operation for many years in some publishers for other functions and it’s time to take hard look at why it works and does not work.

Functional or brand specialisation?

In management speak centralised content generation creates functional specialisation: those doing the same function are collected together. The traditional option is product or brand specialisation: those working on the same brand are together.


The old way was brand specialisation, with its problems of costs; the new way is funcational specialisation, with its own problems

The old way was brand specialisation, with its problems of costs; the new way is funcational specialisation, with its own problems

Number 1: it’s cheaper

Here’s 3 reasons why centralised content generation works as a functional specialisation:

  • It costs less. This is the great driver. If you can pool content generation over many platforms and brands then the costs go down. We have seen that with content layout and other functions such as sub-editing of copy. And this can all be quantified, adding to the argument for it with hard numbers in cash.
  • It can be faster: better that one person writes the story and can put it in many different brands at the same time than many are working on it at their different speeds.
  • It can enforce corporate standards rather than brand standards.

These are the types of arguments which have led to Hearst Digital and others go for it.

Number 1: keep the voice of the brand clear

Here’s 3 reasons why central content generation does not work because brand specialisation is better:

  • No member of a hub, working over several brands, can get the right voice for their brand. Each brand has a position in its market, talking to its audiences over different media with its voice. Nobody on a hub can recreate these voices who is not in the day-to-day process of generating content for that audience with that voice. It therefore creates a mush of content, not a brand tone. Do you want to enforce corporate standards and a corporate voice rather than a brand voice? Few consumers of content – readers, listeners, viewers etc — consume because of the corporation behind them, they consume because of the voice.
  • Who prioritises the content the hub produces and for whom? Hubs are skill-specific organisations spread over many brands, called a matrix structure, serving different clients internally. The old way was to have a “silo” structure with people only generating content for their brand. The hub has been used in the past for website skills and has led to a lot of issues of who gets the best service. Is the best service given to those who have the best relationships with the hub or those who most need it? Content generation is a creative business which does not easily take to complex management, and matrix management is complex.
  • Where will responsibility be held for the content generated by the hub? Any legal, ethical or regulatory questions are focused on the brand. Could an editor of a brand say “it was the centralised content generators who produced that story and therefore not my responsibility?” They could say that, but legally they are personally responsible.

Hard reasons — money — versus soft reasons — voice

You can see that my 3 arguments against centralised content generation are longer than those for. This is because the 3 against rest on softer issues than the key issue of why centralised content creation is being introduced: money. It is hard to quantify the risks of getting the voice wrong, prioritisation issues and responsibility issues. But it is easy to see how much money can be saved. There is no real way to assess the risk of losing the voice of a brand but many ways to count the pennies saved. And there is too much pressure to save the pennies to stop this trend.

More coming

So content generators need to work around the weaknesses of centralised content generation. More on this soon.


 Have a go at our Caption Competition and win a free e-learning course of your choice!

RBS: poor policy poorly communicated to axe bank managers

Royal Bank of Scotland has decided to axe its bank managers in its branches. A poor decision when more people want to see the person in charge and not be told “the computer says no”.

Poor communications

And to compound the error it communicates it badly: or not at all directly. The Times carries the story on page 45 today. It reports that 245 bank managers are to go and managers will look after 2 or 3 branches.

Bad argument

Nothing on the RBS website about it. If I were a customer of RBS, which I am not, I would want to know the impact this would have on my service. But all I’d have is the argument conveyed in The Times that it will save money.

Think of the customers

If a corporation, and especially a bank today, makes such a decision it should get out there and explain it. And not just in terms of saving money. Think of the customers in your corporate communications and angle your policy towards them.  Think: what would Mr Mainwaring have done?

What would Mr Mainwaring do?  Not what the RBS is doing.

What would Mr Mainwaring do? Not what the RBS is doing.


 Have a go at our Caption Competition and win a free e-learning course of your choice!

Tip of the week: use those hyphens correctly

London’s Docklands Light Railway has the following phrase on a sign: “just in time information”.

It’s wrong. It is not “just information”, or “in information”, or “time information”. It should be “just-in-time information”.

Needs hyphens

It needs hyphens to glue the words together so that we know it is a complete modifier to the word “information”.

The easy way to remember this?  If you say it out loud and said it fast, “justintime” becomes a complete word, then use hyphens.

 Have a go at our Caption Competition and win a free e-learning course of your choice!


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