This is really interesting. Mark Penn, the spin king/pollster who had headed up PR firm Burston Marsteller, worked with Bill Clinton on Monica-Gate, and advised Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, is now taking on Microsoft(s msft.)
He is joining the company as corporate VP of strategic and special projects, reporting to CEO Steve Ballmer. According to a Microsoft statement, Penn will focus on “key consumer initiatives.”
The company said:
Penn will lead a cross-functional team focused on consumer initiatives and will draw on his experience in strategic development, branding and positioning to develop and deliver breakthrough ideas that meet consumers’ changing and dynamic needs. He will continue to write about consumer, demographic and social trends but will not be involved in public policy issues for Microsoft. Penn will remain based in Washington, D.C., but will spend substantial time in Redmond.
By most accounts Microsoft does need help in this consumer sector. It has seen wild success with its Xbox-Kinect tandem but otherwise is viewed as an also-ran in consumer electronics where it’s trying to catchup with Apple (s aapl) in tablets and smartphones. In short, Microsoft needs help there.
Penn is somewhat controversial. He left the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign under something of a cloud.
The 58-year-old Penn was worldwide CEO of PR giant Burson-Marsteller and CEO of the polling firm Penn Schoen Berland LLC. It was unclear if he would leave his role at the polling company. Penn also wrote Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes.
This is not the first time a tech company has turned to D.C. power players and master spinners for help. Oracle(s orcl) hired Clinton spokesman Joe Lockhart as a senior VP in 2001 but he left six months later. More recently, Amazon(s amzn) added Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, to its board early this year.