Running a struggling business? Talk to BlackBerry. The once-dominant Canadian firm that missed the smartphone revolution has slid into a long, painful decline. Friday, the teetering handset maker announed a $1 billion quarterly loss and a huge restructuring including the elimination of 4,500 jobs, or about 40 percent of its workforce. Yesterday, it announced plans to be taken private by one of its largest investors.
Its latest miss was remarkable only for the size of the loss. A more eyebrow-raising revelation came to light in the media over the weekend: BlackBerry acquired a third corporate jet, estimated at over $20 million.
B lackBerry responded not only with a plausible explanation, but also a plan of action. The jet had been purchased to replace the other two and in light of its current business condition, a company spokesman said, BlackBerry would sell all three of its corporate jets and “no longer own any planes.” This, of course, is the logical, prudent thing to do, and Blackberry wins points for it. In the age of corporate excess hubris can be fatal.
THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) to BlackBerry, for a quick response that defused an immaterial but nonetheless embarrassing story.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: Symbolic actions count. A global firm that, though troubled, is still worth billions arguably has a need for its own jet, and BlackBerry could have rested on that claim. But doing so would hardly have engendered goodwill for a company axing nearly half its workers. The logic might not have figured directly in BlackBerry’s decision to ground its fleet, but at least the company, already with plenty to regret, has one less bad decision to answer for.