BlackBerry Ad Urges Customers Not to Hang Up on Them

 BlackBerry Ad Urges Customers Not to Hang Up on Them

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for BlackBerry.

One can’t help but think of the old joke from Monty Python and The Holy Grail: “I’m not dead yet.” That’s the underlying message of a full-page ad from BlackBerry running in 30 publications worldwide

Newspapers and the rest of the media have been reporting for the past few years on the downfall of a product once so ubiquitous and addictive it was commonly referred to as “CrackBerry.” Since then, the Canadian-based company has been eclipsed by Apple’s iPhone and other smartphones. Occasional technical difficulties and product misfires have led to BlackBerry laying off 40 percent of its workforce and putting itself up for sale, amid speculation that it’s terminal anyway.

Interestingly BlackBerry chose print ads to give its customers an update: the province of an older demographic, while younger smartphone users are happy with touch-screens.  The most loyal of BlackBerry’s customers say they’re holding onto their phones because of its now old-fashioned keypads and the ad, in the form of an open letter, reads, in part, “These are no doubt challenging times for us and we don’t underestimate the situation or ignore the challenges…” but, “You can continue to count on BlackBerry.”

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for BlackBerry. On one hand, good to reassure people it’s still alive; on the other, bad to have to do that.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: One option for damage control is image control. The company has a high media profile, but the news is almost all bad  and next steps are crucial when standing on a crumbling precipice. Given that the biggest demographic in America is Boomers, it might be wiser for BlackBerry to appeal to them and make a virtue of its old fashioned appeal. Appearing rejuvenated with a mild face lift, as the phone not of a future generation but the current one, might be the positioning that reassures that BlackBerry is alive after all.

Crashing BlackBerry Grounds its Corporate Fleet

bombardierblackberry Crashing BlackBerry Grounds its Corporate Fleet

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for BlackBerry, looking business-classier for flying coach.

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.

Guest Column: Nokia’s Embarrassing Stumble

 Guest Column: Nokia’s Embarrassing Stumble

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Nokia. (Pictured: Nokia CEO Stephen Elop)

Last week, Nokia introduced its new smartphones, the Lumia 820 and 920, at a media launch. The biggest selling point? Lumia’s “PureView Camera Technology,” which separates this phone from the rest of the pack. A fancy launch, complete with a promotional video and advertisements, showed images taken using Lumia’s new “optical-image-stabilization” feature (OIS).  The trade press was meant to swoon.

But – whoops – the press noticed that neither the promotional video nor the still images in the ad were taken with the Lumia 920 camera in the phone. Did anyone get photos of Nokia executives’ red faces? But wait, the cringing wasn’t over yet: Nokia was unable to state a date as to when the product would arrive in the market. After all, they’ve been busy… Apparently finding good photos to use for press materials.

The company issued a pro forma apology for the ad, saying that it “should have posted a disclaimer stating this was a representation of OIS only” [emphasis added]. Nokia said that its aim was to show what the Lumia 920′s OIS technology will be able to do once available and apologized for the confusion it caused. No intention to mislead, and yes, “There was poor judgment in the decision not to use a disclaimer,” a Nokia spokesperson told Bloomberg.

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Nokia. See what can happen in the rush to market products?

The PR Takeaway: Don’t be bullied by the market, and you’ll avoid later embarrassment. Companies need to control their competitive impulses. The smartphone market is driven by quick sales and product differentiation demands; everybody appreciates that. But what is the point in creating demand when the public will find only empty shelves, and the company may be accused of manipulative sales tactics? In this case, further damage was arrested with a quick apology, but in the future, how about a more thoughtful and cautious analysis of reputation risk? After all,  the rule is simple: be careful what you promise and when. That will avoid vividly red faces from showing up in the press.

What else should Nokia have done to avoid this kind of media embarrassment? Give us your PR Verdict!