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.

Tech King Quietly Acquires Washington Post

bezos Tech King Quietly Acquires Washington Post

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

That massive thud on Monday was the sound of jaws dropping at the news that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post, one of the most venerated newspapers in the US, from the Graham family, which owned it for 80 years. The pricetag of $250 million is almost pocket change to Bezos, representing about one percent of his estimated $25 billion personal fortune. Perhaps that’s why some conjectured that Bezos, who pours millions into pet projects like spaceflight and a clock that will run for 10,000 years, made the purchase for the fun of it.

Media and business pundits will no doubt continue to try to explain, praise, or pan the acquisition. As one observer noted, Bezos and the Graham family eschewed the theatrics that often accompany major announcements where tech sector luminaries are involved. News of the sale went public quietly, initially in a hushed Post staff meeting and with a letter from Bezos posted on the WaPo website.

Well played all around. The understated announcement evinced the Graham family’s sensitivity to the interests and sentiments of gobsmacked Post employees (not to mention investors in the soon-to-be-private media property). For Bezos, whose retail empire began with antiquating the book industry, and who last year predicted the death of print inside 20 years, a more visible PDA – Public Display of Acquisition – might be a tad unseemly.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for the Graham family and Jeff Bezos of Amazon, for standing back and letting the most significant media acquisition of the year speak for itself.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: When the news you have shouts on its own, tell it in a whisper. Two other major media transactions – the sales of Newsweek and the Boston Globe – occurred at virtually the same time as the Post sale, but does anyone remember? The Post transaction leaves open a lot of questions, stirs emotions, will have far-ranging impact, both in media and tech. By keeping things understated and matter-of-fact, both sides were well served in presenting a “business-as-usual” front on a transaction that is anything but.