Why BlackBerry’s biggest challenge is to change perceptions

There’s a saying in my industry that perception is reality. Change perceptions and reality follows. But, changing press perceptions isn’t easy at the best of times, and when times are tough it’s magnitudes harder.

I’ve written before on this blog about the troubles Blackberry manufacturer RIM is facing, and the inspiration for this post came while reading an excellent article in The Globe and Mail, ‘RIMs hard choices‘ a couple of weeks ago, but it can equally apply to any company that finds itself being savaged by the media.

BlackBerry needs to think of your business as a sick patient… in this case the condition is potentially life threatening. The rapid administration of the right treatment at the right time can be the difference between life and death.

The first thing that any organization needs to do is stop the bleeding. Stopping a constant stream of negative articles can appear almost impossible when you’re in the middle of it. The key to stopping the bleeding is understanding what’s causing it.

Once you understand the causes, you can develop a treatment plan. The primary objective must be to change the conversation to something that enables you to control the agenda. One of the biggest causes of negative perceptions into positive ones is not having control of the media agenda. There are two main tools that can be used to regain control: a major announcement or story – something that journalists want to write about more than the problems an organization is experiencing – or a new frame of reference. One example of changing the frame of reference is when Steve Jobs was taken to task about Apple’s small share of the overall PC market. His response? ‘Apple’s market share is bigger than BMW’s or Mercedes’s or Porsche’s in the automotive market. What’s wrong with being BMW or Mercedes?’.

Once you have control of the news agenda you will be able to stabilize the patient. Once the patient is stable, anything is possible.

I’ll be posting about each of the specific steps I’ve talked about in more detail in the coming weeks, but if you’d like to know more about how you can change negative perceptions into positive ones, contact me for more details.


Watch between 1 minute and 1′ 50″ of this video and you’ll get a perfect example of what is happening to Blackberry – manifest through its stock price – over the last two years.

Other RIM posts

Windows 8 will be BlackBerry’s 10

10 years?  BlackBerry 10 won’t see RIM through the next 10 weeks!


What businesses can learn from KONY 2012

I wrote a few weeks ago about why I believed the call to action by advocacy group Invisible Children in their KONY2012 campaign was wrong. I also tweeted last week that the relatively muted response to its #PaintTheNight day of action further validated my view.

The point I made in my earlier post was that it didn’t matter how many people saw the KONY2012 video – unless the call to action was right, there was little chance of achieving the stated objectives. We can argue about the specifics, but given more than 100m people have watched the video, a relatively small percentage of that number actually participated in Invisible Children’s ‘Paint The Night’ guerrilla campaign on April 20th.

The purpose, at least my understanding of it, of making Joseph Kony famous was to force Governments and NGOs to do something to stop his alleged rein of terror in Uganda. Painting the night was unlikely to achieve this. I’d contend that making anybody famous – whether it’s Joseph Kony or a local business – on its own will not achieve anything.

So, what can businesses learn from this?

  • Having a video go viral may is great for brand awareness. It won’t, in itself, ensure that people take action or help you achieve your business objectives.
  • Understand what you want viewers to do having viewed your video. The best non-brand viral videos motivate viewers to take action.
  • Ensure that the call to action in your video [if there is one] supports the attainment of your commercial objectives.
  • Continually review and revise objectives and campaign elements to ensure that they support the achievement of your objectives.

Why Apple’s ‘TV Dream’ may become a nightmare!

I was catching up on some reading this week and came across a story by Business Insider that just left me speechless. ”Apple’s TV Dream Revealed” claims to have an inside track on Apple’s much rumoured television strategy.  As a long time broadcast industry PR, I had to read it.

Aside from the many flaws in the supposed strategy, like no mention of broadcast in Apple’s plans to take over the TV industry – despite reports of growing OTT and on-demand video consumption, live broadcast television is still a pretty big deal – the abiding question I kept coming back to was, ‘Why?’. Why would a company that is the darling of the consumer experience want to risk its reputation taking on the role of a PayTV operator?

Pay TV operators are, apparently, amongst the worst at satisfying their customers.  In a recent study, reported in Business Insider, Apple ranks #9 in the most loved companies in the United States.  In contrast, cable operators make up 5 of the 19 most hated companies [with three featuring in the ‘top’ 5].  I think that operators’ reputations are misplaced, but consumers have an intimate relationship with their TVs and anything that stops them from accessing the content they want, when they want it, makes them mad. When things go wrong, and that stops them from watching television, they’re mad – and it’s all their PayTV provider’s fault.

One of the biggest challenges any organization faces is perception. In the communications industry there’s a mantra, ‘perception is reality’ and many organizations, including PayTV providers, suffer as a result. Are you trying to tell me that a company like Apple, regarded by many as one of the most savvy marketeers in the industry, plans to put its reputation on the line trying to impose a new way of watching television on viewers?

Personally, I think it’s unlikely! Sometimes even the Apples of the world have to accept that if you’re crazy enough to think you can change the world… you’re just plain crazy!

The London Olympics – More 1984 than 2012!

It seems that, yet again, common sense has been dispensed with as a new rule designed to protect the rights of official London 2012 sponsors seems to have been extended to the general public.  According to an article on Mashable visitors to the games this summer could find themselves on the wrong side of the law for posting pictures of non-sponsor brands on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.

The idea of the new rules were designed to stop firms from piggy-backing the event at the expense of ‘official’ sponsors that have paid to advertise or promote their brands to visitors to the show.  I have no problem with this being implemented within Olympic venues. Many stadiums already operate on this basis on property that they own, by banning companies from promoting their products without paying for the privilege… but a blanket bans on any business using the words Olympics 2012 on any promotion seems to be madness.  Stopping visitors from posting pictures or tweeting about their experiences seems plain crazy!  It is also, in my opinion, unenforceable.

It’s also likely to backfire – and could result in a significant amount of negative feeling towards official sponsors from visitors, viewers and business owners in London.  One of the legacies of The Games is, I thought, that it provides a boost the host country’s economy… but if nobody can mention the event for fear of ending up in court, London could be the first to have a negative impact!

Organizers have billed London ‘The First Social Media Olympics’… they might have the right to claim it, but if they implement these new rules, it’s unlikely to live up to the billing!


The Rules of Viral Success

It’s a question I get asked frequently, to which my response is, ‘it’s easy’. ‘Really?’ I see people’s faces light up… ‘Yes,’ I say. ‘All you have to do is create a piece of content that people want to watch and share.’  At this point the smile usually disappears.

The problem is that, in the B2B space at least, all too often companies are more interested in including their message, their logo, their CEO, their product pitch… than they are engaging the viewer or creating content that people want to watch and share.  I try to explain that the success of a video – certainly one that might be viewed by thousands – or millions – of people isn’t about promoting the maker or a product or service, but about engaging the viewer.

I’ve already talked about the success of the Chipotle brand video, which has been viewed by millions on YouTube. Given the target market – the general public – you could say it’s an easier job for a B2C business to achieve viral success for a video. On that basis, there should be a lot more successful viral videos from consumer brands than there are. It all comes back to engaging the audience.

So, here’s an example of a successful B2B viral video. How many of you know what Corning does? How many of you have seen the video, ‘A Day Made of Glass’? It’s been viewed by more than 18 million people – the majority of whom had no idea what the company sells.


You might ask how has this helped Corning’s business. After all, how many of the 18 million views are by potential customers? Not very many, admittedly. But, the follow-up – a video entitled ‘A Day in Glass 2: Unpacked’, which contains details about the company’s products, key messages and positioning statements has been viewed almost 700,000 times. How many of those viewers are potential Corning customers? Probably quite a few!!

I’ll post an explanation of why Corning’s video went viral over the next couple of days.  In the mean time, if you want to find out how you can increase your chances of creating a viral success get in touch…

The future of sport on TV is Broadcast, not broadband

A question I got asked this week gives me an opportunity to blog about one of my favourite subjects – TV.  A friend of mine asked why he couldn’t watch local sports teams online via one of the OTT streaming services he’d subscribed to.  He didn’t expect them to be free – he was quite prepared to pay for the privilege – and couldn’t understand why somebody wasn’t taking advantage of a growing number of people cutting the cord and relying on OTT services for their ‘TV’ instead.

The reason that blackouts exist is essentially economic.  In the main, the broadcast [and streaming] rights are owned by the respective leagues, not the individual clubs – and are sold as a package, not on a team-by-team basis.  The latest NFL broadcast rights deal, signed at the end of last year to start in 2014, was a 5 network, 9 year, $28 billion [yes, you read that correctly] deal – making it the most valuable US property in television. The new deal is a 63% increase on the current contract and it gives the networks and their affiliates the exclusive rights to broadcast live games via their channels, and sell them to PayTV providers in other territories, in return for re-transmission fees.

They key is that the rights are for TV broadcast – not streaming. The major sports leagues have, to my knowledge, all retained the streaming rights and offer their own streaming services, but they blackout home team matches in local metro areas. Why do they do this? Advertising Revenues.

Local spot advertising is a vital part of the US television business.  According to figures I saw at a conference a year or so ago, it accounted for 50 percent of the US television industry revenues – about $5bn per year in the late 2000s.  This is the size of the entire TV advertising market in, for example, Europe.

While spot advertising revenues are falling, globally they were more than $15 billion in 2011.  The fact remains that, mostly niche, standalone streaming services [OTT] simply cannot even hope to reach either the revenues or audience numbers that traditional broadcast and Pay TV networks do for major league sports.  As a result, they are unable to command the same advertising revenues – nor will they any time soon. This makes bidding for broadcast rights for major league sports impossible.

This may change by the time that rights for the likes of the NFL come around again – but don’t hold your breath. While OTT is growing, there’s little evidence to suggest that it will ever achieve the critical mass required to make it worth the leagues selling the streaming rights. Without the broadcasters, Pay TV operators and advertisers we’d very quickly see the end of sports TV as we know it.

Has RIM lost its nerve?

Be Bold, proclaim the latest Research in Motion adverts… and for a moment it seemed that the company had taken its own advice.  Reporting another dire quarter, a clear out of several senior executives, including co-founder Jim Balsillie, RIM appeared also to be turning its attention back to its core Enterprise customers and giving up on its efforts to conquer the consumer market currently owned by Apple’s iPhone and Android devices.

Just hours later, however, RIM stepped back from this – announcing in a blog that it remained committed to the consumer market.  What happened to ‘Be Bold’?

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I believed that RIM itself was the biggest threat to the ongoing success of the company. I thought, it had, perhaps seen the light… giving itself a chance at redemption… sadly, it appears intent on pressing the self-destruct button.  Unless RIM does what it implores its customers and prospects to do, the company’s fortunes will, I believe, continue their downward spiral.

Here are a few reason’s why RIM’s continued failure to drop its designs on the consumer market and refocus its efforts on the Enterprise market will eventually be its downfall:

  • Continued confusion over messaging, resulting in a failure to connect with both customers and would-be BlackBerry-ers
  • A lack of targeted apps to appeal to either corporate or consumer customers
  • Compromised handset design – is it a serious productivity tool, a consumer ‘toy’ or a hybrid that fails to appeal to either customer group
  • Disillusionment of employees and a failure to attract the top talent needed to make RIM great again
  • A perception [and reality?] that RIM is continuously playing catch-up to iOS and Android devices
  • Erosion of its existing Enterprise client base, as BYOD strategies become increasingly common
  • Falling sales
  • Falling stock price

Unless it takes its own advice and is Bold… soon, Canada will lose another a tech institution – most likely to Apple.  Sooner, rather than later. C’mon RIM – #BeBold