BlackBerry’s Turnaround Has 7 Days To Succeed

BlackBerry

If the response to the BlackBerry Passport, which launches next Tuesday in Toronto, Dubai and London, is the same as the one that met the company’s BlackBerry 10 announcement the company’s turnaround will likely fail.  Over recent weeks I’ve been analyzing the communications portions of the Passport pre-launch, as well as following the rumours and speculation to see what the company has learned from its recent failures.

While there have been some improvements – there can be no doubt that John Chen has done an amazing job stabilizing a critically ill patient: cutting costs and reducing headcount has been the easy part.  Now, the company must show it can overcome the more difficult part of the turnaround – repairing the company’s brand and reputation, as well as selling the device in large volumes.

There are still some worrying signs that tell me BlackBerry will struggle – and it has just seven days to fix them.  Here’s my take on the PR and marketing efforts to date, and what I believe the company needs to do on Tuesday.  If it fails, the turnaround will be fail.

Let’s start with the advert BlackBerry ran in the Globe and Mail last week.

BlackBerry, BlackBerry Passport, BlackBerry Turnaround
Canadians Love A Good Comeback

With the headline, “Canadians Love A Good Comeback” the body copy reads, “At BlackBerry we’re proud of our Canadian Heritage.  It’s what pushes us to continuously push security and productivity boundaries, allowing those with unstoppable energy to work smarter, collaborate better and accomplish more.  The soon-to-be-released BlackBerry Passport is further proof of our commitment to serious mobility for serious business.”

It’s wordy.  It also doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Being Canadian pushes the company to push security and productivity boundaries? I don’t see the link – or why it matters.  While it’s in a Canadian newspaper [the company playing to a home audience], the advert has been shared globally.  Perhaps I’m nit-picking!  Given the obvious associations with travel something more global would perhaps have played better.

The company says the upcoming Passport is further proof of its commitment to serious mobility for serious business… again, I’m not sure that there’s been much proof of that lately.

Serious mobility for serious business appears to be the strapline under which the Passport will be launched.  It’s not bad.  But it’s not great.  It’s something that would have worked had it been the company’s strapline back in 2006 – differentiating itself from consumer-chasing handsets like the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S-Series.  Now it seems more like a defensive tool to protect from competitors that, having captured consumers have now focused their attentions on BlackBerry’s supposed core market.  BlackBerry is back-peddling.

Then there’s the web form used to sign up for more information on the Passport, which has been circulating in recent weeks.

The subhead reads “Don’t limit yourself to the narrow world of today’s phones. See the bigger picture.”, followed by three bullets [the power of three!] focusing on a large, square touch screen, an innovative touch keyboard and a day-long battery life.

That’s it BlackBerry?  That’s the best you’ve got?  The reasons for buying a PassPort over a competitor handset is a square screen, an innovative touch keyboard and a day-long battery life?!

BlackBerry Passport, Marketing,  BlackBerry Passport Launch
BlackBerry Passport Web Form

Let’s look at the launch invite.  Save The Date. See the Bigger Picture. OK.  What about references, either explicitly, to a Passport?  I didn’t receive an invite, so perhaps they sent invites that were passport-like?  The biggest issue for me here is that there is no US launch which, many, have interpreted as meaning the handset will not be available there at launch.  We know about T-Mobile [the obvious partner for BlackBerry] and the delays in persuading US carriers to carry BB10 devices 18 months ago, but if true this is a major blow to the launch.

BlackBerry Passport, Passport Launch,
BlackBerry Passport launch invitation

The map on the invoice is slightly strange.  Most recipients will likely know where London, Dubai and Toronto are.  The plane’s route on invite is also bizarre.  Is it recognition that the company’s journey has been less than direct?

Now on to the real problem.  The price.  Many have rumoured it to be around $ 800 and GBP 500 [I can’t find a Dirham price].  If this is accurate, the company will be pricing it alongside some very popular and established devices.  This could prove to be the biggest sticking point for the company whose handsets are, let’s say, less than fashionable right now.  That may not – and, I’d argue, should not matter – but it will.  Perhaps not to BlackBerry’s core market – the loyal ones that have kept faith with the company and are not worried about the stigma that has been attached to being a BlackBerry user in recent years.  But, it matters if the company is to attract some of the defectors back; they are the people who the company needs to be targeting if it is to turn around its long-term fortunes.

BlackBerry needs to show that it is taking care of business.  It needs to show that, in addition to operational and cost-savings it can sell devices.  That requires it to rebuild relationships with customers that chose competitor devices; it requires the communication of a clear value proposition; it requires the company to inspire potential customers; it needs clear and effective marketing. Come to think of it the recent Globe and Mail advert should simply have said, “BlackBerry Passport: Taking Care of Business” or “BlackBerry Passport: Business Class”.

To date, I’ve seen none of this.  BlackBerry has just seven days to turn things around or its turnaround could be taking on water within the week.

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: experiment using small test groups of customers, prospects and those that buy from your competition until you find a value proposition and message that works.

Tomorrow, I’ll explain how I would launch the BlackBerry Passport.  Until then, read my plan for the BlackBerry 10 launch

BlackBerry Turnaround: the hard part is still ahead

Why does my content marketing suck? | THINK PR Espresso

I read a piece over the weekend called ‘Why content marketing sucks?‘ and it made me mad. The author makes the point in the piece that content marketing doesn’t suck – she just used the title to get people to read her post.

The irony is that she’s demonstrating, perfectly, the reason that most content marketing sucks. Badly.

The problem is that the action/outcome appears to be to get people to read something, rather than anything that is of value to the individual or business. A link-bait title also sets unrealistic expectations and, invariably, disappoints the reader. How do you feel when somebody wastes your time? How would you feel if somebody hooked you with a sign outside their store offering a 50% discount, only for you to find that once in the store there was no discount, it was simply a tactic to get you in the store?

How likely would you be to do business with a company that operated in that way?

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: If you want to improve the quality and effectiveness of your content marketing don’t chase anybody that is willing to click a link. Focus on the people that are likely to become your customers and provide them with valuable content. You might find that when you ask them to take an action – whether it is to share something, buy something or tell others like them about you – they’ll be far more likely to agree.

Like this? Find 90+ other PR Espressos

 

PR is Simple | THINK PR Espresso

PR Espresso, THINK PR Espresso, Startup, Smallbiz, PR Strategy

Traditional PR programs are full of things that add budget, effort and activity – but it doesn’t have to be that way. I presented at ProductCamp Toronto this weekend and a lot of the conversation was about how to avoid feature-creep – the continued addition of one thing after another for fear of missing something that will make it attractive to customers.

Simple is best, but it requires continual reviews and mental strength to avoid features or, in the case of public relations, marketing and publicity, activities creeping on to the plan that add no real value. Today’s PR Espresso explains how you can start to simplify your PR, marketing and publicity programs today.

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: keep it simple, stupid! 

Public Relations, Marketing and Publicity for Product Managers

The slides I used today at ProductCamp Toronto to explain the difference between PR, marketing and publicity – and how product managers and product marketing managers can better use them.

Startup and SmallBiz PR & marketing tip: public relations is an invaluable tool in product development and product marketing.  It can help you identify key feature, your value propositions and marketing messages and should be an integral part, rather than a bolt-on, to every product launch.

Do I need public relations, marketing or publicity?

PR Espresso, THINK PR Espresso, Startup, Smallbiz, PR Strategy

*Before you read this post please check out my definitions of public relations, marketing and publicity. It’ll take you less than two minutes.

PR is the process of building and maintaining strong relationships with the people that are critical to the attainment of a goal.

Marketing is compelling a defined person or group to take a specific action in support of your business – because they want to.

Publicity is awareness – the one-way communication of information/your story/your message to an audience en mass.

There’s a lot of confusion over the difference between public relations, marketing and publicity – most of it by people that are supposed to know better! The public relations industry in particular has struggled for decades – including the two that I’ve been working in it – to communicate exactly what the commercial value of it is.

Our customers see PR as smoke and mirrors; expensive smoke and ridiculously priced mirrors. Under no circumstances should they attempt to do themselves. Journalists are a prickly bunch that needs careful handling. You can destroy your business with a badly written tweet. The truth is that public relations isn’t only about the media – traditional, online or otherwise. It’s about relationships.

Relationships are what entrepreneurs do. They question you need to ask your self when figuring out whether you need PR, marketing or publicity to help you grow your business is, “what do I want them to do?”

If you want them to have a relationship with your organization then you need help with public relations. Public relations is about building and maintaining relationships. It is based on trust, mutual benefit, a shared value set, honesty and transparency. It’s also about the long-term success of the business, rather than short-term gratification. It’s a marriage, rather than a one-night stand. Editorial pitching with the aim of securing coverage is not, generally, public relations. Think about it – you don’t even have a relationship with the journalist in most cases, let alone one with the intended audience.

If, on the other hand, you want people to do something – then it is marketing support you need. Marketing is about getting people to take action on behalf of you [or your business] because they want to. I’ll say the last part again… because THEY WANT TO. If the action is taken grudgingly because you’ve kept asking or because you’re bombarding them with messages in the hope of beating them in to submission then it is not marketing. It’s intimidation!

If you want the world to know about your product, service or business – without an attempt to either build a relationship [a transactional purchase for an app, for example] then you need publicity. Publicity is the communication of information to an audience. Most media coverage is publicity – if it is news then it’s almost certainly publicity; editorial bylines can have the intention of building a relationship with the reader – but it’s the exception rather than the rule. Advertising is paid publicity.

So, what do you need most in order to grow your businesses?

  • Relationships based on trust?
  • People taking action, because they want to [I’d argue that you need to build relationships before people will willingly take action on your behalf]
  • Lots of people to know about you – without any intention of building a relationship or them taking action?

I can only think of a handful of scenarios where the latter is the case.

Startup and SmallBiz PR & Marketing tip: Understand the difference between public relations, marketing and publicity – and which one your business needs to achieve your next milestone.

If you have questions then please feel free to get in touch – you can email on lyndon@thinkdifferently.ca or call me on +1 647.773.2677