BlackBerry wants you to think that it has changed. Its Black Friday deal demonstrates it hasn’t. It’s bad news for the Waterloo, Ontario based company and is yet another example of how the company continues to get its PR and marketing wrong – to the detriment of the company.
The company is offering iPhone users up to $550 if they switch to a Passport on of after December 1. The chances of persuading many to ‘trade up’ is slim. iPhone users are unlikely to switch – and $550 incentives is not going to be enough to persuade those that could be swayed to give up their shiny i device.
If BlackBerry had a clear business and communications strategy designed to bring users back to its devices, it would realize that iPhone users are not their target audience. The company should, instead, be offering entrepreneurs and small businesses incentives to choose the BlackBerry passport. These are the people who will get most value from the companies devices. They are also customers that, once captured, are likely to be long-term and loyal.
Until BlackBerry figures out who its customer is, understands the value it delivers to them, develops a long-term strategic plan to communicate this to them, and build long-term mutually beneficial relationship with them the company will continue to flounder.
Ask most PR professionals and they’ll tell you that measuring the value of public relations is hard to express. As a result, they’ll say, it’s hard to be specific about the value they deliver. The return on your investment is affected by so many variables it is hard to be able to give you tangible outcomes.
It’s all a lie. Here’s how to measure the success of public relations. It’s all in the strength of the relationships build or maintained as a result of your PR activities. We do it every day in our private lives, so why do we find it so difficult to do it in our businesses?
Think about the most important people to your business right now. Do you have relationships with them at all? If not, they score a zero.
Of the people you have relationships with how strong are those connections? Would they drop everything to help you if you asked them to? Would they willingly do everything within their power to help your business overcome its current challenge? Will they go to bat for you if you needed them to? Will they introduce you to people within their network that may have a need for your product or service? Will they testify to your credibility or vouch for the quality of your work?
If they would then score those relationships a 10.
If they’re not a 10 then you need to figure out where on the scale they are currently.
Perhaps they’re a new connection that will help you with advice, or will provide feedback on your product development. They might be willing to introduce you to people that are potential customers or partners, but won’t provide a reference or testimonial. They will help if they can, but you can’t guarantee they’ll come rushing in an emergency. Would they help if they really were your last hope? What incentive would you need to offer in order to get them to help your business if you needed them to? Do you have direct access to them? Who are the people that you rely on to give you the access you need? Do you loose access to these people without the intermediary?
Make a list of the top ten people your business needs relationships with and score them, between 0 and 10, based on these criteria. Having benchmarked the relationships that are most important to your business achieving its next milestone you can develop a PR programme designed to build, strengthen, or maintain these relationships.
Measuring the success of your PR activities can then be tracked, based on whether these relationships strengthen, weaken or whether you are able to maintain them until you have achieved your desired outcome. If you reevaluate each of your ten most important relationships every 30 days you can quickly see the impact that public relations is having on your business.
Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: benchmark relationship strength and build a plan to ensure you have the ones you need in place.
The BlackBerry Passport launches tomorrow. The question is will anybody care?
The company has, yet again, failed to build the relationships it needed to change the perception of the company, and its marketing around the launch of the new handset has been woeful. Again.
I wrote 18 months ago about my launch plan for the company’s BB10 devices and have been reflecting on what I would do differently for Passport. In reality, much of my BB10 remains unimplemented and would have give the company a better chance of success than anything I’ve seen to date.
The only thing I would change from my original plan would be the device cost. Announced yesterday, $599 dollars off contract is too much. A 50 dollar difference between the Passport and the iPhone 6 won’t persuade people to give BlackBerry another chance. Many wouldn’t switch if the price differential was $500. It’s not so much about the handset, although the Passport is an acquired style choice, but about the brand image.
There are those that have claimed, ‘market share is not BlackBerry’s game’. Some have said it’s about margin. Some who say the company is focused on Enterprise, not consumers.
So why even mention the price differential to the competitors? Why mention the comparative size of the screen? Make a clear statement that you’re focused on a different market.
Lastly, and most importantly, BlackBerry has failed to communicate these clearly via PR and marketing to build relationships and get people to take the action you want them to. BlackBerry has failed on all counts and it’s running out of runway.
Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: Don’t get distracted by the competition. Don’t be scared to sell on differentiators. Be prepared to trade on the value you deliver in the eyes of your customers and prospects – and if that doesn’t work… it’s over.
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.
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?!
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.
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.
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.
The more I read in the media, the more I question the value of media coverage as a way to inform and educate audiences; as a way to start conversations and build relationships.
Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: understand why you want media coverage and its role in delivering your desired commercial outcome. If you don’t understand why then you shouldn’t be doing it.
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!
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.
Why is that most PR programs focus on awareness with as many people as possible in the hope that you find the ones you’re looking for? The people you want to build relationships with are probably closer than you think – they’re either within your extended network or are accessible through it.
Rather than playing an expensive game of “Where’s Waldo”, why not focus on figuring out who they are, who you already know that can help you start a conversation with them, and focus on a few people, rather than broadcasting to the masses, hoping your audience will hear you?
Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: don’t play a game of ‘Where’s Waldo?” – identify the people that are critical to the successful achievement of your next milestone and focus on building relationships directly with them.
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