Why BlackBerry needs to start marketing like a startup

By most accounts the Blackberry 10 launch has not been the turnaround success the company had hoped for: sales last quarter were disappointing, the outlook doesn’t look any brighter and most operators have recently made deep cuts to the price of the Z10 and Q10 handsets in a bid to stimulate interest.

I’ve written about the company’s poor marketing and PR over the last 15 months; why it is the fundamental flaw in the Blackberry 10 launch plan; and how I would have done it differently.  On that basis, the only option remaining is for the company to go back to marketing basics and start marketing like a startup.  I believe that by applying lean principles to its public relations and marketing to ensure that it delivers the right message to the right audience at the right time, via the right channel to ensure that it delivers a specific objective.

Here’s what BlackBerry – and you – must do to create effective PR and marketing programs for your startup or small business:

Play to its strengths. Blackberry was always the handset of Enterprise users that valued its secure email capabilities and physical keyboard.  Blackberry is a long way from its roots, and it needs to get back to playing to its strengths.

Identify specific customer groups.  Blackberry’s current target market is ‘hyper-connected users’ with more than one email account.  That pretty much means that anybody buying a smartphone is a potential customer, but it also makes giving them a compelling reason to choose a Blackberry 10 device over one of the competitor handsets incredibly difficult.  My wife, my sister, my father and my best friend would all fall in to the hyper-connected demographic, but we all have very different requirements in smartphones.

Segmenting the audience in to clearly identifiable groups makes marketing far more targeted and this dramatically increases the chances of success.

Rethink the message.  I’m not sure who came up ‘Keep Moving’ but it seems to have encouraged consumers to keep moving past its in-store displays.  Blackberry needs to rethink its message and develop custom messaging for each of its defined target audiences.  Blackberry also claims that the new OS is the future of real mobile computing – but so far that claim looks like a lot of marketing hype, and very little like reality.

Act quickly.  One of the biggest problems is that Blackberry didn’t start PR and marketing for Blackberry 10 until 4 days after the official launch.  Then, it ran a Super Bowl advert months before its new handsets were available in its largest market. Timing is one of the often overlooked elements of a PR and marketing program, but one of the largest factors in the success or failure of it.

Find the right channels.  Blackberry has spent a lot of money on marketing its new devices and OS… but without a defined audience the chances of successfully delivering the right message to the right people is slim.  It’s like rolling dice and hoping the right number comes up.  It’s not a very scientific way to market, and all the indications are that the wrong numbers are coming up far too often.

Validate everything. One of the principles of Lean is to continually validate or disprove hypotheses in order to focus activity and increase the chances of success.  It is clear that Blackberry’s launch plan for Blackberry 10 hasn’t worked and it needs to start testing new marketing and public relations hypotheses if it is to have any chance of remaining a credible player in the smartphone market.

What would you like to see from Blackberry’s marketing and PR programs?

Read my other posts on Blackberry’s marketing problems 

Lean Public Relations For Startups

Tomorrow I’ve been invited to talk about public relations to attendees of the Lean Weekends event in Toronto about how they can use PR to help them achieve their landmark events and grow a sustainable and prosperous business.  I thought I’d share the presentation here so that everybody #startup and small business can benefit from it.

I’ll also be videoing the presentation and will share it here over the weekend.  In the meantime, if you have any questions about how to create a lean PR strategy that delivers tangible results – or would like me to talk about something specific – get in touch via email lyndon@thinkdifferently.ca or twitter @THINK_Lyndon

7 Reasons Your PR Strategy Isn’t Working

There are seven common reasons that public relations programmes don’t deliver the results that you want.  He’s a quick overview:

Your message is wrong.  Most PR programs are focused on awareness, without actually taking the time to consider whether the message that’s being communicated is the right one.  If the message is wrong all the awareness in the world won’t help you achieve the desired outcome.

Read It’s the message, stupid for more on this topic.

You’re talking with the wrong audience. If you’ve not defined your audience you can’t target your message, decide which channel[s] is best for communicating with them, decide when to talk, and who their peers are.  Traditional PR agencies often target the largest possible audience in the hope of capturing the attention of a few – irrespective of whether they are the ones you need to be talking to to deliver the desired outcomes.

Read How Well Do You Know Your Audience? to understand more on why knowing your audience is essential.

Your timing is off.  If your audience isn’t defined and you don’t have a clear message you can’t hope to know when the best time is to start a conversation is.  In a world where everything is real-time and attention spans are shorter, the timing of your public relations activity is more important than ever to the attainment of successful outcomes.

You’re using the wrong channel.  There’s a myth that effective communications is about using every channel – online, offline and social.  The truth is that the most effective campaigns use the channels that your audience is using, so identifying them and developing tactics that make best use of them is important.

There is also an incorrect assumption that public relations is about communication via the media.  It’s actually about two-way communications with your audiences – the media is just one of them.

You’re PR is actually promotion. The definition of public relations is, “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”  This definition was crowdsourced by the Public Relations Society of America in 2011/12 and voted on by members.  It’s the definition I’ve been using for years.  Sadly, the ‘mutually beneficial’ part is often forgotten and replaced by promotion.  Want evidence? Just read a sample of press releases on any company site!

Read Most PR and Marketing Is Actually Promotion for more on what is public relations and what is promotion.

There’s no strategy – just a process.  PR is often sold on volume, which means that the agency gets paid for the amount of work it does, not the effectiveness of it.  Press release, media outreach, interview, coverage is not a strategy – it’s a process.  It’s a process that is repeated irrespective of the size of the company, the product or service, the industry, the desired outcome… and the longer the process, the more an agency gets paid. Did somebody say strategy?

Read Let’s Be Honest – The PR ‘Sausage Factory’ Doesn’t Work Anymore to learn more.

One-Size-Fits-All PR and Marketing Strategies Don’t Work will also explain why the traditional PR agency approach doesn’t work.

Public Relations is done in a vacuum.  Effective PR should be a part of everything you do – it should be plugged in to sales, marketing communications, events, product development, growth strategy… if it’s not, it’s unlikely to deliver the desired outcomes.  It should also be something that you are actively involved in – not just turning up for press interviews.

If your PR strategy isn’t working we can help.  To find out how contact Lyndon on 647.773.2677 or email lyndon@thinkdifferently.ca