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.

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!


Time to Spring Clean your Comms Plan?

We’re fast approaching the end of the first quarter of the year.  Is your communications strategy delivering the results you expected?

One of the most common oversights in any PR, marketing or social media programme is taking time out to review what’s worked well, and what hasn’t.  Until you understand which elements are delivering the greatest return and which ones didn’t work in the way that was intended, it’s almost impossible to refine the strategy.  Sometimes, being on the front line can also make it difficult to come up with new ideas.

If you think your communications plan would benefit from a fresh pair of eyes, we’re offering a special rate on our Communications Spring Clean.  For just $999 [usually $1200] we’ll review your PR, marketing and social media plans, offer advice on how they can be fine-tuned to make them work even better, and offer a couple of new ideas on how you can ensure that marketing communications helps your business meet its corporate objectives for the year.

To find out more about what our Communications Spring Clean could do for your business contactlyndon@thinkdifferently.ca or call +1 647.773.2677

Google has the Holy Grail of social apps and is waiting for users to realize.

I, like many others, have been trying to figure out the point of Google + over the last few months.  In a world where Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare have all established their raison d’être, the majority of Google + users are still trying work out what purpose it serves.  The answer could, arguably, be the one thing that all social networks have been dreaming of… the holy grail called ‘engagement’.

At this point, I suspect a few of you – actually, most of you – will be frowning!  Your Google + streams are far less active than any of your other social networks – it’s a place many people go only when they remember.  Most will be visiting to see whether it’s more active than the last time they visited.  Right now, the answer is probably not.

But, there’s one application that I’m starting to use more and more… and I think it’ll become the most critical social application for both consumers and business users within the next few years – Google Hangouts.  Not tried a Hangout yet?  You should – and I suspect it’ll become an integral part of your personal and business lives in the next few years… here’s why:

  • A statistic I read this morning claims that 51% of traffic on the internet is non-human.  What better way to know that the person you’re talking with is real than via video?
  • The power of the real-time web has been vaunted with the growth of Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare… it won’t get more real-time than Google Hangouts!
  • You don’t need to be mutual friends, or followers, or use a specific OS or device to hang out.  If you seen an interesting hangout you can join it.  They can also be promoted via links on other social networks to find people that are outside of your circles.  Want true engagement… give me real-time face-to-face chat.
  • Want to know who’s credible and who’s not on any given topic? With video you’ll get to see and hear the person in order to explore the depth of their knowledge – rather than relying on third-party pseudo-scientific metrics.
  • Need to take a quick poll of interested and knowledgeable third-parties on a given subject?  Google Hangouts gives you the facility to do it quickly and easily and gather qualitative, as well as quantitative, data.
  • How about a webcast or conference, or just chat with friends – on demand? Why not hang out?!

So, while some have questioned the longevity of Google + – I, myself, have wondered whether it may go the way of Wave [you’d forgotten about that, hadn’t you?!] – it may well have the killer social app. and is just waiting for users to catch up!

KONY2012: a call to action speaks louder than words!

By now you’ve probably seen the KONY2012 video – it’s been everywhere in the last few days; on mainstream on and off line news outlets, social networks, and was the first video to reach 100 million views on YouTube.  One of the stated objectives of the campaign by Invisible Children was to raise awareness of the atrocities committed by Joseph Kony in Uganda.  [TICK]

The video talks about the desire to arrest Joseph Kony and bring him to justice, and then asks supporters to sign up to an online petition and buy a kit that will ultimately end in what it calls ‘Cover the night’… where supporters paste posters in towns and cities around the world on April 20th 2012.  On April 21st [a Saturday, for the record] the world will likely wake up to poster-covered towns and cities… but how does this help achieve the states objective of bringing Kony to justice.

I suspect that Invisible Children will forward on their petition, containing millions of names to some pretty powerful people… but, at the end of the day, it’s just another document with a lot of names on it.  Will it really persuade political leaders to take action?

Having used social networks to spread the word, why not use these same networks to lobby the people ultimately with the power to find, arrest and try him?  What if the call to action had been for each and every person that has watched the video to email, call or write to their senator, their member of parliament, their Prime Minister or President?  It’d be hard to ignore 100 million emails… 100 million letters, 100 million voices.

A campaign can raise awareness… but, no matter how admirable the sentiment, unless it has a call to action that will mobilize the audience to actions capable of delivering the intended objective all the awareness in the world won’t help the cause.


A glass and a half of pure brand advertising genius!

As part of my recent thinking about the importance of brand – and intelligent brand advertising – I wanted to share what I believe is one of the best examples ever.  I won’t spoil it for the first time viewer by telling you too much about it before the fold but it was raised many an eye from colleagues and friends who grew up outside of the UK.  I remind them that they weren’t the intended audience… the millions of children that grew up seeing the infamous ‘a glass and a half’ slogan on the side of every Cadbury’s chocolate bar they’d ever eaten was.

Initially run as a 90 second TV spot the video very quickly went viral.

One of the marketing team behind the advert was asked what the point of the advert was, to which he is reported to have replied, ‘it’s a Gorilla playing the drums… that’s the point’.     Brand advertising at its simplest – and its best.

What’s your signal to noise ratio?

With an increasing number of media – both traditional and new – one problem that many organizations fall foul of is thinking that more noise equals better communications.  In addition to their traditional PR and marketing many firms have rushed to create Facebook pages, Twitter handles, blogs, micro-blogs, LinkedIn pages, Flickr sites… not to mention the most recent brand ‘must have’  – a Pinterest ‘board’.

The problem is that many don’t stop to ask the most important question – how does another channel enhance the communication of a message and increase the number of people it reaches.  There is an [often incorrect] assumption that more channels = a large audience = more opportunities to sell.  If the message is wrong; the media inappropriate; the ratio of signal to noise incorrect then there’s a significant chance that you’re actually decreasing your chances of communicating effectively with your target audience.

There are four key considerations to the success of any communications programme:

  • What am I trying to communicate?
  • Who is my target audience?
  • What is the most effective way of engaging with the audience?
  • What does success look like?

If you can’t answer these questions then it’s likely that your campaign will be more noise than signal.  Simply increasing the number of channels you use to communicate your message COULD be reducing its effectiveness.  So, before you start a new campaign it might be worth asking yourself whether you will be generating more signal, or just more noise.