How do you take the heat out of a Blackberry crumble?

How do you take the heat out of a Blackberry crumble?

Kate Lomax is a tutor with PR Academy working across the PR diploma, Advanced Certificate and Foundation courses.  Kate knows a thing or two about crisis comms, so I asked her what she thought we could learn from the problems that Blackberry has been facing this week.  This is what she said....

"It's been a tough old ride for Blackberry from the significant public bashing during the alleged BBM-aided riots in August to this week's system meltdown. I imagine the in-house PR team will be drowning their sorrows over a pint or twenty tonight in their local drinking hole!

I am sure the team would agree that the coverage has been extremely negative not only on the operational issues but the organisation's response to it, including the PR effort. As Rory Cellan-Jones wrote on the BBC website:
"Of course, journalists were bombarding the Blackberry PR team with calls, demanding to know what was going on, how many people were affected, and what was the root cause. By Monday evening, we had nothing more than the brief line already seen on Twitter."

I always sympathise with PR teams as they go through a crisis. Most of us have been there on the frontline for the organisation - taking the flack, defending its brand and principles in an often rapidly fast changing situation. It can be quite an unthankful task yet it is at times like this that PRs are worth their weight in gold and, the good ones, will really step up to the mark and earn their keep.

I am very aware that it is easy to criticise from an outsider's perspective. Nevertheless, as in all crises, there are lessons to be learnt.
The principles embedded into crisis management are actually quite simple. Say sorry, and do so pretty quickly. Immediately set up a crisis response team to keep opinion formers, including those all important journalists, up-to-date with the latest information. Get your messages out regularly online and then via traditional methods.

So I can't help wonder where Blackberry went so wrong. From the business side, there seems to have been a serious malfunction and an obvious lack of risk management. From the PR point of view, there has been a complete lack of use of social media to respond to the crisis which, in my opinion surprising given the nature of the product offering.
Social media has a huge volume of complaints from Blackberry users on all channels from Twitter to Facebook. It's extremely damaging to a brand that prides itself on bringing instant interaction to its users.

Only the Blackberry employees will know the answer to where it has all fallen down. For us, working in PR, it is strong reminder of the importance of crisis management and how you can never be too prepared. An informed PR will be dusting down their crisis manuals and making sure they are up-to-date and have the inclusion of social media - no longer a nice to have but an essential tool in crisis planning.

What damage has been done to Blackberry's reputation? Didn't the future look tough enough, given that Apple are about to launch a messenger service on its new iPhone 4S, thus potentially stealing a march on one of Blackberry's USPs? Only time will tell but it is going to be a long journey ahead for an already exhausted PR team."

Thanks Kate !