So, everyone, panic over. Our liftime’s answer to the Irish Potato Famine or the sacking of Rome is at an end. I refer, of course, to the great blackberry blackout. At the time of writing, my emails are now fully functional once again after a mere 3 days, 23 hours and 45 minutes.
Given that I was spouting curmudgeonly comment on the event on Daybreak, and in the Metro and the Evening Standard, you’d have thought they might have sorted me out a bit quicker. You can imagine my chagrin when it turned out I was the last one in my office to still be enduring radio silence.
However, their lack of concern for the personal experiences of customers, even those who don’t speak to newspapers, was clearly endemic, a serious part of the problem. Research in Motion, it seems, has little understanding of the fact that everyone talks, not just the techies. I retweeted Perez Hilton’s ‘Bye Bye Blackberry’ tweet, only to be faced with the retort ‘what does Perez Hilton know about Blackberry?’
The answer, of course, is nothing, but so what? The guy has nearly 4m followers, plenty of whom will be chucking Blackberry along with him. It’s a perfect case study in the need for brand transparency. RIM should have made sure they kept users in the loop to avoid this kind of outright rebellion.
What’s happened is that they’ve listened to the lawyers over and above the PRs. Silence might be the safest legal course of action, but it’s going to play absolute havoc with your public profile. In situations of outright crisis, opening yourself up with full transparency may feel precarious, but more often than not it’s the right thing to do. Sensible, open conversation is required to quell the natural consumer panic reaction.
Of course, as my friend and Borkowski.do collaborator Jonathan Durden pointed out, Research in Motion could hardly have had a worse month or two for publicity disasters. A brand which is founded on its utility for business people, Blackberry suffered a huge shake-up to its conservative image when BBM was implicated in the organisation of August’s riots.
For it now to face a serious blow to its reliability is potentially fatal: you couldn’t plan a better hatchet job. As Durden said, the only thing left to come out is that it gives you cancer.
Still, though, this is no excuse. These disasters demonstrate how vital it is for brands to have truthful, narrative, responsive plans built into their very communications structure. Before you run to the lawyers, you need to know exactly what you’re saying to your real judge: the customer.