How you handle your PR and communications in a crisis can make or break your business. Ironically, for a communications company, we would say that Research in Motion (RIM) the company who manufacture the Blackberry will be seriously reviewing their communications strategy – in the wake of what can only be described as a public relations disaster.
Yes, unexpected problems can arise in any industry or business. It is what happens when an unforeseen incident occurs that could seriously impact on your customer relations and ongoing business success. RIM themselves deemed this to be a ‘major incident’.
At Lime Tree Communications, a PR, communications and marketing agency in Dorset, we have experience of ‘crisis management’ – in terms of embedding a well planned communications strategy, or reacting professionally and positively to the media and the public when things occasionally go wrong. This is a service we can provide for any size company or organisation – as it is not the size of the business that counts – but the size of the issue and how it might affect your future operations that really matters.
As yet we don’t have any global clients – such as RIM, but nevertheless our advice would remain the same.
There are around 17 million Blackberry users across the world, and it is believed that half of those have been affected by a loss of service over the past three days. One can only imagine the nightmare scenario behind the scenes as the teccies desperately sought for a fix to the failure. What we do wonder about is why the RIM communications and PR team left it so long to communicate with their customers – and even kept the media hanging on for a response to queries about the obviously major difficulties being encountered?
As public relations specialists it is our job not only to ensure that messages go out to any interested parties in an accurate, honest and timely fashion, but it is also to act as advisor to senior management teams. This can sometimes be a tough call, as the MD/Chief Exec and others will obviously have other matters to deal with, but your public relations and media liaison issues should not be overlooked as an equally important strategic priority.
Customers can be surprisingly loyal, even when things go awry. However, this loyalty may depend upon whether or not you kept them informed of problems as they arise, and abreast of developments as they unravel. Silence is absolutely not golden, and also a genuine apology goes a long, long way.
Failure to get your message ‘out there’ will mean that the void will be filled with the massive energy of social media and the commentary of your critics.
Having just watched a cringe worthy interview on the BBC with the MD of RIM in Slough, he was clearly playing catch-up, and was determined to get across the ‘corporate message’ that the technical data issues had been resolved (a matter of which he was certainly relieved about) – but in our view he failed to show a level of humility or regret, and flatly refused to discuss the matter of customer compensation with the journalist.
We do not advocate insincere emotions on display, your customers will see right through you. Neither should you be pressurised by a reporter into making announcements or disclosures that you are not prepared for. However, with around 9 million people feeling angry, inconvenienced or even just ‘miffed’ we think Blackberry may just crumble in the wake of this matter.