Month: September 2013

BlackBerry Commentary: Interpretation Not Required

The commentary accompanying Monday’s announcement of the Fairfax-BlackBerry letter of intent was painfully straightforward … and painted a vivid picture – even during the upcoming “go-shop” period – of just how difficult a path awaits the company.

Brian Colello, an analyst with Morningstar, told the New York Times, for instance, that other buyers — if there are any — are unlikely to be interested in BlackBerry’s phone business.

 “There is no value for the BlackBerry 10 ecosystem,” he said. “The value of this company is cash and patents.”

Colello elaborated in a conversation with USA Today and said BlackBerry’s cash and patents represents value of $2.6 billion, but that “I don’t see any way one could assign ongoing value.”

Jan Dawson, a telecommunications analyst with Ovum, was equally bleak in the Times in laying out BlackBerry’s alternatives. “Last week was essentially an announcement that they are leaving the handset business,” Dawson said.  “But pick any market they’re trying to go into and there are strong, entrenched competitors.”

The Washington Post coverage included an opinion by Anthony Michael Sabino, a business professor at St. John’s University, who said “this is BlackBerry’s last ditch attempt to simply survive in the face of crushing competition in a market it essentially invented.”

Equally harsh was the comment made in the Journal by Manish Kapoor, chief information officer of NuStar Energy Corp., who stated that the potential deal won’t help the company come up with a solution because its dilemma is one in which the only solution is part of the problem. “BlackBerry said that they want to go back to the corporate market, not realizing that it was not the corporate (customer) but the consumer on the street (who happens to also work in the corporate world) that made them go out of business,” Kapoor said in an email.  He added that only 60 out of 1,400 devices at NuStar are BlackBerry devices.

Finally, there was Prem Watsa, the chairman and chief executive office of Fairfax, who – uncharacteristic of company leaders in times such as this – was a bit over the top in responding to a reporter’s question.

“I know most people don’t think so, but we think over time [BlackBerry] can be successful again,” Watsa said in an interview.

The second part of his response clearly was part of the script.  But an incredibly honest introductory clause also found its way into his answer.



Persuasion and Education

There are many benefits when one is teaching and continuing to do client work.  One of the most interesting is being exposed to how young people, and experienced professionals, today are viewing the role of communications.

The university-level view surfaced recently when we were discussing the role of persuasion in public relations.  To many, of course, the word sounds a bit strong and heavy handed.  And some may believe it belongs on one end of the job-description spectrum.

The students broke evenly into two groups: those who bought into the term and those who were immediately turned off by their perception of what it means.  With this divide, the progression of the discussion was quite meaningful and got us to another word: education.

Again, two groups seemed to form: those who believed communicators should educate and those who continued to believe that communicators should persuade.

Importantly, we next moved on to goals, strategies and tactics — and the students began to sort through some of the realities of the public relations business.  First of all, they began to see that, while persuasion is important, it needs to be viewed as an objective or goal.  And, most importantly, they began to grasp the all-important role of education and how it functions as a key strategy that enables everything else to fall into place.

Separately, a recent client experience also was meaningful in that the client was interested in hoping to test the “proof of concept” of a business expansion that he was considering.  His initial goals were modest: he simply wanted to “capture” the phraseology being used successfully at one site so it could be replicated in another.

As the process moved forward, however, the original communications mandate morphed into a consulting engagement that was far-more important (and beneficial to the client).  At the end, the communications piece of the project not only provided insights as to proof of concept, it also provided important observations and implications regarding branding, staff needs/retention, training, targeting new clients and, probably at the top of the list, crisis vulnerability.

Net-net, communications is moving in the right direction.