Best Traditional Campaign

BlackBerry on its deathbed? PR staff says, ‘No!’ and turns the tide

In June 2012, BlackBerry’s PR department launched an amazing blitz that signaled BB’s resurrection. The big weapon in this campaign: good old handshake, glad-to-meet-you PR.

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Here’s the short list of what BlackBerry (formerly Research In Motion) faced in June 2012:

  • Rumblings from its humiliating service breakdown in October 2011.
  • A tsunami of second-guessing by analysts, media, and shareholders.
  • 5,000 job cuts at BlackBerry.
  • A delay in the launch of the BlackBerry Z10 smartphone.
  • Negative news sentiment in North America about BlackBerry peaking at 78 percent. 

The U.S. media could be excused for thinking this was the end. 

After a restructuring and name change, BlackBerry’s corporate communications team set out to change the views of the public and the industry with good PR that featured a personal touch.

By January 2013, BlackBerry had orchestrated an astonishing turnaround:

  • Its personal, executive-led Global World Carrier Tour had persuaded big mobile phone service carriers that BlackBerry was back.
  • Two separate media tours in America connected with 40 important tech journalists.
  • In Canada from October to December 2012, live regional BlackBerry Z10 demos led to 104 stories and 21.3 million impressions.
  • BlackBerry execs’ face-to-face talks with media and influencers at the Consumer Electronics Show generated more than 50 neutral-to-positive stories.
  • Virtual and live CEO-led town hall meetings reached 95 percent of BlackBerry employees month after month.
  • In January 2013, 750 journalists attended demos of final hardware and software and the launch of the Z10 in six countries, writing 16,000 articles. Globally, 2,000 broadcasts occurred. 
  • BlackBerry Jam World Tour reached 10,000 app developers, analysts, and journalists in 44 live-event locations in 37 countries, spurring more than 200 media briefings.
  • Global news sentiment about BlackBerry was 85 percent positive.

For engineering this startling transformation of the company’s global reputation under the most difficult, discouraging circumstances imaginable, BlackBerry’s corporate communications department is the co-winner of the Best Traditional Campaign category in the 2013 PR Daily Awards.

What is particularly impressive is the deep, detailed change in global media sentiment about BlackBerry and its Z10 smartphone. The main media themes after January 2013 have been:

  • BlackBerry has reinvented itself.
  • BlackBerry still knows how to create innovative products.
  • Changing its name from RIM to BlackBerry makes perfect sense.
  • BlackBerry continues to be a leader in email integration and communication.
  • BlackBerry is dedicated to creating a rich ecosystem.
  • Time Shift is an astonishing camera feature.
  • BlackBerry Flow lets features and apps blend seamlessly and efficiently.

We congratulate Heidi Davidson, Adam Emery, and Meigan Terry for their extraordinary decision to personalize their corporate PR, and bolster online PR with traditional media and public relations in a decisive corporate crisis. This took real nerve. It was a calculated gamble that paid off hugely.

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