When No Amount of PR Can Save You

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by Edward M. Yang

As a partner in a public relations and marketing agency, I like to think that both can have a huge positive impact on the outcome of a business.

The truth of the matter is, sometimes the fundamentals of a business are in such poor shape, and the trajectory is going in such a terminal way that no amount of PR campaigns can halt the slide.

In this way, it’s critical to realize the role of PR and marketing. They help spread the word on what you’re really good at. But they can seldom staunch the decline of a company that is doomed to fail.

One of the most recent examples of this is RIM’s Blackberry. Once a legend of a device that was used by all power corporate players, then presidents, then consumers, today the Blackberry is in a very real danger of becoming just another obsolete artifact in the history of tech. Yet just five years ago, Blackberry was on top of the world with no threat in sight.

Actually, there was a threat in sight.

And therein lies the problem. Apple was hard at work on their iPhone that was set to revolutionize the mobile phone industry. And Google was preparing their Android phones to counter Apple.

What did RIM do? Initially they stuck their head in the sand and believed that their superior keyboard and loyal corporate users would never defect.

Let’s call that a slight underestimation to be kind.

In fact, the “cool” factor of an iPhone, combined with all sorts of new abilities to watch videos, listen to music, surf the web and play games pretty much trumped the better keyboard of the Blackberry.

And corporate users basically ignored IT departments and brought their own devices to use, to the point now where most companies have given up and implemented actual BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies.

Since RIM finally acknowledged the threat, they have muddled along with a Playbook tablet, then a promise to come out with a new operating system that would get them back in the game.

That was a couple years ago. Today, RIM’s market share is shrinking fast.

With such an onslaught, no amount of positive spin on the situation could help. In fact, the co-CEOs were ridiculed for being oblivious to the situation they were in, and being overly optimistic when the writing on the wall was clear to even the most casual observer.

This situation is by no means unique. In fact, technology has vastly accelerated the time to obsolescence for products and services. Once famous brand names like Compaq, MySpace, Blockbuster and Blackberry found out the hard way how disruptive technology could be.

The top book in this area is “The Innovator’s Dilemma” by Christensen.

Its premise is that leaders in an industry are caught between a rock and a hard place. The very thing that brought them success is also the thing that prevents their ability to innovate.

Moral of the story? Take a hard, honest look at your business and the competitive horizon. If you aren’t willing or able to innovate, even in the face of clear competitive threats, no amount of public relations or marketing will save you.


Firecracker PR, through its “Ignites” model, provides PR, search engine marketing

and social media in one affordable package for the same price that other PR agencies

charge for PR alone. Visit us at http://www.firecrackerpr.com

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