Crisis Planning – Problems at RIM Deeper than Poor PR

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Crisis Planning


RIM’s Problems are Deeper than Poor PR


PR Crisis Response Won’t Fix Poor Crisis Planning

There’s been a good deal of discussion regarding RIM (Research In Motion) and the great Blackberry outage of 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011. Sadly, speculators wonder: is Blackberry the next Palm?

Past Performance IS an Indicator of Future Behavior

Snapshot: In the quarter ending in August 2011, RIM’s revenues were 10% lower than a year before, at $4.2 billion. Profits, at $329 million, were down by more than half. According to Gartner Research, in the second (calendar) quarter RIM’s share of the smartphone market dropped to 12%, from 19% a year earlier. RIM’s share price has fallen by more than 60% since February.

Throughout the most recent outage, RIM has been criticized for poor PR handling of the crisis. In a widely panned YouTube message (see below), RIM founder Mike Lazaridis said service was approaching normal levels in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa. He promised that the company would work around the clock to get the problems solved.

In the message, Mr. Lazaridis appears tired and stressed, and while we recognize his effort to communicate, many found the message far too little. Subscribers want their service back and they want it to be reliable.

Lesson 1

Testing crisis messaging during an event in front of your 70 million subscribers around the globe is not advised.

Moreover, in a conference call with reporters Wednesday October 12, RIM’s chief technology officer, David Yach, blamed the problem on a failure of a back-up system in the company’s infrastructure in Europe.

Lesson 2

If you’re explaining you’re losing.

“Although the system is designed to fail-over to a back-up switch, the fail-over did not function as previously tested. As a result, a large backlog of data was generated and we are now working to clear that backlog and restore normal service as quickly as possible.” David Yach, RIM CTO

While the PR Crisis Response could (and should) have been better, the possibility of an outage occurring was not unanticipated.

From Firestorm’s perspective, the issue then is not about poor PR response (although articulate, well-reasoned PR response is certainly a part of any well developed crisis plan), but rather it is about the complete preparation for an anticipated event (and in this case, similar to many previously experienced by the company).

What RIM displayed this past week (and in prior incidents) was absolutely reaction as opposed to PreactionTM.

PreactionTM calls for:

  • Business Assessment (Business Impact Analysis)– A clear overview of all business critical information and process flows, with identification of critical recovery time-frames.
  • In/Out/Across Analysis – Identifying critical dependencies.
  • Risk Assessment – Defining the enterprise’s potential exposure and tolerance for uncertainty.
  • Enterprise-Wide Focus – A critical event plan involves every individual in a company.
  • Actionable Plans – Guiding the step by step process of actions and responsibilities through the plan execution.
  • Training – Educating all employees about their roles and responsibilities, to the company and community.
  • Testing and Retesting – environments change – constant updating and testing, drills and scenario exercises are a must.
  • Maintenance – Preparedness is an ongoing process of vigilance and adaptation as your business environment evolves.


Preparedness and Resiliency are Brand Attributes

In an article for CIO Magazine, Francisco Jeronimo, research manager at IDC sums up RIM’s precarious current position: “If RIM wants to regain the trust of operators and users, the company now needs to provide more details on why the back-up switch didn’t work as expected; why the problems spread to North America; and most importantly what it is doing to ensure that this never happens again.”

As a result of this week’s outage, founder Lazaridis also said “RIM is “very concerned” about the loss of customer confidence and sales.”

They should be.

If you rely on a product to run your daily business, and that product continually fRIM Struggles to Recoverails, you are irresponsible if you do not look for a more reliable solution. You look for a replacement that can demonstrate preparedness and resiliency; preparedness and resiliency are brand attributes.

While preparedness alone does not guarantee that an organization has everything in place, crisis and consequence management are part and parcel of responsible corporate governance. Proper crisis planning requires that an organization Predict the vulnerability, Plan the response, and Perform when the event occurs. A well designed and executed plan can transform a crisis.

Or you can just apologize on YouTube after the fact and hope for the best.

Interested in Learning More? Visit our Self Assessment for your organization.


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