Back off the RIM – Blackberry CEO’s PR tussle with BBC

This week, the BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones spoke to Mike Lazaridis, the co-chief executive of Research In Motion (RIM), the Canadian firm behind Blackberry.


That sounds like a good PR opportunity doesn’t it? Well, it would if he and/or his publicist had prepared fully first.

If you aren’t aware, after some nice and cosy questions him about the new Playbook tablet (exactly what the PR wanted), the  focus shifted onto RIM’s problems in India and the Middle East, where governments want to gain greater access to the tight security system used for Blackberry’s business users.

PR response wasn't in the Playbook

Ah, awkward. Not what the PR wanted. However, these guys are pros, they would have anticipated that this might come up surely? Alas, it seems not.

Mr Lazaridis described the question as “unfair”, signalling the interview was over – the PR can be heard muttering similarly in the background. Now, whether unfair or not, whether the clip doing the rounds on the internet is unfair and unbalanced or not (it is news by definition as there is interest in it) the pair of them should have had a better response than throwing their toys out of the pram and taking the metaphorical ball home.

By doing this, they have exacerbated the problem and drawn even more unwanted attention to something that perhaps only specialists were aware of. A calmer response would have been better and would have been simpler if they had foreseen this line of questioning ahead of the interview. It was, afterall, a possibility. The CEO knows it is an issue, so should the PR.

Journalists by and large are not out to make trouble, they are out to ask questions. Sometimes they are tricky questions but therein lies the trade-off. This is a two-way street. PR team gets cosy opportunity to profile new product, journalist gets one on one access to the top dog.

99 times out of 100 it all works beautifully. However, it just takes one moment for everyone to wonder whether it was all really worth it.

Remember guys, fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

A more complete cut of the interview will be broadcast on the television edition of BBC Click later in April.