Four Steps to Get BlackBerry Back on the Positive Path

Photo: Adrian Wyld/AP

News today from BlackBerry is that Research in Motion is offering $100 worth of free apps and a month of free tech support to customers to make up for the outage last week. Apps will be available for download starting Wednesday, and the freebies include the game Bejeweled, photo editing apps, and a radio app.

According to the press statement about the offer, customers in the U.S. experienced one day without service while those in Europe had three days of interruptions.

Along with the video apology from RIM exec Mike Lazaridis, this is a step in the right direction. But a few games of Texas Hold ‘Em definitely won’t solve Research in Motion’s problems. “BlackBerry is on a sinking ship, and this could topple Research in Motion over the cliff of no return,” writes ZDNet. After the jump, we have four tips to help the company start down the long path of reputation recovery.

Work on those trust issues. As we mentioned previously, this outage along with those prior have eroded the trust that consumers have in BlackBerry. Now there’s a feeling that a problem can arise at any time and if it does, customers are sunk. Not only does BlackBerry have to keep service going, it has to provide stellar customer service to those who were impacted and are still angry about last week and to everyone else if they’re going to even attempt to compete with Apple and Android. If they haven’t had a big meeting with staffers about the need to go above and beyond for the foreseeable future, they should arrange that ASAP.

Recapture consumer imagination. As that ZDNet article points out, BlackBerry used to be the choice of young mobile users. That may be long gone, but for business, BlackBerry is still a popular choice. But the company isn’t making us weak in the knees and googly-eyed. Innovation is key here. “What would business users like their BlackBerry devices to do? And how can we start getting it for them?” RIM should be asking themselves these questions so they can start making life easier for its customers, which leads to tip number three.

Find out what consumers are thinking by asking them. BlackBerry’s press release says it has 70 million customers. That’s a tremendous resource. How about organizing “BlackBerry Business Forums” in locations around the world to gather feedback and generate ideas? Or group BBM chats even? Here’s where PR pros with expertise in building relationships and engaging with consumers comes in handy.

Talk loudly and repeatedly about your mistakes. Domino’s turned lemons into lemonade, taking all the complaints and all the bad press from disgusting employee YouTube videos and turning it into the focal point of their marketing strategy. CNet, advocating for a bigger and better giveaway as a means of apology, also notes: “RIM’s BlackBerry DevCon conference starts tomorrow. Just think how different the atmosphere would be if attendees were buzzing about the new BlackBerry program instead of grousing about the outage.”

Take those complaints and all of the investor skepticism and make it part of the company’s commitment to being better. Everyone knows you’ve messed up, the issue now is how do you make things right. Acknowledging the error and using that to reiterate the company’s goals and demonstrate how they’ll get there could be just the shot in the arm the company needs right now.