As Service Outages Spread, BlackBerry Faces Major PR Test

On the third day of disruptions to BlackBerry's services in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India, and just two days before Apple releases its iPhone 4S, RIM's service shortages have spread to North America. The company now finds itself mired in a global crisis, with stakeholders demanding honest, real-time communication and service repairs, neither of which the company has delivered so far. 

According to Reuters, RIM advised clients of an outage in the Americas Oct. 12—the outage in Europe began on Oct. 10—and said it was working to restore services as customers abroad continued to suffer patchy email and no access to browsing and messaging. Following a dismal set of quarterly results and a plunge in its share price, some investors are now calling for a breakup, sale or change of management at the company, said Reuters. 

Customers tweeted their increasing frustration, while RIM's own official Twitter feed was updated sporadically on Oct. 12. One tweet said that the company is aware that many are experiencing service delays, and that restoring full service is its number one priority. The tweet linked to an official BlackBerry Service Update page that said, "We are working to resolve the situation as quickly as possible and we apologize to our customers for any inconvenience." 

BlackBerry's Help Blog did not address the outages whatsoever until Wednesday morning, two full days after they surfaced overseas. Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's former communications chief, criticized RIM's communication strategy and public handling of the crisis on Wednesday. "Explain while you fix. Apologize when you have. Recompense after. Handling so far woeful," he tweeted. 

When the service outage started, North American BlackBerry users were able to safely watch the rest of the world struggle with RIM's outages from afar—but didn't get advance warning from RIM that the outages might reach these shores.

For a company that reported a 59% drop in its second-quarter profits and a year-over-year decline in BlackBerry shipments, the lack of proactive crisis communications is a definite miss.

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