BlackBerry-maker RIM has five months to turn words into proof it can survive: Carmi Levy

BlackBerry-maker RIM has five months to turn words into proof it can survive: Carmi Levy
Wednesday July 11, 2012

In the end, there were no pitchforks.
A friend, hearing I was going to attend Research In Motion’s annual general meeting in Waterloo Tuesday, jokingly advised me to wear armour to protect against the expected crowds of protestors. It would have been worth a good laugh if not for the legions of investors who have ridden RIM’s share value down from its $148 all-time high and are left wondering why. They weren’t protesting, and they didn’t need pitchforks to let leadership know they were disappointed. Their mere presence was enough.

Of the 250 or so media and observers in attendance, just over 100 of them were shareholders. They came with questions, and they expected answers. They lined up at the two microphones after the meeting and waited patiently to have their moment. It would be poetic to say they all got what they came for. It would also be wrong. Barely 90 minutes after the meeting began, question period was abruptly over, with shareholders on both sides of the room left waiting in line, no answers in sight.
The sharp cutoff stands in marked contrast to the company’s recent PR offensive. Stung by consistent and longstanding criticism that they were too distant, too unwilling to open up to feedback, too difficult to connect with, RIM’s PR teams have significantly changed course in recent weeks. They’ve been reaching out to members of the media, actively engaging the very same people they may have once asked to leave the building.
I’m one of them, and on a certain level I’m deeply impressed. RIM was always the monolithic empire, the company you knew would find new ways to say no. Except now they weren’t saying no. My Dear Thorsten letter in the Star wasn’t just read. It got a response: an email from a senior marketing resource mere hours after it went live. We’ve spoken at length since then, and I was greeted warmly when I arrived at the AGM Tuesday. .
This is all great stuff. And it’s an encouraging, if belated, strategy change for a company that didn’t always see the need to reach out and touch someone. This newfound touchy-feely-ness likely plays well with shareholders, as well, who doubtless appreciate that Thorsten Heins feels their pain. A little bit of empathy is a good thing, but it’s far from enough. The company has upped the volume and turned its listening devices to full, and seems absolutely genuine in its wish to rewrite the script. It’s a great place to start, but it’s just that: A start.
When the final analysis of this year’s AGM is folded up and put away neatly, the simple, stark fact remains: It was just a meeting. Lots of words, many of them encouraging, were floated around the room, along with lots of encouraging thoughts, lots of tightly scripted messaging, and lots of suddenly helpful minders doing what many of us has hoped they’d have been doing all along.
Words – especially perfectly spun phrasings that get more than a little grating after weeks of repetition – no longer matter. Actions do. Words won’t stabilize the revenue situation and please investors. Words won’t bring the company back from the brink.
Just over five months from now, the company will launch a set of products that will either save its fortunes or kill them. Investors want, expect and deserve a full reckoning of why the company crashed to the extent that it did, and how the company intends to return at least some of the massive value shareholder value that disappeared in the process. When – or indeed if – all those lovely words of encouragement turn into concrete, market-leading products that sell well and drive the bottom line, we can celebrate. But not a moment sooner

Media Mayor Inc.
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