Saturday, December 03, 2005

RIM Proves Oblivious to Rules of Crisis Communications

If you're reading this blog, chances are you have also seen several stories detailing the potential disaster that lies in waiting for users of Blackberry handhelds. The devices, manufactured and marketed by a Canadian company named Research In Motion, have been at the center of a long-running patent infringement dispute.

That dispute, which is rapidly coming to a head, could result in the shutdown of Blackberry Internet service to everyone but federal government employees. At issue are patents held by a NTP, a U.S. firm, covering the "push" e-mail technology employed by RIM's devices.

While most everyone, including the judge involved is getting sick of the story, its outcome is of critical importance to the growing number of people who use the devices. Opinions on an outcome vary, but most feel a shutdown of the service is likely, since that would also mean NTP would be making no money from RIM off those patents.

As this story has been playing itself out in the media, RIM itself has been largely silent, except to say that it remains confident in a legal victory and to re-hash its belief that its arguments are sound. It's no surprise that statements like that are being issued; what is surprising is how they're playing Russian roulette with their business as they employ that strategy.

Any business that faces a threat from legal action that could be tremendously damaging should use every alternative to use every venue to not only lay out its version of the case, but to use stronger language than "just trust us" when they're trying to convince users that everything will be OK. Not only is this essential for current users, but even more so for prospective customers who can choose from a variety of other solutions.

After the dust settles, little is probably going to be written about this case unless it sets some sort of legal precedent, which at this point appears unlikely. But there's a lot that could be said about how this is one of the worst way to communicate with customers, investors and other core constituencies.