BlackBerry shifts from global AOR model to make room for local firms

BlackBerry is altering its current global PR AOR model and issuing RFPs in other markets to make room for its comms teams to work with local firms.

WATERLOO, ONTARIO: BlackBerry is moving away from its current global AOR model to give its communications teams the opportunity to work with local agencies.

This is an about-face from the company’s decision last April to consolidate most of its global PR with a team from APCO Worldwide and Text100. The account was estimated to be worth $10 million.

BlackBerry’s VP of corporate comms Adam Emery told PRWeek via email that last year’s move was the "right approach" during the company’s business transition as it rebranded from Research In Motion and launched the BlackBerry 10 operating system and various smartphones.

"APCO and Text100 will continue to serve us in several markets around the globe," he added. "[The firms] played and will continue to play an important role in our continuing comeback."

Emery could not provide further details about how the firms’ PR duties will change.

BlackBerry has issued an RFP in markets outside of the ones APCO and Text 100 are working in, with the goal of having other firms on board by the beginning of the company’s new fiscal year in March 2015, according to Emery. 

When BlackBerry consolidated its PR agencies last April, it ended its relationship with Good Relations in the UK. In addition, the company terminated its contract with Brodeur Partners, which had served as the smartphone maker's PR agency in North America for 16 years.

But it was not a clean break. Brodeur sued the company in September 2013, saying it was never paid for months of work. Earlier this year, the $700,000 lawsuit was settled.

Text100 and APCO have since been aiding BlackBerry’s efforts to revive its embattled brand, most recently working with the company on the Passport smartphone launch with a series of live events and social media activity. Last week, BlackBerry began paying customers up to $400 to trade in their iPhone 4S, 5, 5C, 5S, and 6 models for a Passport.

Sources at both APCO and Text 100 were not immediately available to comment about BlackBerry’s new move.

Fairfax Financial Holdings and an unnamed group disclosed their $1 billion investment in BlackBerry last November after the smartphone maker's CEO, Thorsten Heins, resigned. Former Sybase chief executive John Chen became BlackBerry's executive chairman and acting CEO that same month.

In October, BlackBerry promoted Adam Emery to VP of corporate communications. Emery is continuing to report to BlackBerry communications SVP Heidi Davidson and is taking over her global comms responsibilities as she begins to oversee brand and digital at the company.

Also in October, BlackBerry switched its advertising account from BBDO to Gyro.

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