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Posts Tagged ‘PR challange’

Surprisingly enough, the day our fellow blogger Qusay published this post about the iPhone 4 and its antenna issues (The Truth About the iPhone4 Antenna Problems), I was going through a heated discussion, to say the least, with a number of friends about how Apple handled the aftermath of the whole antenna story.

I have to start by saying that as an engineer, I totally agree with all opinions stated that the whole issue has been really overblown and taken out of context. It would not get that much of attention if it was not for Apple. If you want to exercise your brain cells a bit and read about some engineering stuff, read this post discussing the issue in a very simple and direct way.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=iPhone+4&iid=9364152″ src=”http://view.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9364152/apple-holds-press/apple-holds-press.jpg?size=500&imageId=9364152″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]As for Apple the brand, nothing new, it has always been controversial. From where I see it, Apple did a good job in its disaster recovery actions. Maybe I am saying this because I am an Apple fan, but even this should not be so surprising. Apple has always looked to its customers as a niche market, as a community, and Apple likes to play according to its own rules. Steve Jobs had acknowledged the antenna problems, he talked about what the company is doing to rectify it, how the company cares about its customers, and how the company understands its potentials, its competencies, and its mistakes. And guess what, I believed him, and most, if not all, Apple fans believed him as well. Maybe coming from another company or another CEO, we would doubt it. But this is the kind of relation Apple has built over the years with its customers, they trust each other! And this is a point that should not be taken so lightly, it is a lesson in the long term brand equity building, and how customers may react to a brand they value and believe in, especially in times of wrongdoings or disasters.

If there is anything I would say that Apple should’ve done better, then it is the timing of reaction. They kept silent for days without a response while the Internet was going mad over the issue. Steve Jobs himself admitted this point when he said that ‘If we could do this again, we would have tried to mitigate the problem.’

The iPhone 4 is the most successful product launch in the whole history of Apple; isn’t that enough to realize the kind of a relationship Apple has with its customers??

I am willing to buy the iPhone4 once released in my country … are you?

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Few days ago I published a post about the heat wave that hit Jeddah in the past week. I’ve commented on the poor PR performance of both the Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) and the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME) and how they’ve engaged in a pointless debate about whether the temperature was 49 °C or it only was 46 °C!!

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=dubai+skyscraper&iid=7156353″ src=”4/e/0/a/Dubai_Debt_Crisis_91b3.jpg?adImageId=12980718&imageId=7156353″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]The exemplary reaction, came from our neighbors in Dubai. According to this piece of news (Arabic), the UAE Ministry of labor has decided to stop any labor outdoor activities between 12:30 to 15:00 for a period of time extended from the mid of June up to the mid of September. The surprising thing, to me at least, is that this decision is in place since 2005! And in this year, the restricted months have been increased to three instead of only two in the pervious years. And those found noncompliant with the ruling will be fined by the government and their working permits would be suspended.

The point is that they were not debating whether the temperature would be this or that, they just tackled the main point of the whole subject and they acted accordingly. Again, for SEC and PME, please focus on your own missions and make sure you are providing your services in exemplary means.

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It seems that the Saudi ministry of labor followed course and decided to ban working under the sun from 12 PM to 3 PM starting July through the end of August but it is not effective immediately, it is to start on 2011! (the news here). This is good news , but why 2011 and not now; Allah only knows!!

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The past couple of days were ‘hot’ in Jeddah, and I mean that literally! And what got things really hotter is the debate between the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME), the Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) and the rest of us, Jeddaweis (people from Jeddah.)

SEC claimed that it had major power cutoffs in Jeddah because of the unusual temperature that reached 49 °C. The PME, feeling that SEC just stepped on their speciality came out and said “No … No … It was never 49, it was only 46 °C. (read here, in Arabic)

Now let’s talk business:

  • To SEC, please do not try to blame the weather for your poor performance, I am not sure anybody is buying that. Let’s say that it was really 49 °C … so what??? It is not like you are operating the network from Alaska or anything!! So the summary of the message is: the poor PR performance of trying to cover failures by ‘not so smart’ justifications is not acceptable, that’s beside SEC apparently poor contingency and back up plans to deal with the ‘more than expected’ heat this summer, and please note, we are not summer yet!
  • To PME, your response was like saying ‘do not exaggerate people, hey … it’s only 46 °C.’ We would’ve really appreciate showing some feelings for us, the Jeddaweis who felt that burning heat to the bone! Or even better, you could’ve sent messages to some companies to take some kind of measures to protect their field workers. So the summary of the message is: when you do not have a good PR to share with the rest of us, it is much better to keep it in your drawers and not to play smart on us!

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[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=Blackberry+phone&iid=2320188″ src=”7/5/0/f/Blackberry_Bold_Launch_4390.jpg?adImageId=10962429&imageId=2320188″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]If the news about CITC efforts to ban the BB messenger service turned out to be true (here in Arabic), then CITC should be really honored for their great efforts in making the most bizarre and unexplainable decisions ever.

People are still not totally recovered from its earlier decision to stop the free roaming services (read about it here) to be shocked now by this out-of-no-where kind of decisions. The common ground between the two decisions, or the approaches to make these decisions, is that they both lack logical reasoning and clear explanations. CITC is now developing this talent of surprising everybody with strange news and not feeling likely to support their decisions with clear, solid justifications.

It is really strange to see that such kind of behavior is widely used in the Saudi business scene. While modern PR and communication concepts are encouraging transparency and openness with customers and end users, Saudi organizations are doing exactly the opposite; they do not care telling anybody about their decisions, they do not provide adequate justifications, and they simply feel that they are above questioning!! (in addition to CITC bright examples, you can read a similar approach used by Pepsi and Coca Cola here.)

Despite all that, I am wondering what could be the reasons that made them think of such a decision. I really hope it is not about boys and girls chatting more freely now! I know many friends who adopted this application in their business interactions and it is a major part of their daily business routine. The only acceptable reasoning that we could argue with them about is if they found some national security issues related to using such application. In that case, total banning is not the answer, I believe they could work closely with the application operator to reach some kind of arrangements. After all, this application is not only working in Saudi Arabia, is it?!!

Finally, let’s hope that this news piece will not turn into reality and, who knows, it could be even a rumor!! Learned lessons, can sometimes come from rumors!!

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The anger campaign, or you could call it ‘the hatred campaign,’ currently running by both media and customers themselves against the Saudi CITC (The Communication and Information Technology Commission) is a very interesting case study for a classical public relation failure.

It is not only that they could not construct a logical reasoning to explain their strange decision of asking the three local companies to stop providing free roaming services, they are arrogantly responding to criticism by blaming the companies they are supervising beside keep acting like they are bigger than explaining themselves to anybody!

Building your case on keep repeating that customer should be charged in order to save the market from fair competitive environment temperament does not make a lot of sense to be honest. It could be arguably accepted if one of these companies is not able to compete with the others because of some external factors (i.e. political, economical, legal, etc), but when the whole three companies are happily willing to provide the free roaming services, your reasoning is just brought to its knees!

Nevertheless, imposing such kind of legalisation is deeply affecting one of the three operative companies that built its entire strategy on the idea of being available as a roaming free operator across many Arabic countries.

All in all, the conclusion is straight forward. Whether you are a private or a public organization, you should really embrace modesty whenever communicating with your customers. You could have your own way; your own style, your own brand image but you better be there to explain yourself whenever needed. I hope CITC realizes that we are actually its customers; may be we are not paying it anything directly, but its mere existence is based on a main purpose; ultimately, serving us!!

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The Saudi Ministry of Health (MoH) is facing a huge public relations challenge over its expected H1N1 vaccination campaign in the kingdom. And till this moment, they do not seem standing up to the challenge.

Rumors are breaking out on all levels; emails, SMS’s,  Internet forums, blogs, newspapers and Al Jazeera space channel interview with Dr. Horowitz who added fuel to the fire by confirming some kind of conspiracy theory behind the production of the vaccine. Furthermore, Arab News just reported the result of a poll conducted among medical academics and practitioners to check if they will take the vaccine and if they will give it to their children. The result is somehow extreme, about 80% stated that they will not take the vaccine and will not give it to their children!

Now by drawing some ideas from the business world, this could be labeled as a huge PR and marketing challenge. The MoH failure to interact with the out breaking news and the frenzy word of mouth may cost it to face tougher challenges in the coming days. Just imaging the situation when the vaccine becomes available and nobody there to take it!

The only response that I would consider positive came from Dr. Al Rabeeah, the Saudi minister of health, when he announced that to ensure the suitability of the vaccine, 17 consultants will perform some tests on it before making it available to the public (and do not ask me why 17 in particular!).

The points that I would like to raise here are the following:  Are our public sectors able to deal with such publicity matters? Are they employing any PR or marketing professionals? Or are they actually admitting the importance of such professions in branding themselves and marketing their plans? Are they executing any branding strategies at all?

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