Was Blackberry boss right to pull plug on interview?

An interesting mix of reactions to the BBC interview with the boss of Research in Motion (RIM), where the RIM executive pulled the plug on the interview because he didn’t like a question.

Opinion on online sites was divided. There was a fair amount of criticism of RIM’s co-chief executive Mike Lazaridis for refusing to continue after what he called an ‘unfair’ question. But a lot of people (mostly with technology backgrounds) felt the reporter was asking an ill-informed question.

Here’s the interview, so you can judge for yourself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n987fbiJJb4

As a media coach, I think the on-camera spat highlights several points that should be remembered by anyone contemplating a TV or radio interview.

  1. No questions are off-limits, no matter what was said beforehand. The RIM interview started off about the new Playbook tablet. But RIM’s issues in India and the Middle East, where governments want to gain greater access to the tight security system used for Blackberry’s business users, have been in the news. A question was inevitable, no matter what RIM’s PR advisor may have tried to negotiate before the interview.
  2. Since the security issue has been in the news cycle, RIM should have a position on it, and a message line prepared to explain their position. Lazaridis needed to be on message.
  3. If there’s one thing journalists (and audiences) love more than a good sound bite, it’s someone dodging questions and cameras. Remember last year when Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett lost his job after video of him talking about eating a cookie instead of addressing the province’s health crisis was aired and went viral. (You can see the incident on our blog).

Ultimately, the rights and wrongs of the reporter’s questions are irrelevant. What lingers is the perception created by the response. In this case the perception is of an executive unable or unwilling to respond to a legitimate topic, and shouting ‘unfair’ when faced with something other than a soft-ball question.  And that’s not a good perception to plant in people’s minds, especially when you are launching a product that could make or break your company.

What would you have done? We’d love to hear your views. Post a comment or write to us.

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