RIM’s Stephen Bates – disaster in motion on BBC 5 live

If you’re a business launching a make or break product, a prime time national radio interview is a golden opportunity. Unfortunately, Research in Motion (RIM) European boss Stephen Bates completely blew it on BBC 5 live breakfast today.

He was on to explain BlackBerry 10, the long-delayed new operating system designed to compete with hugely successful Apple and Android smartphones. Yet he was unable to give a single reason to buy a BlackBerry – criminal given the importance of today’s launch.

We learned that BlackBerry was a unique proposition – whatever that means. We learned that RIM was taking the essence of the BlackBerry experience and moving it forward. Apparently BlackBerry 10 gives users a new and unique experience – though we still have no idea what that means.

Worst of all, he completely ignored the question ‘What did you learn from the iPhone?’ Repeatedly. Nicky Campbell mocked Bates: ‘It sounds like you’re reading from a press release’. Yet Bates could have turned that most predictable question to his advantage: ‘The iPhone has had a big impact, but BlackBerry 10 is better for consumers and businesses because it does X, Y and Z’.

Stephen Bates’ woeful performance – repeated on BBC TV’s Breakfast – underlines why business leaders must be able to tell their story simply and convincingly. I can’t imagine Bates speaking such gobbledegook at home. So why do so in a radio interview?

He must have expected questions about BlackBerry’s fall from grace and the rise of the iPhone and Android. He had a perfect chance to answer those questions honestly followed by a straightforward explanation of why the BlackBerry is still a must-have device that will give Apple and Samsung a run for their money.

His failure to take that opportunity is baffling.

PS: RIM has a history of disastrous PR. Former CEO Mike Lazaridis stormed out of an interview with BBC’s Rory-Cellan Jones two years ago. The company horribly mishandled its service failure in October 2011. It needs some decent PR direction before it’s too late.