“Here’s how Samsung Flew Bloggers halfway around the world, then threatened to leave them there” is the trending story of the day from The Next Web and if you have not read it till now then you are really missing something big.
The story is about how two bloggers from India were flown to the IFA Conference Berlin only to be told later that they would have to be the booth guys or Promoters and not Reporters as was decided earlier. Sounds murky? The bloggers frustration has now turned out be a complete PR disaster for the Korean Mobile giant. To add spice, in comes Nokia and supports the abandoned bloggers. So a PR disaster along with online reputation has gone for a toss and moreover a competitor has grabbed the opportunity.
TNW has given every detail of this story and will update it as and when it unfolds further. Samsung had launched it’s Mobilers program in India and Clinton Jeff of Unleash the Phones was selected as the winners of the contest along with a fellow blogger. The bloggers were invited by Samsung to attend this year’s IFA conference in Berlin. However, Jeff had made it clear that they are independent bloggers and had no intention to be brand ambassadors of Samsung. Jeff also made it clear by email that he would travel as a reporter and not a promoter of the company.
Everything seemed to be fine – the offer, flight, stay, etc. but the bloggers got the real shock when they were asked to wear the uniforms and be ready to show the products to members of the press. In other words, bloggers were transformed into brand salesmen since Samsung had paid for the expenses.
Jeff made it clear to the PR that they had no intention to be Samsung’s employee for the event. The refusal was enough to hit the MNC. The incidents that followed later from Samsung were not only disgusting but shocking too and all this when Samsung is anyways trending for all the wrong reasons.
Jeff shared with TNW that they got a call from Samsung India to either do as they were told to or they were on their own. If the threatening was not enough then few minutes later there was one more call from India that warned again that they are going to bring them back only if they wear the branded shirts at the Unpacked event, and not blog about this incident.
The bloggers had no choice in a foreign country and they were at the event wearing the blue shirts but chose not to demonstrate the products. Obviously, this didn’t go down well with Samsung and the last thing the bloggers were aware of was that their return tickets had been cancelled and they were left to their own fate.
What went wrong?
In today’s social media age, promotion of products has changed. Today brands want to sell you a product via an online influencer to bring the social factor. So brands approaching bloggers is nothing new and what has happened is not an exceptional case. The only thing I see a difference is that Jeff took the courage to raise his voice.
But the goal is simple. All I want is to prevent this from happening to other people. That’s it.
— Clinton Jeff (@clintonjeff) September 3, 2012
However, Amit Bhawani, another blogger who was also invited to the same event as a reporter by Samsung has added some more interesting sides to the story. Amit, in his blog, shares all the details and emails that Samsung shared about the entire event crystal clear. So if you opt for a reporter then you have a set of rules and the same applies for promoters. Amit added that if anyone had a problem then he/she shouldn’t have boarded the flight at first place. Quoting Amit from his blog,
[pullquote=”lhipull” class=”center_pull”]There is always a Second Side of the Story and this clearly shows that Samsung invited Reporters to experience the event, while promoters promote their products which is why they were called Promoters. If someone had a problem with “Promoters” then they should have never boarded the flight and started complaining later. You cannot expect Samsung to spend around 5000 Euros [estimated] on a promoter and just expect him to never be with the group and enjoy his stay, because he is not a guest but a Promoter for this event. The Reporters were actually more like guests invited to this event, because they could anyway watch the event live from their home but Samsung wanted to offer them something better & real.[/pullquote]
Amit has a point that needs to be considered. Jeff should have raised his voice before boarding the flight when he had clear indications. But then we can’t ignore what Samsung has done just because they are paying for the trip. Jeff wanted to be a reporter and not a promoter then why was he forced to be one and when he refused what was the threatening for? There is something called ethics that has been ignored.
A situation that could have been handled in a nice way has gone berserk and the PR guys have made a mess in an age where things catch fire without friction.
After effects of the PR disaster
When a story like this is broken by TNW then it is sure to reach out to every corner. There has been a constant support for the bloggers from fellow bloggers and the online community. Seeing this as an opportunity, Nokia came forward and before Samsung could even wake up, Nokia had already moved out the helpless bloggers.
Samsung could have done the same but alas! There has been no response from Samsung India as yet but I am sure they will point out some underlined term from the NDA. Samsung may not lose customers post this episode, but then the online reputation which is paramount for any business has been sacrificed.
So fellow bloggers next time you get excited seeing an offer like this, make sure you check the facts and get an agreement signed before you pack your bags. Every time you won’t have TNW writing for you!
P.S: Samsung has issued a public statement attributing the entire incident to misunderstanding but has ‘deeply’ apologized in a personal note to Jeff.