The Next Web story about Samsung and their reported treatment of bloggers at the IFA is horrible. When compared what I did with the Nokia Blogger Relations Program from 2005-2010, where we supplied bloggers with N and some E series devices as part of a seeding program and then expanding the program to invite bloggers to attend Nokia World and Mobile World Congress, shows more than ever before that the approach we took was spot on. We set out to be transparent. We treated bloggers with respect, never asking them to do anything more than consider to review the devices, consider attending events in conjucntion with device releases and in the future, with simply no strings attached.
For the record, it was back in the spring of 2005 via a Skype chat session with Martin Geddes who was consulting to Nokia, that I created the framework for the Nokia Blogger Relations Program. In November of that year the program launched and basically propelled Nokia into Social Media (prior attempts were an admitted failure.)
The Nokia Blogger Relations program, which was the archtype of corporate sponsored blogging programs was deemed a success by peers and media both in the tech and traditional media, spawning many copycats and imitators, most of which were failures. Now we see one more example of just how badly corporations and PR firms can poorly execute these programs when it comes to dealing with bloggers, as the account in The Next Web indicates.
Honestly, the Nokia Blogger Relations program wasn't hard to do.
We started with the premise that there was no real requirements on the part of the blogger to do anything at all, though we did hope they would end up reviewing the devices, because thats what reviewers do. They could review, not review or trash us. They were supplied devices, collaterial material, and we aggregated their posts on a now defunct blog. On the blog were files for the bloggers to use. They also received a Fed Ex return airbill, to return the phone when they were done with it.
The program worked and in the end Nokia was loved in the social media realm. Reviews ran regularly and interest in the program grew to where the number of bloggers desiring review units grew from the original 50 that included Geddes, Om Malik, Michael Arrington, Rich Tehrani, Stowe Boyd, Rafat Ali, Matt Miller, James Kendrick and Kevin Tofel (then of JK on the Run), Stuart Henshall, Oliver Starr and others, all back then mostly independent or just starting out who had a passion for two things. Mobile and change. We also agreed with Nokia upfront that transparency would be the key to success. And, it was.
With the Nokia Blogger Relations we never looked at bloggers as shills. We didn't bribe them, or threaten them. When they traveled to our events we covered airfare and hotel, some meals and transportation. We didn't care if they disclosed that the devices and travel were courtesy of Nokia, and actually encouraged them to, so at the end of the day, Nokia won and other brands lost when it came to the court of blogger opinion.
When I was growing up in Philadelphia, a DJ named Pierre Robert (aka Pete Roberts) used to refer to the Grateful Dead as the band that was "often immitated, never duplicated" and that's how I felt when I read about the Samsung utter failure. They set out to immitate something that was successful. To work with bloggers to generate social media visibility. Well they did alright. They ended up with negative visibility.
If your company wants to do it right, call me on my alternate Google Voice number 1-(858) 461-9990. And yes, we handled Grand Central's blogger relations program back then too.
End Note-There are always two sides to the story always. This one though sounds like the typical matrixed organization, with a multi-country ring. Global comms, country comms, multiple agencies and of course "lost in translation." Net Net-someone delivered a message, and someone did something. My guess is the blogger didn't get it wrong.