Samsung forced to apologise over treatment of Indian bloggers

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Samsung has issued a response to the accusations that it forced bloggers to operate as Samsung representatives against their will.

Samsung Mob!lers is a voluntary community of active Samsung mobile device users, who are offered the opportunity to participate in our marketing events across the world. At these events, all activities they undertake are on a voluntary basis. No activities are forced upon them.

We regret there was a misunderstanding between the Samsung Mob!lers coordinators and the relevant blogger, as we understand he was not sufficiently briefed on the nature of Samsung Mob!lers’ activities at IFA 2012. We have been attempting to get in touch with him.

We respect the independence of bloggers to publish their own stories.

Originally, Samsung approached Clinton Jeff, of Unleash the Phones, and another blogger wishing to remain nameless, to let them that they had been chosen to go to IFA 2012 as guests of Samsung. This meant that they would be flown out to IFA 2012 in Berlin, Germany and booked into a hotel at Samsung’s cost, to cover the launch of Samsung’s new products. Jeff claims that it was made clear to Samsung that they were independent bloggers and did not want to become brand ambassadors for the company.

Before arriving in Berlin, the two bloggers were given a number of minor tasks to complete, including posing in front of local landmarks in India to promote Samsung’s Mob!lers program. Shortly after they landed in Germany, the line between blogger and paid promoter were blurred when Samsung representatives told the bloggers they would “have to be in uniform, in the Samsung booths, every day, showing the products to members of the press.”

When the bloggers alerted the reps to the fact they hadn’t agreed to promote Samsung in the booth and would not be a part of the company’s promotional activities, they were then told that their hotel booking and return tickets to India would be cancelled, if they did not agree to wear a Samsung branded shirt at its Unpacked event, and not blog about the incident. The duo attended the event and wore the T-shirt, not knowing whether they would be able to get home without doing so. In the end, Nokia stepped in and offered to take care of their hotel and flights, ensuring that the bloggers could stay in Berlin and cover IFA in greater detail.

The below email is a personal email from Samsung to Jeff outlining the events which occurred.

This is one case of a total PR disaster. Any PR pro worth their salt recognises how influential bloggers are. Samsung have a lot to learn. While one has to ask the question, why exactly does a brand pay to fly journalists and bloggers to foreign press junkets. The answer is simple – to establish relationships and to interact on a personal level showcasing the very best of a brand. On the one hand, when bloggers and journalists feel looked after, they tend to write more favorably, while on the other, woe betide any brand that crosses a blogger.

Props to Nokia for stepping in, which I’m sure will see a lot of Blog’in love. Not only have they established that the Nokia brand look after their bloggers but they also put their money where their mouth is.

Love Niamh x

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