Nearly a decade after bloggers first gained prominence as a more flexible alternative to mainstream media reporters, some companies are still clueless about how to deal with them.
The latest case in point is Samsung, which reportedly invited two Indian technology bloggers on a junket to the prominent IFA trade show in Berlin, only to find they had a very different definition of the word “coverage.” When they arrived at the event, bloggers Clinton Jeff and his colleague were reportedly told to put on Samsung uniforms and show off the company's products to members of the press – not exactly covering and writing about product announcements as they expected.
After the duo refused to serve as official spokespeople for the technology giant, they were reportedly told Samsung would not pay for their hotel or flight back from the German capital – essentially stranding them thousands of miles from home. A representative from competitor Nokia helped the bloggers with flights home from the conference and hotel costs.
PR Play rating:
3. On the right track
The incident didn't paint Samsung in a good light – vindictive, petty, and unconcerned about its partners at worst, and just confused about how to deal with bloggers at best. In its attempt to generate positive press about the superiority of its products, Samsung instead created a storm about how it tried to “strand” bloggers in a foreign country.
Samsung said in a statement that “no activities are forced upon” bloggers, adding that it “regrets there was a misunderstanding between” its coordinators and the bloggers.
Dealing with bloggers can be complicated, especially on a country-by-country basis where the rules change depending on the culture. It'll never be as simple as media relations, where, at least in most Western countries, reporters are largely banned from accepting gifts from the companies they cover or their representatives.
Bloggers though are not a new phenomenon, and corporate giants, especially in the technology sector, have had ample time to develop guidelines and policies for dealing with them, no matter the cultural differences.