Let me start with a Typical day of a Blogger, we usually get many calls, Emails and tip for big news happening around the globe in our niche. That includes, many companies sponsoring our Trips to the event so that we can cover the event as a Blogger and as a Journalist. Yes, we Blogger are none other than a journalist and specially if you are one of the A-list Blogger, you will have your own audience base where you will be educating users about latest product and tech launches. It’s a Win-win situation for both the companies and for the Blogger, as we get to cover the exclusive events, our audience get to read exclusive news and companies get a free channel to promote their product.
In last 4 years of my professional Blogging career, I have been to many events in the country sponsored by Nokia, LG, Micromax and many other tech companies. One thing which is always clear about the coverage is, it’s going to be honest coverage. If your product is amazing we will say it amazing and if it’s not, we will speak the truth and nothing else.
Samsung Failed to differentiate between Promoter Vs. Reporter:
Now, it’s nothing new that many companies have their list of niche Bloggers, whom they give exclusive news and updates about their product. This also includes, taking them to any part of the world, which helps them to get words out for their product and Bloggers get exclusive coverage in the form of Blog post, Tweets and videos. Today morning I was reading a news at TheNextWeb, and got to know about latest scandal by Samsung in which they brought a shame to them and put one of Indian Blogger in biggest dilemma of his life.
Samsung Bloggers Scandal (Samsung Mobilers program) :
As they call it, Samsung mobilers program where they have selected few Bloggers and Samsung loyalist to be a part of this program. Samsung Sponsored few bloggers to travel to Berlin to cover the IFA 2012, which is a big event for all tech companies to show case their product and we can see latest innovation in digital technology at the event.
Clinton Jeff (CJ), who is one of the prominent Mobile Blogger from India and happened to be my ex room-mate, turned out to be a victim of Samsung blindless self promotion. Before sponsoring Clinton Jeff trip to IFA 2012, Samsung asked him “Would you like to cover this event as promoter or as a reporter“, and CJ made it clear that he only accept the offer to travel and cover the event as an Independent Blogger.
Now, I will skip the parts in which Samsung asked Clinton Jeff and other bloggers who were sponsored (Hotel stay, Travelling, Flights) by Samsung for this trip were asked to wear Samsung T-shirt to cover the event and dancing in-front of landmarks. You can read about all of these in TNW article.
Now, this is where Samsung ruled out all the ethics of sponsored trips, Samsung asked these Bloggers including Clinton Jeff to sign an NDA and they asked these Bloggers to be in Samsung booth at the course of the event and demo Samsung products to other members of the press and tech journalists.
Damn! Why would any Blogger would do such a thing? and CJ showed his interest of not playing a role of Samsung employee and as agreed, he would like to attend the event as an Independent Blogger as discussed before he accepted Samsung offer to cover the IFA event.
Samsung asked them to take a break and let them decide and that’s where thing went uglier. Samsung India team called them to threaten and warn them by saying
“You can either be a part of this and wear the uniform, or you’ll have to get your own tickets back home and handle your hotel stay from the moment this call ends…”
None the less, They actually cancelled their return ticket of 6th September 2012 and told them they are cancelling their trip and bringing them back on 1st September instead and only when they will not share about this incident to anyone or blog about it.
Left with no choice, CJ decided to attend the event wearing Samsung T-Shirt but not to demonstrate Samsung phones unlike other Samsung mobilers.
Well, that was not the end, and next day CJ received this Email from Samsung India team:
Great thanks to Nokia team, who rescued these Bloggers from Dilemma and instead of let them stuck at Berlin, Nokia took care of their stay and also arranged flight back home.
More or less, Samsung blackmailed these bloggers to play according to their playbook else you will be stuck in Berlin. They not only tried to Push Bloggers to play on their script but also threatened and blackmailed them to be Samsung puppet. Bloggers like CJ have done a great job by bringing this issue in public and showed the truth of Samsung bad marketing and shameful act.
What you could have done in such scenario?
Many of you might be thinking what you have to do with this whole Samsung Bloggers scandal ? Well, this is just one of many such cases where Bloggers have been asked by tech companies to be their promoter instead of a reporter. If not now, in future you will also be asked to cover events, your trip will be sponsored and at times you will find it hard to write the truth, if you are going to sign an NDA.
The only thing which you could do is, clear your terms with PR people and inform them you are an independent Blogger and your views and opinion will be unbiased and discreet.
As we say, with Power comes great responsibility and Blogging is not less than Journalism, if you ever found yourself stuck in such situation, instead of playing with such companies rules, better take a stand for your readers and audience, and I’m sure you will get complete support from the community.
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