Today we all woke up to a story of how Samsung flew a couple of bloggers from India to Berlin to “cover” IFA but were later threatened to either don Samsung’s uniform and work as a promoter at their booth or they would be left stranded in Berlin and their return tickets to India cancelled. One of the bloggers, Clinton Jeff, narrated this incident to me a couple of days ago and I told him to write a post about it. He has not written his post, yet.
In case you haven’t read what happened with CJ, here’s the story in brief. CJ and another blogger from India were invited to IFA by Samsung Global as a part of its Mob!lers program. The program had two options – bloggers could cover it as reporters or promoters. Reporters too had to don Samsung t-shirts for group photos and meetings. Promoters, meanwhile, were given uniforms and had to man Samsung’s experience zone at the press conference as well as its booth at IFA. Reporters were hosted by Samsung till September 1 while promoters were staying through IFA and leaving on September 6.
I’m told CJ was asked whether he wanted to go as a reporter or a promoter and he chose to go as a reporter. However, the confirmation mail from Samsung Mob!lers mentioned he would go there as a promoter. According to another tech journalist and close friend Karan Bajaj, CJ got in touch with the Indian representative, who told him it would involve certain small chores that would only take a few extra minutes every day. He didn’t clarify what the “chores” would be and neither did CJ care to confirm them. It was only when the Indian bloggers reached Berlin did they realize what being a promoter meant.
Both the bloggers disagreed to do what was required out of them as being promoters (that is don Samsung’s uniform and man their booths showing off devices to other members of the press). Tempers flared and calls were made to India, where CJ alleges the Indian representative threatened to cancel their hotel booking and flight back to India. Meanwhile, Samsung India tells me new tickets were booked for them for September 1 instead of September 6. CJ tells me the hotel reservation was not cancelled but they did not get any confirmation of their new return flight after the original tickets were immediately cancelled. However, another company came to the rescue of the two bloggers and lodged them into a hotel and booked return tickets for them.
This might sound as a really bad PR move for Samsung but I think there is more to it than meets the eye. According to a statement provided by Samsung India, “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.
In short, Mob!lers was never a program for the media or bloggers. It is meant for Samsung fans, who have been using Samsung phones and probably also write loads about Samsung. Such programs are not specific to Samsung and are hosted by most companies. So accepting an invitation from them in the first place is debatable.
There is also a sense of miscommunication between Samsung and the bloggers in question. Why would Samsung ask them to go as promoters and not reporters when they specifically asked for it. The bigger question, however, is why would the two bloggers agree to travel if they were asked to participate in some ‘extra chores’?
Disclosure: If a company pays for our travel and accommodation to cover an event, we always disclose it. We never promise any coverage or participate in any marketing activity in lieu. I have known both CJ and Karan Bajaj for a few years and they also happen to be close friends of mine.