A story that received little press, even tech circles, was how a blogger was flown to Berlin, Germany to attend and objectively cover the IFA 2012 conference by technology firm Samsung. When the blogger, Clinton Jeff, arrived there from his home in India, he was told instead he was to be a rep for Samsung and demo their technology to attendees of the conference. When he refused, Samsung threatened to strand him there and would not pay for his hotel or return flight. In the end, rival mobile technology firm Nokia paid for Jeff’s stay in the German capital and his return flight home, allowing him to cover it as he saw fit. This was first reported on The Next Web in this post.
Where I personally don’t know Clinton Jeff, I do read his blog Unleash The Phones and follow him on Twitter, and I do know people who know him and he is well-respected in mobile tech circlers. So if he says this happened, I have to believe it. And from Samsung’s response it reinforces their blunder.
A part of the story that was barely touched on by the reports out there was how Nokia paid for his extended stay and flight home. Where some may say this was simply a smart PR move by a competitor, I agree it is. However this in line with how Nokia works with bloggers. How do I know this? Because about 2 years ago Nokia flew me to Berlin to attend a conference and cover it how I saw fit, and I had no logistics issues at all.
Nokia has a strong word-of-mouth social media marketing program called Nokia Connects, which back when I went to Berlin was called WOMWorld/Nokia. It is facilitated by Nokia and WOM agency 1000heads. The program loans new mobile devices to bloggers and others to evaluate and, if they choose, write about it. I say it this was as in all encounters with Nokia connects for over 4 years now, since I went to Nokia OpenLab, they have never even eluded slightly that I need to write something or what I should write.
If this concept is new to you, a thought going through your head may be – why? Why would a company spend money on an international flight, hotel, ground transportation food, admission to a conference for not just 1 person but 3 to cover an event without any expectation of the quality and quantity of what they write? That’s exactly the point! Granted the people they invite are people that will be writing something. But this is why Nokia’s word-of-mouth program is popular with bloggers and successful for the brand.
Diary From Berlin
To better explain, I’ll share more of the itinerary of the trip to Berlin in November 2010. I attended Microsoft TechEd, an international developers conference for those who work with Microsoft technology. Nokia was an exhibitor and had a keynote address on its collaboration with Microsoft for an Outlook/Exchange email client app on Nokia devices as well as other sync technology. Nokia invited me, Dennis Bournique and Craig Richards to cover the event. It was by no means an earth-shattering announcement, and we had no idea only a few months later Nokia would announce it was moving completely to the Microsoft Windows Phone ecosystem from its own known as Symbian. But Nokia wanted people to cover it, and we were invited.
We had a host in Rhiannon from 1000heads who coordinated travel logistics, getting around Berlin, making sure we were fed and access to Nokia staff. Never at any time were we asked to sign ANYTHING, never told or even hinted at what to do or any. In addition to the conference itself we attended a Nokia social and had a little time to see the city, and I gave a brief tour of the areas of Berlin I remembered from a vacation there a few years earlier. I’ll reiterate there was no expectation on what – and when – we wrote, and I did write a few posts including this one and this one and tweeted form the conference. And neither Nokia nor 1000heads ask me to write this – when I heard of what Samsung did, I recalled my time there and was compelled to write this on my own.
In one tech media account of the drama that Samsung put Clinton Jeff through it closed with, “basically, it's not a great idea to accept "free" trips or gifts from companies.” I disagree. First off, for decades journalists have been receiving free trips and all the trappings and still do. Of course buyer beware and know the reputation of the vendor and their consultants to determine it it’s right for you. If an invite comes to me from Nokia again, I will certainly accept it if it fits my schedule and interests.
When recalling this event I remembered a video I took of the Hotel Berlin Berlin where we stayed. I have uploaded it to my YouTube channel and share it with you below – or click here to see the video.
I welcome your thoughts and comments and discussion on this topic which may be foreign – no pun intended – to many people.
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