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Nokia screws blogger due to marathon PR failureLast week I wrote about how to engage bloggers, based on my experience as a (pro) blogger. I explained how I receive hundreds of emails every day, and how it can be difficult to make a message stand out amid that noise.

I also explained that campaigns – all campaigns – have budgets, and that it is highly lame for brands to expect bloggers to keep doing favours for them, for free.

Today I spotted a tweet by Malcolm Coles that makes for a fantastic case study in what not to do. He flagged up a real shocker between one of the world's biggest mobile companies and a humble blogger.

So on one side we have Muireann Carey-Campbell, who writes the Bangs And A Bun blog. On the other is Nokia. And in the middle is one of Nokia’s presumably expensive PR firms, Mission.

Muireann was approached by Mission in May to participate in The Nokia Outdoor Series, which included a number of events that she could choose to participate in. Here’s what was promised by Mission, working on Nokia’s behalf:

“Part of the project entails training with Olympic athletes, interviewing them, free sports kits, a platform on the Nokia Outdoor Series website (which can be linked back to your own site to increase your hits) and many more.” 

But that wasn’t all: 

“I was also told I would hopefully receive a Nokia phone to film my training sessions and my travel and accommodation would be paid for when I was to train with an Olympic athlete and go down to London for the race itself."

This is itself is a good example of the perception that PRs have about bloggers. Pay them in samples, invite them to events, and generally make it seem like you’re doing them a big favour. It's less than cheap and it doesn't help to pay the bills.

At any rate, all of the above was enough for Muireann to get involved in the campaign. She decided to run a half marathon, as part of the Nokia Outdoor Series. Now that’s what I call blogger engagement! That's serious commitment, right there. The event took place last weekend and Muireann completed it in two and a half hours (well done!).

But oh, the misery. Here’s how it worked out for her:

“I’m disappointed to report that over the past four months, as I trained very hard for this half marathon, devoting huge amounts of my time, energy and money, none of the things promised to me have been delivered. 

“Very early on I was told that Nokia had decided not to do the sports kits. I made two video blogs, neither of which ever appeared on the Nokia Outdoor Series site and I was given no explanation for this other than Nokia couldn’t get their act together/were impossible to get hold of.”

“I was offered a training session with an Olympic athlete, but was only given six days notice and couldn’t get away from work in time. I was sent a phone, which I was told I will have to send back when all is said and done.” 

Is it just me who finds this so low-rent, and so shoddy? It gets worse...

With about two weeks until the marathon Muireann chased up Mission to ask where her race pack was. She had been sent no information whatsoever, and was told nine days before the race that Nokia was still “finalising places”. Upon hearing this, and after months of training, I'd probably have succumbed to William 'D-Fens' Foster mode. Thankfully Muireann avoided weaponry and instead contacted the marathon organiser directly:

“Within 24 hours, they got back to me with confirmation that they had secured me a special last minute place on the race. In 24 hours they did what Mission has had four months to do.”

So at least she could run, but what a lot of effort for no reward. 

“It’s not as if I was given a product and asked to write a review on it. You asked me to do a half marathon! I trained for four months! I had a personal trainer, I was getting up at 5.30am to go running, I have literally exhausted myself with my efforts. My side of this bargain has been well and truly fulfilled. I have raised awareness of this half marathon and people have signed up to it as a result of the coverage I have given to my own preparation. And yet, I have received absolutely nothing in return for it. Does that seem fair to you?”

Make no mistake: this is a horror story. After all it is 2010 and bloggers have been around for a decade. It’s not remotely new, and it’s not rocket science. Yes, clients can be troublesome, and who knows what went on behind the scenes, but Mission has a lot to learn from this. 

Last word to Muireann, who is to be commended for speaking out on this:

“It appears that Mission don’t have an understanding or appreciation for bloggers or social media. I may just be a small fish to you, but I am a client and should have been treated as such.”

Quite right.

Update: Nokia's head of communications Anna Shipley has left an apology on Muireann's blog, as has James Lacey at Mission. It's funny how quickly people respond when the matter goes public. Hopefully a few lessons will be learned.

Chris Lake

Published 12 October, 2010 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

582 more posts from this author

Comments (26)

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Nigel Sarbutts

Nigel Sarbutts, Managing Director at BrandAlert

Chris, in the same minute that you were publishing, the agency replied to the blogger offering their apologies and coming clean that it was human error/cockup/being a bit crap/whatever. Nokia had replied an hour or two earlier to say sorry and your comments here seem like a good example of how the rush to publish in social media means that things get missed, in particular the responsibility of professional publishers like yours to offer both sides to a story and ask what has really happened. I have no connection to any of the people involved in this but it is a little disappointing that once again Twitter is ablaze with the tut-tut comments about something that seems to be like a minor foul up that got one blogger a bit hacked off (justifiably, but the calm tone of her complaint suggests that she has a sense of proportion). We all make mistakes and Mission seem to have given a pretty clear mea culpa.

almost 6 years ago

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Matt

With that comment above, surely the article should now be edited to explain this? The RT bait title has done its job, now its time to act as professional journalists and update the story.

almost 6 years ago

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Paula(bear)

But Nigel, there's a lot of problems with the whole situation and it shouldn't have had to come to naming and shaming, but it did... isn't it the twitterstorm that actually brought about the apology?  Just sayin'...

almost 6 years ago

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James Allan

As our response to BangsandaBun says, Mission takes full responsibility. This is not Nokia's fault as the title to this post states. http://bangsandabun.com/2010/10/the-tale-of-pr-and-the-blogger/comment-page-2/#comment-23259 This has been a huge oversight internally on our part, and is not an indication of our commitment to the changing face of the brand/comms industry and social. It is certainly not the result of Nokia's actions. Best, James

almost 6 years ago

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Adam

Nigel - Yes the agency replied to the blogger, but have you actualy read the whole reply? they havn't really explained themselves in anyway except please dont blame Nokia due to the fact there worried about there big client

almost 6 years ago

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Faisal Jameel, Web Designer at dmg :: events

At any rate, all of the above was enough for Muireann to get involved in the campaign. She decided to run a half marathon, as part of the Nike Outdoor Series. NIKE OUTDOOR SERIES???

almost 6 years ago

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James Allan

@Paula(bear) - Please understand that we phoned @Bangsandabun last week as soon as the gravity of the situation came clear to the directors at Mission. Without doubt, it should have been weeks earlier than it was. Our response has not been initiated by the Twitter-pitchforks but by the bad media experience we realised we were responsible for.

almost 6 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Nigel - I updated the post after seeing that, and Mission called me to say it is taking the blame for this, which I accept and is the right thing to do (if at fault). But the trouble is that PR firms represent the brand. They are one and the same thing, as far as publishers / bloggers are concerned. I think what really happened was pretty much what Muireann said had happened. 

We all make mistakes. With hindsight maybe you think that my headline isn't brilliant. The way both Nokia and Mission have reacted is admirable. But I don't think this is a 'minor' foul up. It's a systematic failure to communicate. Muireann should never have had any reason to go public. 

@Faisal - thanks!

almost 6 years ago

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Jennifer Davis

In response to Nigel's comment, I have to say I disagree. Even if Chris had known that Nokia said 'sorry' and admitted to being crap, it doesn't really undo what they did. It's good (and right) that they apologised, but is that enough considering what Muireann went through for them? I still this article shows that this was a poor example of engaging bloggers, which I think was the original point.

almost 6 years ago

Nigel Sarbutts

Nigel Sarbutts, Managing Director at BrandAlert

@Chris, I think it's a bit odd to comment to me that you think the response is admirable but in your update you imply that the apology has only come about following the Twitterstorm, which I read as meaning grudgingly.

almost 6 years ago

Steve Davies

Steve Davies, CEO at Fitch Media

The most important part of Chris' article for me is the following sentence...

"I also explained that campaigns – all campaigns – have budgets, and that it is highly lame for brands to expect bloggers to keep doing favours for them, for free."

This is becoming an increasingly major problem.  Every marketing intervention 'should' be driven by a plan (with clear accountabilities, resources allocated and measures identified).  The typical multi-channel campaign involves creatives, ad teams, PRs and... the channels to the consumer (i.e. blogs, publishers, social networks).  

These channels are the touch-points to the customer, the trusted intermediary that customers visit to become informed and validate their own perceptions.  Without such channels the brands would be mute. 

Consumers increasingly don't trust brands, ad agencies, or PRs - they trust those entities that make the effort to build relationships with them on a daily (or hourly) basis.  Blogs are like the tyres on a car, you can have a powerful grunty V8 engine, but without tyres making contact with the road, you aren't going anywhere.

All campaigns do have budgets, but as we reach the end of 2010, the majority of those budgets STILL get hosed away on glossy creatives and expensive ads, the remainder reaches the PRs and ignorance is still rife that blogs, publishers and communities exist purely for the brand's pleasure.

This is far from being a limited example and it’s nearly 2011, Wake up!

almost 6 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Nigel - Not at all. The speed of the response is admirable. Why didn't Muireann's emails get the same kind of response, especially given the fact that she was actively involved in the campaign? That's the issue here: shoddy coordination.

Did this really need to go public for Mission / Nokia to sit up and take notice of Muireann's issues? I don't think so.

almost 6 years ago

Henry Elliss

Henry Elliss, Digital Marketing Director at Tamar

I'm completely behind you here, Chris (nudging you forward ever so slightly, ha ha) - just because the brand and agency say sorry - once they've been exposed to the world - doesn't make everything right again, and you shouldn't be expected to update your post within seconds just because that has happened.

The concept of an apology making everything a-okay barely works with my 2 year old son, let alone a major corporation. And to be fair to Mission and Nokia, it sounds like they are taking this as a learning experience too, so I think you did the right thing. I'm not entirely sure what point Nigel is making to be honest.

I can't help imagining the phone call between Nokia and Mission when they got wind of this, though. Ouch...

almost 6 years ago

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Mark Squires

Chris, appriciate you posting the update to this post. As Nokia's Head of Social Media it's always a challenge to co-ordinate over 100,000 company members and their associated external agencies and contacts. Whether you choose to believe that we are shoddy or not is your decision, however I can assure you that after 15 years with Nokia you won't find a better bunch of folk more dedicated to the folk that use our products and services. As one of the first companies to allow full blogging by it's staff in work time (we transparently shared our guidelines online), we support all aspects of social media internally and externally. We don't get it right all of the time, but in general we do get it right in the end.

almost 6 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Mark - Thanks for the comment. Totally appreciate the difficulties involved - we make plenty of mistakes too. When I say 'shoddy' I refer only to this incident, and not your overall SM strategy. This could obviously have been much better coordinated, and nipped in the bud, and I'm sure all involved will learn from it. 

almost 6 years ago

Nigel Sarbutts

Nigel Sarbutts, Managing Director at BrandAlert

@ Chris Mission called Muireann last week they say, so the taking notice bit happened before the public comments. Whether it was a worthwhile exchange neither of us know, (I assume it wasn't enough for her, hence the letter of complaint) but it did happen. @ Henry, my point is this: in traditional journalism, a reporter will try to include both sides of a story before publishing. On the evidence of the posting, Chris didn't and as a professional writer for a well established publisher, I think it's not unreasonable to expect that threshold of balance and fairness to both sides to be crossed (especially under such an inflammatory headline) and it seems to me to be an example of how the haste to publish can get in the way of the complete picture. I agree that saying sorry isn't of itself a cure, but what would you do in Mission's shoes now?

almost 6 years ago

Henry Elliss

Henry Elliss, Digital Marketing Director at Tamar

@Nigel The only thing I would do now, if I were in Mission's shoes, is listen and learn, and hopefully take lots of notes...

@Chris I forget to say in my last comment - fantastic pun in the title! :D

almost 6 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Nigel - I didn't call because:

1. It was an open letter to Mission. I assumed that it was more or less accurate. I know it can be dangerous to assume, but why would she have lied?

2. I am subjective, as a rule. I try to be balanced but I didn't launch the Econsultancy blog for us to sit on the fence. This is just my opinion of a blogger's first-hand impressions of being involved with (some might say 'working on') a Nokia campaign over a four month period.

3. I didn't see any point in asking the agency any questions, as - in the event that it was Nokia's fault - Mission would never blame the client in public. That's how it works in agencyland, and especially in public relations. And normally 'the intern' is held accountable.

4. I didn't really care about finding out why this happened, who was responsible, and attributing blame, etc. I only care that this sort of thing still happens, and when world class brands are involved it is all the more shocking. I'd rather it didn't. 

5. The headline reflects the fact that it was a Nokia campaign that lured in the blogger. Mission was just the intermediary. It's good that they've apologised, but nevertheless poor form to allow it to escalate to this level. If I were in its shoes I'd figure out what went wrong and what needs to be done next time around.  

almost 6 years ago

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Siany

"3. I didn't see any point in asking the agency any questions, as - in the event that it was Nokia's fault - Mission would never blame the client in public. That's how it works in agencyland, and especially in public relations. And normally 'the intern' is held accountable. 4. I didn't really care about finding out why this happened, who was responsible, and attributing blame, etc. I only care that this sort of thing still happens, and when world class brands are involved it is all the more shocking. I'd rather it didn't." Surely, if you really care that it happens, asking questions and finding out why it still happens is key?

almost 6 years ago

Henry Elliss

Henry Elliss, Digital Marketing Director at Tamar

I feel quite sorry for poor 'Kaydine' here - the Mission staffer currently being blamed for the cock-up. Muireann Carey-Campbell was quite polite in refusing to name and names in her expose, yet the person from Mission who responded in the Comments was more than happy to name-and-shame...

almost 6 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Siany - Yep, you'e right, but doesn't it just boil down to people doing their jobs correctly? It's not at all difficult to manage this kind of thing, it just requires a steady approach, good planning, a budget, and some people power. Maybe it was under-resourced and they were stretched (that harks back to the points I made last week).

Anyway, I hear you and hereby offer Mission an open invitation to participate in a Q&A to explain what happened and talk about the challenges of coordinating bloggers / SM campaigns. I'll email James Allan too.

almost 6 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Henry - yeah, that's unfortunate but somebody will always cop the blame. Maybe she was managing too many accounts, juggling campaigns, had other priorities, etc. Comes back to my point about resourcing. But who knows?

almost 6 years ago

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t barton

 What does the reporting of this spat say about the relationship of PR and the web,a minor incident which looked at in detail shows that a PR company thought that if they could attract a blogger of certain repute it would enhance a PR project, a straightforward request which would have meant a certain amount of sacrifice on behalf of the blogger might not have achieved the desired result so certain inducements were offered,the PR company failed to live up to the expectations of the blogger due to organisational failures at which and the blogger was reasonably upset.What has ensued after the blogger complained about the treatment received online in her blog seems to have escalated to a major discussion as to the relationship between the web versus PR companies it appears that the whole situation has been blown out of proportion but maybe this is what Bloggers and PR companies share in common  

almost 6 years ago

Steve Davies

Steve Davies, CEO at Fitch Media

@t barton I don't believe it has been blown out of proportion at all - it perfectly illustrates the issue that Chris made in his post last week that brands are failing to value the services provided by bloggers and the inducements offered are often cynical and fail to materialise.

PR companies are a little like political lobbyists - they're paid to get a brands message into the conversation of those with an ear to key stakeholders and customers, but what some are failing to realise is that bloggers are often not hobbyists, they're 'real' businesses with real costs and promising a few freebies (and then failing to deliver) touches a very raw nerve.

almost 6 years ago

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ed hardy uk

Chris, in the same minute that you were publishing, the agency replied to the blogger offering their apologies and coming clean that it was human error/cockup/being a bit crap/whatever. Nokia had replied an hour or two earlier to say sorry and your comments here seem like a good example of how the rush to publish in social media means that things get missed,

over 5 years ago

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Estella Phalange

In response to Chris's comment : 'Maybe she was managing too many accounts, juggling campaigns, had other priorities, etc'

You are bang on.

Having experienced Mission Media, my only surprise is that something like this didn't happen sooner. The staff work incredibly hard but are massively overstretched, demoralised and underappreciated. I hope that senior heads rolled and not the individual looking after the project. There is a blame and humiliation culture at this company, and it comes from the top down.

over 5 years ago

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