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.