The Tale of PR and The Blogger
Yesterday, I told you about my half marathon journey. Today, it’s time to tell you about what went on behind the scenes. I was initially approached by PR company, Mission, to run the half marathon and blog about it on behalf of their client, Nokia. I was told I would get certain things in return for that. I got absolutely nothing.
I wrote a letter of complaint to Mission last week and they have called me to apologise, but as that was done three days before the race, it was sadly, too little, too late. The decision to publish this letter was not an easy one. My aim is not to get anyone at Mission in trouble, purely to highlight the massive disparity that currently goes on between large companies who claim to specialise in social media platforms and the way they actually treat bloggers.
Myself and others in the blogging community put huge amounts of time and effort into what we do. Publishing this letter may very well be career suicide but I feel I owe it to bloggers to publish this and hopefully, other companies can learn from it and take what we do seriously.
It is with regret that I’m writing a letter of complaint to you, but unfortunately I feel as though I’ve been left no other choice.
Back on May 21st, you contacted me to see if I would lend my voice to a campaign you were working on with Nokia – The Nokia Outdoor Series. It sounded interesting, like a challenge and I was very excited to be involved. I was told I could pick one of the events Nokia was having and blog about my preparation for it. I chose to participate in the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon and fully committed to the project.
For lending my voice to this campaign, I was told, to quote your email “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.” 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.
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.
Throughout all of this, I had to constantly contact you guys at Mission to find out what was going on. No one dealing with this project seemed to make an effort to touch base with me regularly. When I did get in touch with you, the standard response was that you were waiting to hear back from Nokia and would get back to me in a few days. You rarely did.
Through all this, I remained committed to what I said I’d do. I have a very loyal blog and Twitter following and they have been supporting and encouraging me as I blogged and tweeted my way through my training program, lost a stone in weight, became more committed to fitness than I’ve ever been. I spoke about this so much at least two people that I know of have signed up to do the half marathon, one of whom is doing it for charity and has raised a significant sum. I’ve been emailed by countless others who’ve told me how I’ve inspired them to start a new fitness regime, lose weight or commit to a healthier lifestyle.
The half marathon is this Sunday (October 10th). I emailed you on September 20th, after not hearing from you for well over six weeks, to ask what was happening on the day of the race. I was yet to receive a race pack or any information about it (when I know that those things had been sent to race participants weeks prior). I was given the standard response that you’d check with Nokia and get back to me by Friday (September 25th). Friday came and went. I emailed again on Wednesday September 29th (now just 11 days before the race) to again ask what was going on. I had no idea if I even had a place on the race. I relayed that I was now rather anxious, given the amount of time and effort I’ve put into this and the fact that I’m all over the internet saying I’m doing it – now it looked likely that I could show up and be told I don’t have a place and can’t run. Again, you told me you’d double check with Nokia and get back to me on Friday. On Friday you emailed to tell me a colleague would book my train ticket for me on Monday and that you were still finalising my place on the half marathon. So, after initially approaching me about this half marathon back on May 21st, my place is still being ‘finalised’ 9 days before? What on earth is going on?!
You asked me to send my preferred train times as you would cover the cost of my ticket. I asked if my accommodation was to be covered also, as agreed at the beginning of this venture and was told there was no longer the budget for accommodation. So yet more money had to come out of my pocket.
Frustrated with the mishandling of the situation and unsure whether I had a place on the marathon or not, I contacted The Royal Parks Foundation (who are in charge of it) directly, explained the situation and asked if there was any way they could sort it for me. 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.
Needless to say, I never heard from your colleague on Monday about the train ticket. I called you on Tuesday to ask if it was being booked and was told it’d be better if I booked it myself and send you guys the receipt – so yet again, more money comes out of my pocket (don’t worry, I won’t be holding my breath for Mission to reimburse me).
Yesterday (Wednesday October 6th) you called me to say you’re still sorting out my place for the half marathon. Four days before the race! Unbelievable! I told you I’d sorted it myself as it was clear that nobody there was doing anything.
I apologise for the tone of this email but I am just really quite astounded at the poor handling of this situation. I don’t blame the individuals handling the account. Nokia very well may have been impossible to deal with – but explanations should have been given every step of the way. Considering you’re in the business of communication, there was remarkably little of it taking place. I’m a reasonable person and I don’t expect the earth, but I do expect what has been promised to me to be delivered and where it can’t be, I’d just like a reasonable explanation as to why.
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?
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. I imagine if I was a Guardian journalist covering this event, I’d have everything that was promised and five star accommodation for the race.
I am sorry I had to write this letter. I was genuinely excited about the project and am hugely disappointed with how it’s been handled. I sincerely hope this is not how Mission ordinarily conducts itself in the blogging and social media world.
My hope in publishing this is that we can at least start a conversation. Social Media is exploding and it’s hard to adapt and keep up. Perhaps this will go some small way towards a dialogue that enables us all to work better together and avoid things like this happening in the future.
(In the interest of full disclosure here, when someone from Mission called to apologise to me, twenty minutes after I sent this email last week, they told me I could keep the Nokia phone that had been sent to me. So…there’s that.)