Why Sprint’s PR person lost his job and will never contact another blogger again

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Cellphone I may be late to the game with this, but I was in hysterics reading Joel Spolsky’s post Amazing X-Ray Glasses from Sprint! from his excellent blog, Joel on Software.  I realize that this blog is frequented by software engineers, a profession I clearly don’t have, but his writing is so good and funny and spot-on that I visit often.

In this post, he gives a review of a new phone that he was given for free from Sprint with the intent, I am sure, to seduce him into writing a great review on his blog (which has a huge following)to help sell thousands of units of their product.  But much to the chagrin of whoever thought of contacting him in the first place, he ended up testing the phone and found that he hated it … and wrote an excellent, detailed (and hilarious) scathing review.  Here is a tasty morsel:

"When it finally arrived, the physical appearance of the phone was rather disappointing. If you’ve been spoiled by Motorola’s latest phones, or the seamless, screwless, elegant iPod, the LG Fusic will strike you as butt-ugly. Where a Motorola RAZR has a solid case made out of almost sensual matte-black steel that just feels great, the LG Fusic is made out of the cheapest kind of gray plastic, the same material you find on a $3 toy. Where Motorola goes to great lengths to hide the screws, and minimize bumps and seams, the LG Fusic has dozens of ugly protuberances, gaps, holes, screws, seams, etc. Worst of all, the LG Fusic has no less than three of those evil, flimsy, rubbery plug-caps that are connected to the phone by the thinnest of filaments. You know, those stupid rubber plugs that you have to pull away to plug anything into the phone, and then they just dangle there like chicken wattles (when they’re not getting in the way of the thing you’re trying to plug in) for a couple of weeks until they finally tear off. The phone is almost twice as thick as a RAZR. It comes with a break-offable front plate which can be used to change the accent color of the very front of the phone. Your choices are Barbie Pink, Barbie Green, Barbie Blue, and Black which would be the only stylish choice, if only it didn’t clash so badly with the rest of the phone. (Believe me, it is hard to make black clash with anything, but LG did it.) Overall this phone seriously looks like a Fisher Price toy, not a top-of-the-line cell phone."

Such are the wonderful examples of "old" meets "new" media – the opportunity for the truth to come out.

I actually have no idea if Sprint’s PR person was fired over this … the best outcome would be honest, frank and useful conversation inside their company.  But I seriously doubt it went down that way.

I do feel kind of bad for everyone who spent energy and effort on this product.  It would be very painful to hear a review like this.  But most likely, if they are like many corporate bees, they would agree with Joel that the product sucks and would say that they tried to tell the same thing to their management many times and they wouldn’t listen.

So if you are a corporate marketing or PR person and want to entice bloggers to write pitches for your products, beware … you will most likely get the unadulterated truth.  What a novel concept.

9 Responses to “Why Sprint’s PR person lost his job and will never contact another blogger again”

  1. Jim McDermott says:

    I saw a segment on CNBC a couple weeks back about companies sending products to bloggers for review, similar to what happened to Joel. The catch was that many of them are requiring a “positive review or no review at all” agreement. Obviously not in this case though.

  2. kelly says:

    Pam,

    You may not be a software developer, but you have some readers who are.

    This post really caught my eye. I read Joel’s post on Saturday, cracked up, then wrote about it in my blog (I’m sure there’s a name for blog posts about blog posts, I’m just not sure what it is). I live in Sprint’s hometown and have worked there as a contractor, and can totally believe they would have a phone like this for sale. I am tickled that the unvarnished truth came out, and I’m sure someone probably got yelled at for it. Too funny!

  3. DofAM says:

    David Ogilvy said great advertising (or PR) will do two things: Make a great product sell faster, or a bad one fail quicker. No matter the promotion technique, the rule holds true. Good entry.

    DofAM

  4. Pamela Slim says:

    Hey Murali:

    Didn’t mean to trick you with the title, I was being tongue-in-cheek since I felt it was such a great example of a most likely unintended effect of a marketing strategy.

    I totally agree with you, and most other people in the comments that it is totally useful and refreshing to have bloggers test and give feedback. One of the reasons why I liked Joel’s article so much is that in addition to being well-written and funny, it was extremely concrete and specific, and he gave me valuable information that I would use as a consumer.

    What I think is interesting is that many large corporations have not yet “figured out” the blogging world and may not realize how much open, honest dialogue goes on there. That is the antithesis of most corporate cultures today where everyone tiptoes around direct communication, in fear of being labeled “not a team player” or being sued.

    As the line from the movie goes (the title escapes me!) “The truth? You can’t HANDLE the truth!”

    I am 100% for great blogger reviews like this one. It is refreshing.

  5. dawn says:

    Bloggers are the go to people for everything these days it seems. Why not product review? Came looking for your article/interview on greenstone media. It’s for the future, I suppose. dawn

  6. Actually, sounds like whoever was in charge of the design should loose his/her job.

    After all, the PR person can only promote the device they’re given!

    Regards

    Stuart Tevendale
    OTAG Technologies Ltd
    ===
    iSMARTtrain – Polar Download Software for Mac OS X
    http://www.ismarttrain.com

  7. gr8face says:

    Maybe this will start a trend and instead of having big name magazines reviewing products real people who actually use the stuff will do the reviews.

  8. Murali says:

    Did the PR person loose his job? Title says you are about to explain why he lost it, but inside the post, you said “I actually have no idea if Sprint’s PR person was fired over this”.

    Anyways, in my opinion, the PR person should be promoted. And more bloggers should be given a chance to test and write reviews about products. Why?
    1. The idea of initially contacting bloggers is to review. Not a recommendation. And Joel spend almost a day in testing and writing the blog. So idea was quite a successful one.

    If you have to buy a day’s worth of time from Joel and write a review, imagine how much Sprint had to pay?

    Many bloggers are very articulate in pointing out issues. So you must go to bloggers for such reviews. Traditional reviewers are reluctant to give bad news, though they are paid for exactly to do so.
    2. Joel almost identified 6 different issues with the UI and usability. To get similar feedback and clarity in defining the issues, Spring + Equipment manufacturer would have spent 10s of thousands of dollars in research otherwise.
    3. Now Sprint+Manufacturer got an excellent feedback within a matter of few days. So now they know precisely what is the problem. They can go back and improve their product.

    Imagine the response, if Joel does the review again on the improved version and say, ‘it has been improved a lot’ if not excellent. Every body gains.

    Thatz how exactly atleast software products work. Why not every thing else?

    In software world, you release a beta version. People and many bloggers go and test and identify potential issues and bottlenecks. The company corrects and after such few cycles releases its final and improved versions. And every body is happy and product is great.

    Though all products can not go through this cycle, user experience and user interface is definitely a perfect candidate.

  9. Pam: you also have some software developer readers! Software Development doesn’t clash with getting your own business running, as some of us learned this year 🙂

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