I wanted to share my thoughts about the new Skype phone from 3 and their blogger outreach launch program.
Last month I talked about the fact that I was in the process of writing an Christmas article for the Spectator about "gadgets for girls" and asked the blogosphere for ideas about what new gadgets I should write about. Robin at 1000 Heads emailed and asked if I would like to trial the new Skype phone. My husband Skypes a lot with his family back home in France, so I said yes.
Let me start with a big confession upfront: We never used the phone.
We didn't end up using it for a number of reasons: firstly, we realised pretty quickly that the thing that we loved so much about Skype is the web-cam functionality. For us it wasn't really the fact that you can talk via VOIP for free (which is obviously great), but it was more to do with the fact that we could see parents and young cousins on the screen in front of us while we chatted. The Skype phone does not have video functionality. So suddenly a big reason for wanting to use the mobile phone went away. Then we realised that the times that we had always Skyped folks in France were Sunday evenings as that was the best time that we knew everyone would be home, and it felt silly using a mobile in the house when we could have talked together face to face with Skype and iSight.
So I can't give you a proper review of the phone, apart from the fact that it didn't look very pretty but I was very grateful that someone had thought of letting me have one pre-launch to play with.
But I did want to talk about the blogger outreach program itself and how I found being on the other end of an initiative like this.
The emails that I received felt a little dull. Although it was interesting to know that a Flickr group that had been set up, when I clicked through the photos that had been uploaded were corporate photos of executive suits holding up Skype phones.
I would have been more interested in some of the background info, some insight into the technology used, their expectations for handset uptake and also I was interested in hearing 3's reasons for why they wanted to produce a phone like this.
Anyway, I still decided to talk about the Skype phone in my article.
Then I got this email from the blogger team saying: "If you were to link to the article from your blog, mentioning the skypehone (perhaps with a picture), I might wet myself..."
Now I have never met this person before, so to get an email like this actually made me quite uncomfortable.
The same day I got this email from another member of the blogger team asking me to contact them so they could get the handsets back: "now more than ever is the time for pulling together those final thoughts before we sweep in and take back our trusty devices. I say ‘sweep in’. In reality we’ll send a jolly fellow in a delivery van to pick the phones up and return them safely to us - all fairly conventional. As such, we’ll need a daytime phone number and suitable address, with someone to return the phones to our guys."
And if I am honest, I found it a bit annoying.
When the phones were sent out, they did not say that it was a time limited trial. It's not that I wanted to keep the phone, but I do think that companies have to be really transparent upfront about what they want and what the blogger obligations and expectations are. There were huge issues around this when Microsoft Vista did their blogger launch this year (Microsoft gave away a top of the range laptop pre-loaded with Vista for bloggers to use and blog about pre-launch)
Anyway, I did receive an apology for "weirding me out" (their words, not mine) but it got me thinking a lot about blogger outreach and how best to do it:
1. Have something of genuine value to the bloggers that you are contacting (a product, a site, an idea etc)
2. Stay in communication, but not too often
3. Please don't do a "one size fits all/copy and paste" approach, it just feels odd and like a bad PR way of doing it. Think about the blogger you are communicating too, you should have a good sense of what they are like and what they are interested in - if not, spend more time on their blog!
4. Ask for feedback (not just on the product) but also on the way that the program was carried out - stuff like this should be in a constant state of Test, Learn, Refine for any future initiatives.
5. Be totally upfront about expectations and obligations.
Simple really, but funny how often it seems that brands don't follow these 5 simple rules of Blogger Engagement.