Samsung PR’s Pay to Play Scandal
Samsung found itself in hot water this month after it became embroiled in a cash for content scandal. The tech leader’s Korean public relations firm Fllu reportedly attempted some low-brow tactics to generate a buzz around Samsung’s Smart App Challenge. The end result was being embarrassed before the very audience it was most hoping to reach.
Though Fllu originally denied the bribing accusations, the PR agency has now admitted that it offered money to established members on the popular programmer site Stack Overflow to promote Samsung’s developer competition.
Samsung claimed that it was not aware of the situation and said it cancelled plans upon learning of Fllu’s actions. “We remain committed to engaging in transparent and honest communications with consumers,” Samsung said in a statement condemning the scheme.
The story broke when programmer and active Stack Overflow member Delyan Kratunov was reportedly contacted with a monetary offer from Fllu. Taking offense, Kratunov shared the entire email conversation on his blog. The post displayed an alleged offer of $500 to Kratunov if he would pose four “organic” questions on Stack Overflow about Samsung’s Smart App Challenge.
Ironically, the public relations firm’s crisis response has been somewhat of a train wreck. Initially Fllu COO James Yoo denied any connection to Samsung, and denounced Kratunov’s claims. As the story began to gain traction, Kratunov simultaneously received a follow-up email from Fllu retracting and dismissing its original offer because it was a breach of Stack Overflow’s terms. Yoo eventually posted an apology to Kratunov, and the PR firm issued a statement admitting that its actions were unethical and that its claims that Samsung was not a client “may have been misleading.”
Attempting to cover up a corrupt action with an additional lie certainly didn’t build any credibility for Fllu. And while Samsung probably had no knowledge whatsoever about Fllu’s tactics, the company’s name was dragged through the mud and the trustworthiness of the brand has likely been hurt by the bribing scandal.
These revelations got Samsung’s Smart App Challenge a great amount of coverage in the tech community. However, it’s safe to say this wasn’t the type of earned media for which Samsung was hoping.