Samsung really put its foot in muck with the new Galaxy Fold, as MediaPost reported, and the excrement hit the fan yesterday.

Everything has been going wrong with the new foldable phone--all kinds of problems that reviewers have found, whether bulges or part of the screen turning white. And the varying complaints had a common cause:

The most common problem though, is that reporters are saying their phones began to malfunction right after they removed the protective plastic layer from the screen. The problem is, removing that screen is customary for new smartphone users, but the Galaxy Fold requires that it stay in place.
Apparently there's a notice that comes with the packaging that warns users not to remove the layer. Samsung now says it will make sure that notice is a lot clearer before the phone officially hits the market a week from today on April 26.

Ah, well, that wasn't the best idea.

When I read this news, it immediately reminded me of a Steve Jobs and Apple story as recounted by Cult of Mac. It was eve of the launch of the first iPod. Jobs picked up a unit and plugged in a headset. There was no click.

"So he ordered the engineers to dismantle them all and put in headphone jacks that made a nice satisfying click when you plugged the headphone in. So these guys stayed up all night and then had to repackage the iPods in the morning to give to the journalists and the press. And it was kind of nutsy. I mean, who does that kind of thing? Who's going to notice?"

When I first heard that story, I thought that many would notice. The click is a form of feedback that lets you know that step was successful. If you don't get the click, you're left to wonder if everything is working as it should.

Jobs realized that and knew, even if it didn't bother everyone, it would strike some of the reviewers oddly. The lack of click would become a subconscious symbol that maybe there were other things wrong with the product, creating a perceptual bias that might color the reviews.

Samsung and its Fold are the same story, only gone badly. Everyone at the company was probably too close to the product and assumed that everyone would understand not to peel back the protective layer. There was a note in with the packaging, after all. No one asked whether reviewers, let along consumers in general, would pay attention. Recipients of the units started to peel off the plastic layer, as they were accustomed to do, and then, problems.

To successfully deal with the press, it's necessary to step back and put yourself in their shoes. How will they react if there's no click? How many read all the notices in with the packaging? Or, one of my pet peeves, a reporter goes to your website and can't find a press contact, let alone a phone number or direct email for the company. They don't want to see something overlooked in a general email box and would greatly prefer not to tag the company on social media because it could alert competing outlets of something you're working on. Maybe they find a way to get in touch, or maybe pressing deadlines cause them to ignore you for a substitute source.

Every added obstacle and time-wasting inconvenience colors the mood of reporters. The chance of getting as good a mention starts to drop. Maybe only a little here and a bit more there, but if enough of these collect, chances are good that they will influence the final perception of the company. Whether you're introducing yourself for the first time, sending out review products, responding with crisis communications to some problem, or otherwise interacting, here are some actions to consider:

  • Think outside the box. The box, in this case, is the four walls of your business. You need to look at things like an outsider would. If necessary, hire someone to give everything the once-over for a fresh perspective.
  • Give 'em what they need. You don't want to spend the time or money creating background sheets. Getting phone calls or emails from the general public through channels for reporters is irritating. None of that matters. Deal with the minor issues. That's preferable to unnecessarily planting the seeds for bad press.
  • Get help that knows what they're doing. I see many small businesses trying to do everything themselves, including their own PR. Some have a good sense of it while others don't. Most companies could use some help, if from no other standpoint than some initial consulting to help lay out the basics. From my experience, most of the better PR people are those who have worked as reporters themselves or at least have had exposure to a newsroom, even if not for an extended time. (Some have worked solely in PR or corporate communications but still get it, however they are rarer.) The number of PR representatives who seem to have no concept of what reporters will expect is legion. Don't settle for typical media training, which seems to focus on how to sound smooth and comfortable while repeating your points time after time. If you think the way to success is to try ignoring all questions so you can keep saying what you want, there's only so far you will go.
Published on: Apr 19, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.