Money and Media - Communications, Connections, Comments

A priceless week for hacks and flacks

It’s been a week since the Brit Awards/Mastercard/House PR brouhaha. You know the one. #PricelessSurprises and all that. Some commentators, puce with rage at the time, have only just returned to a normal state. Others may never make it back at all.

This is the story in Press Gazette which set tongues wagging around the media. Make sure you also read the comments at the bottom. In the interests of a balanced take on the situation (surely a key pillar of any half-decent journalist’s MO) it’s been fascinating to see how those working in different parts of the industry interpreted this affair.

There were  several follow-up stories. For example, The Drum was quick off the mark on the day the story broke gleaning this response from the boss of House PR. The Independent subsequently ran this piece, while the Online Journalism blog has subsequently added this interesting take on proceedings.

Passions have  run high in several quarters in connection with this story and thank goodness that’s been the case. It means the media industry’s alive and well and that those working in it are kicking and screaming to defend their respective patches.

For what they’re worth, here are my views on the matter.

Within reason (guidelines do exist after all) there was nothing to stop a PR firm from asking a journalist for social media support for a client in exchange for attending an event. However, the firm needed to understand that:

  1. he/she could have been sent away with a flea in their ear. Not a great way to represent a client.
  2. a journalist, so affronted by such a request could easily vent his/her spleen on the issue via social media.
  3. a journalist, so affronted by such a request gets back to the PR in question in private to say he/she simply won’t play ball and how dare they even make such a request in the first place.
  4. a journalist, so affronted by such a request threatens not to attend said event and, if suitably senior enough, also refuses to send a replacement representing the same media outlet. Tricky explaining that one to the client.
  5. the journalist might say nothing at the time of the request, attends the event, makes no attempt at doing any of the suggested endorsing.
  6. the journalist not only runs with (5.) but while at the event ferrets out a real stinker of a story in connection with the client because he/she is vindictive like that and lets it be a warning to other PRs who try a similar stunt in the future. Not, you understand, a story about how a client’s PR has ineptly handled a media invite, but one with more potentially damaging consequences long-term.

On this occasion (2.) prevailed and fair enough. Do PRs not keep up with great Twitter gaffes of our time?

While part of me would like to think the whole caper was a supremely contrived and well thought through ploy, what it really smacks of is probably just a bit of ham-fisted PR practice. As far as I can tell from scanning the press in the aftermath of this furore (6.) wasn’t sighted.

And that’s possibly the most priceless surprise of all.