Press Pass For Sponsor Mentions A Big No, No Says Journalist
PR folks and journalists don't always get along, but the dance gets ratcheted up in a big way when high paying corporate sponsors are involved. Sponsors that more often than not would like to see their name in press, too. So should sponsor mentions ever be a condition for the press pass? That's the topic Telegraph columnist Tim Walker took on when he was invited (seemingly with strings attached) to tonight's Brit Awards sponsored by MasterCard. The whole bit backfired very publicly as you'll see in a minute.
First, here's the email Walker says he received from the MasterCard's PR firm earlier this week...
Hope you’ve had a lovely weekend. As you know we’ve been in touch re. accreditation for the BRIT’s but just wanted to check in with you directly to confirm that you are happy with the below.
Firstly as part of our Priceless Surprise we are putting on cars to take guests directly to the awards – we will be booking your car to take both yourself and Katy from the office at 4:30pm. Are you happy with these details?
In addition – in return for this ticket we would like to ask that you agree to the following…
- Social media support from both publication and personal Twitter feed
- Pre event – e.g. Really excited to be heading down to @BRITAwards tonight with @MasterCardUK #PricelessSurprises
= Event night – live tweeting from the event including @MasterCardUK handle and #PricelessSurprises and to retweet @MasterCardUK tweets throughout the night where appropriate
- Post event – tweet directing followers to @MasterCardUK BRITs YouTube videos
- Pre-event coverage of MasterCard’s Priceless Surprise video edits with either Laura Mvula, Kylie Minogue and/or Pharrell Williams – to include full credit for MasterCardUK and #PriclessSurprises
- All features to be pushed on publications social feeds – to include @MasterCardUK and #PricelessSurprises
- MasterCard inclusion in post event write-up (print and online) including #PriclessSurprises hashtag and somethingforthefans.co.uk URL
- Post event write up presence on publication homepage (where possible)
- Inclusion of MasterCard branded event night images in post event piece
- Post event - coverage support for MasterCard music activity in 2014 (Beyonce & JT)
We are really looking forward for you to join us at the awards with us on Wednesday and if you could let us know you are happy with all the above that would be great
Please let us know if you have any further questions and look forward to hearing from you.
Walker proceeded to rip the invite in a very public way...
MasterCard, for their part, has responded to the situation with this statement (via The Drum):
We have become aware of this situation and have been clear with our agency and attending media. Attendance at the Brits is not, nor has it ever been, a condition of coverage or endorsement. To imply such is highly inappropriate.
So what's the key learning from all of this? While the PR firm was working on behalf of the sponsor (MC), not the event, there are a few things properties can take from this debacle:
1) Next time you're closing your sponsor pitch by highlighting all of the media coverage you'll be getting, you now have a great reason to stop short of any guarantees.
2) Make sure your press team knows, and makes it clear to journalists, that while sponsor mentions are encouraged, they are not conditions for the invite.
3) Even better, offer "priceless" access and experiences to journalists and the sponsor mentions will likely follow. Not only that, but the mentions will be much more authentic than a pre-agreed tweets for tickets trade-off.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons