Thursday, 23 April 2009

Judas or journalist?

Biggest Gold CoinImage by pythonboot via Flickr

I'm not sure how many silver coins are worth a gold one, but let's just put it at 30 for the sake of a decent headline.

It's a fine day when Emirates Business 24x7 is the only newspaper to expose a company that blatantly offers journalists the gift of gold for turning up to a press event, but that's precisely what reporter Dima Hamadeh did today. Her story 'outs' the World Gold Council and its PR company for sending a press invitation that promises all attendees to a WGC media event would receive a gold coin.

When taken to task by Hamadeh, the account manager at the agency responded with: "Why does it offend you? We have done it for years, not only for award announcements but for other events by the WGC as well."

The appropriate note of contrition perhaps lacking there, then...

Another PR person quoted in the story tells Hamadeh that "A lot of journalists call to know what they would be getting as a gift..."

Now that's news to me - in my 12 (grief) years in public relations I have never been asked by a journalist what gift is on offer at an event. In fact, I just checked around the Spot On office, and nobody else has, either. I can tell you that the answer to such a question would be very short indeed.

What on earth is the point of even wasting time talking to a roomful of journalists who have just pitched up to collect their bribe? What's the value of the debased coverage they would give you in their debased media? Besides, if you can own them enough to travel across town and listen to you for an hour for a coin, just send them the damn coin and the rubbish you want them to publish and save everyone some time, no?

The Middle East PR Association, MEPRA, stipulates a limit of $50 for media gifts - set as a reasonable limit for a small gift expected to represent a token of appreciation or thanks. The limit was set in response to a growing culture of outrageous attempts to bribe media, including gifts of consumer electronics such as games consoles, mobile phones and DVD players.

But gold coins are so much subtle, don't you think?

Now. Which publications have covered the World Gold Council jewellery design competition, Auditions? And can their journalists confirm they didn't take the coin?

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Jamie said...

We're debating this in our office right now. Apparently some people have had clients that gave away diamonds. I know my clients aren't allowed to give more than a pen and pad of paper. However, I know of at least two journalists who received Blackberries from a government agency in order 'be on top of breaking stories.' I thought that was their job to begin with...

the real nick said...

It's about 100 silver coins to a gold coin, I'd say, based on the respective prices per ounce.(That's called research)


Anonymous said...

I'm guessing that Biz 24/7 didn't get invited to this particular conference.

Having said that, I can confirm this is by no means a rare occurrence. There have been several conferences over the last 12 months where gifts such as laptops and games consoles have been given out. Although now the recession is kicking in, there's definitely been a decline in this sort of thing.

Frankly I don't see a problem with this, since I'd say that a press gift actually makes a (good) journalist even less likely to write a positive story, since you just lose your respect for the company that is obviously trying to buy good coverage.

Anonymous said...

why aren't you writing about the torture story?

alexander... said...

Because the torture story is being covered by other media, because I have no value to add to it, worthwhile opinion on it and I don't feel I have all the facts as I haven't been following it particularly closely.

I could, of course, be ignoring it because it would be one transgression too far.

But the truth, as always, is far more mundane...

rosh said...

Impairs objectivity! Isn't there a code of ethics for journalists?

Dima Hamadeh said...

To the anonymous person who said we were not invited, well we were.. and this is HOW we got to see the invitation! Not only one, but 3..
There is also the rest of the story. The WGC called the next day to clarify that the gold coin was worth less than 120 Dhs! Now the story is not about the gift because we all know bribing journalists has become an established practice. My comment is:
In their minds, not only they thought we were cheap enough to attend for the gift, they even set the price on the invitation..

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