One of the big news stories of the day has been The Brit’s 2014 crew handling their requests for media accreditation with a number of conditions attach that insist that the writer in attendance must not only guarantee coverage, but MUST mention the sponsor and also agree to pre / live / post tweet about the event using the sponsors twitter handle and hashtag.
See below Tim Walker of the Telegraph and Jon Snow of C4 both tweeting about the requests they received.
Now a lot of people outside of the media profession will read that and think, “well of course, they get free tickets and it makes sense that the event want something in return“. The reality is far from that, bear in mind that while you might want tickets to The Brits, the journalist in question is actually working. Further to that to insist that they mention the sponsor is to put their newspaper or digital entities own advertising at risk. If brands can get mentions purely by insisting on it in this manner, they would never have to buy sponsorship.
The Brits want maximum coverage of their event, both pre and post. The House PR guys have been hired to ensure that. A media entity will request accreditation and based on their numbers/reach/pre-coverage will either be granted the pass. Post-coverage is not always guaranteed but personally I think it should be a condition of being granted the pass. Journalists don’t make any money by attending these events and their outlet is covering it, hoping that the story will generate sales of their physical medium or drive traffic to a monetized site.
So the media/event accreditation system has its place but extending the request beyond coverage of the event and trying to demand control of now only the piece of published content to guarantee a mention of the sponsor (without paying for it) and insisting journalists use their own personal twitter accounts to help share the event is beyond the line. On top of that to take control to the point of composing a tweet for your free hired gun, removes any integrity or trust from the tweet or the journalist partaking.
For me as a hobby journalist rather than a full-time one, I can’t imagine ever accepting such demands as it compromises the value of advertising on my website and compromises the requirement for brands to pay for coverage. It will start with tickets to the events and then (and in some cases already has) bleeds into small tokens being sent out to journalists for the hope of a tweet or a mention. While that remains a hope and not a demand, the line is clear. If the journalist wants to, they will.
However demanding such a requirement just to attend an event just is never going to fly. There is the other side of the coin where this bad press that is now mounting all over the internet and via the Twitter hashtag #PricelessSurprises is actually a reverse ploy by the PR company to generate a massive amount of coverage, as even bad PR is still coverage.
However if this is the cost of doing business that Mastercard approves of and intends to pursue in the future, they’ll find themselves playing the Simon Cowell bad-guy role in the world of credit card advertising.