It’s that time of year – when charitable donations are doled out for the tax year and fundraisers are hitting Facebook. But how many of you remember the journalists and newsrooms you work with each year? Oh sure, the doughnut, cookie or pizza pile is always welcome in a newsroom stretched thin around the holidays. And the free food is almost always mentioned in social media tags. But it may be somewhat complicated for a journalist to accept well-intended holiday goodies from a public relations colleague.
A few thoughts (and tips) on recognizing media during the holidays:1)
Remember that most newsrooms do have ethics policies and many/most may prohibit gifts of any kind at any time. Some ethics policies are posted online. But many smaller newsrooms without a heavy corporate brand hand may not be all that transparent. If you know those in your newsrooms well enough, it may be better to opt for a group gift like a local food treat from your company/client.2)
If you want to personalize a small gift, sometimes the gesture and intent matter more than the physical item. You know well enough your local journalists are always working to deliver the news to their local communities – and carrying out a watchdog role. You may be better served to write a short note thanking them for what they do. #WordsMatter3)
Buy them lunch. Many journalists will accept a meal offer – as long as they can reciprocate. I buy this lunch; you buy the next one. Generally, it’s been a long-standing policy that what you can eat/drink at an event you’re covering is OK. Some newsrooms peg a value of $25 or less. Don’t be overly sensitive to a decline if the ticket is split.4)
We all know you can’t wield influence with cookies or taco lunches. You’re not buying a journalist’s favor by doing what most business folks do on a daily basis. But don’t shower journalists with freebies. It’s awkward, so it’s best not to place you or your client in that kind of position.5)
If a journalist asks for a freebie (and we’ve all been there), discuss with your client and make sure they understand three things: 1) whether you have an established relationship with the journalist; 2) whether the gift is OK by newsroom standards; and 3) explain that you absolutely do not expect coverage in exchange for, say, a free ticket so they can take their kids to a local event you’re planning.
The PRSA Code of Ethics
does not expressly forbid gifts to journalists, but it does stress transparency, as most newsrooms do. You should always reveal the sponsors for causes and interests represented, and when working with paid influencers, expect that they will adhere to disclosure of their paid relationship with you. #ad #brandambassador
The code of ethics for the Society of Professional Journalists states: Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.
The American Society of Newspaper Editors posts a good compilation of ethics policies
for individual newspapers and we know some larger chains, like Gannett
, says “no goodies” as a recommended practice.
Every reporter decides what that compromise may mean, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a newsroom turning away a box of cookies. Just look at the tweets on the topic!
Now, if you are looking for some fun and small gifts for your journalist friends that can be accepted in the spirit in which they are intended (or perhaps to donate to a newsroom fundraiser for free press issues), here are a few items under $25.Earrings for your broadcaster friends – mic and cameraLiterary insults chart with zingers from well-known authorsJournalist t-shirt – optimist, pessimist, journalistEmbrace your narrative keychainJournalist definition printFree speech – Kurt Vonnegut quote
And if a tchotchke doesn’t work for you, you can also donate to a free press cause, such as making a donation to the Society of Professional Journalists.