For sometime now, local PR agencies have been trying to court bloggers by inviting them to press events, parties, treating them to lunches, sending them gifts and tokens. Jayvee’s Blog and Soul project is a testament to the growing interest of these public relations agencies to either enhance, protect, repair and/or preserve the brands of their client companies. Marc aptly refers to it as online reputation management.
Likewise, there’s also the paradigm shift where bloggers are slowly being considered as members of the press or media. Eric recounts his experiences being a grassroots blogger getting invites to press events and explains that his initial hesitation was primarily due to the fact that he’s just a blogger and not really part of the press. Does acceptance of an invite also requires you to report about it (by blogging of course) and does it also entail you following journalistic standards?
Anyhow, I’ll go back to the main topic and ask the question – what’s your PR policy? Here are the possible answers and scenarios:
a.) Completely avoid PR involvement as much as possible. Do not attend press events, party invites, accept gifts or tokens and paying for your own meal (if it involves you writing a blog review of it later on). A friend and fellow blogger always tell me it’s hard to write a negative review of a restaurant if the owner let you in on a free buffet. If you pay for your own meal, you’re free to say whatever it is you really thought of it.
b.) Accept invitations without commitments. You attend but express that you will not blog or review anything about it. That way, there no expectations from both parties. That goes without saying “you got something and they didn’t get any“. However, that actually defeats the purpose why you were invited in the first place (at least 90% of the time).
c.) Get involved and disclose. Accepting invitations, gifts/tokens and free services and blogging about it as a matter of full disclosure to your blog readers is another option. A disclosure will at least serve as a warning to your readers if later on you make a positive review of their products/services, it was influenced in some manner.
Anton says he invented and follows another school of thought in handling PR events. I could not quite catch it but I think it’s more like option C.
I’ve had my own fair share of invites, gifts and free services. I thanked them for these and always disclose any involvement with such companies or agencies. I guess I’m more inclined on the principle of transparency. And oh, sometimes I do pick up the tab too.
So, what’s yours?