UK Firm Slammed for Requiring Journalists to Tweet Promos for Press Access


Wonder what their conditions were

In case you missed it, Lorde and One Direction won big at this week’s Brit Awards (the UK equivalent of the Grammys). Beyoncé played, someone posed as Daft Punk, and everyone made fun of everyone else’s outfits. In other words, it was a night out in London. From where we sit, the losers look a lot like event sponsor Mastercard and its firm House PR.

Lots of Brits ripped mercilessly on the #PricelessSurprises tag thanks to what we hope will prove to be 2014’s most tone-deaf media relations move.

Some details from the offending “you must agree to these conditions” email to a journalist, which must be seen to be believed, via the UK’s Press Gazette:

“…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…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 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)”

You got all those bullet points? We couldn’t get past the word “firstly” and the phrase “putting on cars”. Finally:

“…if you could let us know you are happy with all the above that would be great”

Why wouldn’t any self-respecting journalist be happy with all those insane demands? The negative attention eventually led House to rethink its policy:

Gee, we can’t see why you would need to ask that question. House’s MD tried to justify the whole deal while Mastercard distanced itself, saying:

“The role of the PR agency is to pursue all coverage opportunities on behalf of its clients…It is a two-way conversation between the journalist and the PR in order to reach a mutually beneficial outcome…Editorial control always remains with the journalist.”

We’d hate to see what she calls “a one-way conversation”. PRCA refused to comment on the incident itself but did make a vague statement:

“…a member should not engage in any practice nor be seen to conduct themselves in any manner detrimental to the reputation of the Association or the reputation and interests of the public relations profession.”

Too late for that. So is this just another sign of the death of journalism in the UK? One commentor at The Drum offers an alternate take on the controversy:

“The Brits awards is, of course, a lame, tame and shameless PR stunt full of gormless spivs, chancers, pimps, hangers-on and other media types…The only astounding thing is there are still people gullible enough to go.”

That almost sounds like common sense to us.

[Pic via Getty]

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.