Buying Journalists Gifts?

By Mark Macias

It’s a written rule and code of ethics in journalism that you can’t accept gifts in exchange for stories, but that doesn’t stop publicists from trying to secure media coverage through freebies.

When I was with NBC and CBS in New York, I was always invited to “free” press screenings for shows and concerts. Restaurants, lounges and bars also sent me private VIP invitations to their openings. Even our Special Projects unit  received unsolicited gifts from publicists to try out their products.

But is this an effective approach?

Here’s the inside media scoop on gift giving to journalists.

Every newsroom has a table full of toys, makeup, books and other products that are sent to reporters and producers.

I am of the belief that it’s a waste of money to send free samples to reporters because it will inevitably end up in the hands of a person who has no influence on whether that story will run.

As an Executive Producer with WNBC – overseeing the consumer and medical units – I can’t even recall the number of times I went to my work mailbox and saw a package or box with my name on it. Most of the times, I had no use for the make-up or toy or other product that was shipped to me.

But this doesn’t mean you should completely ignore a version of this strategy. You can still offer up a sample for the news organization to try, but be selective with it and most important – make sure you offer it to the right news contact.

And most important, don’t ever project that you are expecting something in return because that is the quickest way to get your story killed.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC, Senior Producer with WCBS and Special Projects Producer with NBC. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR.

Crisis PR – Lost My Temper

By Mark Macias

A US Congressman made national news headlines after he was caught on camera threatening to throw a reporter over a balcony inside the US Capitol. He thought the camera and microphone were off, but to his later surprise, he learned all of America would soon see that exchange.

There’s a great lesson on crisis communications that you can take from this experience. The politician made a classic mistake that many others have made, including Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama.

If you want to be interviewed on TV – or if you think you might get in trouble later with your temper, there are two big lesson you can take away from these situations.

The Camera is Always Hot

I can’t tell you how many times as a TV producer where a person continued to talk when the camera lights were turned off. The interview is never over when a camera is turned down, the lights are turned off or a microphone is nearby. Most people don’t realize how powerful boom microphones can be even from a distance. They can pick up sound even when the camera is not within sight. If you didn’t say it when the lights were on, you might want to refrain from adding more conjecture to the story when the interview is over.

Be Respectful of Reporters

I’ve worked with many politicians on their media campaigns, including US Senate and Congressional candidates. Many politicians seem to have the same DNA make-up. They are used to being in charge, which doesn’t work well with journalists who take pride in their independence.

When these two sides collide – especially with investigative journalism-  it can lead to major confrontations where the person with the most powerful pen usually wins.

Journalists are human, so kindness matters. You may not like the reporter or his questions, but that doesn’t mean you should be disrespectful to him – regardless of whether you think the camera is running or not. Kindness will take you far with nearly any reporter.

I’ve worked with many CEOs and founders who were interviewed by reporters and showed a lack of respect for the journalist throughout the interview. After the interviews, they told me why they didn’t like the journalist.

I get it. I was one of them.

But what everyone needs to realize is that journalists are trained to question and look for motive. If you give them a reason to not like you, you will succeed. Be kind, be courteous and practice what your kindergarten teacher taught you about others anytime you deal with a reporter.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR or MarketYourFund.com