A gift or a bribe?

Agony uncle and University of Westminster's visiting professor of PR Trevor Morris gives it to you straight.

Trevor Morris: PRWeek's agony uncle
Trevor Morris: PRWeek's agony uncle

I work in fashion PR. My boss gets me to ‘lend’ valuable items to fashion journalists, obviously in the hope of favourable coverage. How does this sit with the industry’s code of ethics? Is it OK?

It sits uncomfortably with the code of ethics. This says you shouldn’t make payments or gifts in return for coverage. And in fairness, direct payment or big gifts are very rare, though not in all cultures and countries. What is much more common is the sort of thing you describe, where there is no direct link between the gift or never to be returned ‘loan’, but there is a clear hope for some future benefit.

If you were working for a big corporate or government dep-artment the idea of gifts or loans beyond hospitality would be unthinkable – though even what is an appropriate level of hospitality is open to debate. But consumer markets such as fashion, travel and motoring have always been seen as slightly different. Journalists need to experience products to review them. Moreover, giving or loaning a product to a journalist is no guarantee of good coverage, or so the argument goes. 

And given the parlous financial state of most media the likelihood of publishers and production houses paying for everything they feature is diminishing rather than growing.

It is not something that, if I were you, I would resign over.

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