This Weeks’ Big Question: Are freebies an effective PR tool?

Under self assessment taxation, journalists must now be told the taxable value of freebies.

Under self assessment taxation, journalists must now be told the

taxable value of freebies.

Alexis Coles, Thomas Cook

’I don’t think freebies get you anywhere. They can have the opposite

effect and offend the journalist. In the travel business you can no

longer offer journalists trips and expect to get copy back. Travel now

tends to come under staff reporters rather than travel editors. I’d

never offer journalists a freebie but if they are going on holiday I

would find them a good deal.’

Dan Houston, What Hi-Fi?

’Is there such a thing as a free lunch? I don’t think freebies alter

journalistic judgement but they may well affect coverage. A grey area is

’long-term loans’ of equipment to journalists. Just how long is

’long-term?’ It is calculated to get journalists to mention that they

use a product ’at home.’

Chris Willows, BMW

’I don’t believe in freebies. Freebies are gifts. The events we run for

journalists to experience our cars are working events, even if they are

carried out in pleasant circumstances that fit in with our brand


You have to have some vehicle to present your wares, to demonstrate the

essence of the car. In the case of the travel industry it would be hard

for a journalist to write about Mauritius without going there. It would

be a different matter to send them first class with several hundred

pounds under the bed sheets in the hotel.’

Mark Payton, What Car?

’No. I get concerned that in some areas they do work as a tool but they

don’t influence us at all. That said, we appreciate why the industry

uses them. There was one case when a company decided to remove a gift

from the journalists’ hotel rooms at the last minute as it was

considered too risky. If I thought one of my staff was influenced in

this way, I would be disgusted.’

Carol Hayes, Carol Hayes and Associates

’Nowadays you have to really justify giving anything away for


It’s not like 20 years ago when money was freer and it doesn’t make the

journalist write about it. But if you really want to get a journalist to

buy into a product the only way they can experience it is to try it.

We have a system of long loans. It’s not a case of bribery and


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