I know you’re excited about your business, your product and your services. You want publicity. But is it appropriate to give a reporter a sample, a gift or even a straight up bribe to get them to feature you in a news story? Yes and no. There’s actually a fine line to walk there.
On the one hand, you want to win the reporter over. And who doesn’t like things for free? Here’s the rub. Most reporters, credible reporters that is, will feel uncomfortable if given a gift or sample that seems extravagant. As far as gifts go most reporters have a dollar limit on what they will except. Most reporters I know will only accept something if the value is less than $20. In some cases, less than that even. Let me give you some examples.
Someone sent a very expensive bottle of wine to a reporter in the newsroom. The reporter let it sit on their desk for a few years, because they didn’t feel right drinking it, were to afraid to offend the person to give it back and so there it sat on the desk across from me, taunting me with it’s ruby red glow under that tightly wrapped cork … I digress. Another time, a reporter received a box of high-end chocolates, she ended up sharing them with the office because the only other option in her mind was to return them and reporters are a hungry bunch and convinced her to spread the wealth so she wouldn’t feel like she was accepting the gift. The point is, in both cases there was no story written. It got too weird.
On the other hand, say you are pitching a magazine which you know does extravagant layouts and features, then you may want to offer them something in order to get the feel for what they are writing about. Let me give you an example. I was writing for an upscale magazine. My editor sent me to profile a fancy, schmanzy inn and restaurant. This obviously was something that came with lots of pictures and really justified having a free meal, massage and stay at the inn to give readers an idea of how blissful it is to stay there. If I was writing a business story on the place I probably wouldn’t have needed that kind of pampering.
So you really have to know the market you are pitching. If you are a winery and pitching a story about your wines, you may want to offer tastings of your best wines, maybe during the interview send a bottle home with the reporter to try out. But if you make toys it is inappropriate to send a great box of chocolates or restaurant certificate along with your press release hoping to get coverage. That’s straight up a bribe.
In short, if your product is something that needs to be experienced in order for the reporter to tell the story that’s one thing, if it is a small token gift after the fact, that’s OK too, but stay away from adding a little sumthin’ sumthin’ with your press release to increase your chances of getting published.