“To me, the equally, if not more, pressing impact is the way gifting breaks trust. If an audience think the people they read, watch or follow are just in it for the freebies, that is not the basis of a healthy or credible relationship. The basis of a healthy relationship is communication, transparency and mutual respect. “
We love a good treat as much as the next gal, but this post has been a long time coming – we think it’s time to let gifting go.
We like to call it the Smash Cake Approach to PR, and we aren’t the only ones who think it’s done it’s dash. We spoke to Alyx Gorman, Lifestyle Editor at The Guardian, about why PRs need to be more strategic when it comes to media outreach, and think beyond the OTT gifting approach.
Images on social media like this one, shared by Alyx Gorman, Lifestyle Editor at The Guardian, and the ongoing conversations we’ve been having with media confirm what we already know – PR has an overconsumption problem. We’re sending smash cake upon giant bunch of flowers in the hope of cut-through, even when editors are asking us not to. Not only this, but consumers are becoming less trusting of the media thanks to influencer scandals around paid posts and concerns about fake news which were shared by 67% of respondents in a survey by Edelman. It’s our job as PRs not to fall back on traditional outreach methods, particularly during a time where the media have changed so much.
From the Mouths of Media | Alyx Gorman, Lifestyle Editor, The Guardian
F: How many parcels would you receive each day from PRs and brands?
AG: I always inform publicists that I can’t accept gifts whenever they ask for my mailing address, and generally don’t publicise my work address beyond its presence on my email signature, but despite this, I probably receive a couple of unsolicited packages a week, and often it is more than that.
F: How would you prefer to hear from PRs and brands? What’s the best way to get your attention?
AG: The best way to get my attention is to send me a polite email that’s full of functional ‘who, what, where, when, why’ information.
F: How does gifting impact you as a journalist?
AG: Gifts are a source of guilt and annoyance. I feel guilty over the waste – of the brand’s money, of the resources it took to make the thing, and of the time it takes to figure out what to do with a thing I am contractually and ethically obligated to get out of my possession, which is currently sitting on my desk. The annoyance comes from waste number three – the time.
The exception to this “never send me stuff” rule is comestibles – it’s hard to assess the merits of something edible without eating it; but even then please, please ask me first.
F: What do you think the larger impact is of excessive gifting?
AG: There are environmental impacts of course, although given how few companies are responsible for the majority of waste in the world, I think we have bigger fish to fry there.
To me, the equally, if not more, pressing impact is the way gifting breaks trust. If an audience think the people they read, watch or follow are just in it for the freebies, that is not the basis of a healthy or credible relationship. The basis of a healthy relationship is communication, transparency and mutual respect.
Think of it this way: you’re at a dinner party, and one person is listening intently to you, asking thoughtful follow-up questions, then sharing their own well-informed opinion.
Another person has just joined an MLM and is trying to sell you protein shakes.
Who do you want to sit next to?
F: What’s an example of a brand who has thought about gifting (or not gifting) in a really unique way?
AG: I’m going to do a pivot on this one, and refer to that old-school, Rolling Stone style model of the celebrity profile feature, where you give someone access: real, deep, longitudinal access, let them see or discover things no one has ever learned about before, and then let them do with the information what they will.
Think of the amazing pieces of writing that have come out of that. Think of the amazing photography that has come out of that. In a world where brands are increasingly trying to exert profound control over the narrative, time, transparency and freedom are the greatest gifts.
So, how can you move past the smash cake?
Here’s our tips for bringing a little more strategy and a little less sugar into your media outreach (save the cupcakes for yourself!):
- Perfect your outreach email. Learn how to tell a really good story in a few lines, including all the details like who, what, where and why. For more, check out our articles on this very topic, including What to say to the media to make them notice you, How to write an awesome media release that will actually get opened and Things that make journalists lives easier.
- Ask first! Some journalists do need to try before they write about you.
- Insist on transparency. While most editors will be sticklers for this, always make it clear that product is #gifted, especially when resharing content on to your own channels.
- Consider offering an exclusive – deep, raw and unfiltered content that isn’t available anywhere else is way more addictive than any sugar rush. Check out our article here on how to pitch an exclusive to the media