A PR company representing MasterCard, who are a major sponsor for tonight's Brit Awards for pop music, appear to have asked journalists to guarantee coverage of their client as the price of attending.
Before providing two journalists from the Telegraph with accreditation to attend the event House PR has asked them to agree to a number of requests about the coverage they will give it.
They have even gone as far as to draft Twitter messages which they would like the journalists to send out – and asked that they include a mention of the marketing campaign #PricelessSurprises and @MasterCardUK.
Please fellow journalists do not agree to the absurd conditions for covering @BRITAwards. I've even just been told what I should tweet. No.
— Tim Walker (@ThatTimWalker) February 18, 2014
Here’s the email that was sent to Telegraph Mandrake columnist Tim Walker:
Hope you’ve had a lovely weekend. As you know we’ve been in touch re. accreditation for the BRIT’s but just wanted to check in with you directly to confirm that you are happy with the below.
Firstly as part of our Priceless Surprise we are putting on cars to take guests directly to the awards – we will be booking your car to take both yourself and Katy from the office at 4:30pm. Are you happy with these details?
In addition – in return for this ticket we would like to ask that you agree to the following…
Social media support from both publication and personal Twitter feed
Pre event – e.g. Really excited to be heading down to @BRITAwards tonight with @MasterCardUK #PricelessSurprises
Event night – live tweeting from the event including @MasterCardUK handle and #PricelessSurprises and to retweet @MasterCardUK tweets throughout the night where appropriate
Post event – tweet directing followers to @MasterCardUK BRITs YouTube videos
Pre-event coverage of MasterCard’s Priceless Surprise video edits with either Laura Mvula, Kylie Minogue and/or Pharrell Williams – to include full credit for MasterCardUK and #PriclessSurprises
All features to be pushed on publications social feeds – to include @MasterCardUK and #PricelessSurprises
MasterCard inclusion in post event write-up (print and online) including #PriclessSurprises hashtag and somethingforthefans.co.uk URL
Post event write up presence on publication homepage (where possible)
Inclusion of MasterCard branded event night images in post event piece
Post event - coverage support for MasterCard music activity in 2014 (Beyonce & JT)
The email concludes:
We are really looking forward for you to join us at the awards with us on Wednesday and if you could let us know you are happy with all the above that would be great
Please let us know if you have any further questions and look forward to hearing from you.
Walker told Press Gazette: “If they are going down that route they should really take out an advertisement.
“Going to the extent of drafting you a pro-forma Twitter message shows the extent to which Twitter is being polluted by all this sort of stuff.
“A lot of people on Twitter aren’t all that up on journalistic ethics. The sad thing is that a lot of journalists now haven’t perhaps been up through local papers and may not realise that this sort of thing isn’t ethical.”
Stewart Bell of Dawbell PR said they are the main public relations agency promoting the awards ceremony. He said they have accredited hundreds of journalists to tonight's event and do not require them to make any specific tweets as a price of admission. He said House PR represent MasterCard and invited their own guests.
Ginny Paton, managing director at House PR, said: “The role of the PR agency is to pursue all coverage opportunities on behalf of its clients. This includes providing accurate brand references from the outset, for use across all platforms. It is a two-way conversation between the journalist and the PR in order to reach a mutually beneficial outcome. Editorial control always remains with the journalist.”
Mastercard issued the following statement: “We have become aware of this situation and have been clear with our agency and attending media. Attendance at the Brits is not, nor has it ever been, a condition of coverage or endorsement. To imply such is highly inappropriate.”
Some journalists have already started using the agreed hashtag.
Good press coverage is hard to bribe. For everything else there's Mastercard. #PricelessSurprises
— Felicity Morse (@FelicityMorse) February 19, 2014
— Political Scrapbook (@PSbook) February 19, 2014
— Jon Cudby (@JonCudby) February 19, 2014
#PricelessSurprises sounds like something sarcastic you'd say when your cat leaves a freshly-killed mouse on your pillow
— Chris Applegate (@qwghlm) February 19, 2014
— Matt Rhodes (@mattrhodes) February 19, 2014
Having your crass social media campaign backfire on you spectacularly #PricelessSurprises
— Ed Hayes (@edjhayes) February 19, 2014
Having your email to a journalist posted up on a big, press website. #PricelessSurprises
— Mark Robins (@Markisskill) February 19, 2014
— Jonathan Cresswell (@JonathanEx) February 19, 2014