Quid Pro Quo

One of the things that makes reading this blog full of hot air and profanity worth your bookmark (I think) is that I’ve done time on both sides of the fence. After my last post, where I complained about what a reporter owes the reader, it occurred to me that any reader could have written such a screed. So, today’s will be something any CM could write. What does a reporter owe a studio after drinking the free booze and hauling away t-shirts in the free tote bag?

– SAY SOMETHING. I never pushed my reporters to say something in particular. Oh, sure, I usually had suggestions for some self-serving fluff if anyone tagged me on a slow news day, but I rarely had an agenda.

That’s because it doesn’t matter a damn what you say as long as you say something. Whatever you post about my product, assuming that you checked your facts and that my product doesn’t suck, helps me in the long run. Really. Anything you want. There are only two ways for a reporter to get on my shit list when I’m wearing my CM hat – one, lie. Two, drink my booze and wear my t-shirt without giving me so much as a paragraph on your blog. That’s a one strike and you’re out offense, there. If you come to my press event and you haven’t written up something related to my product within a week, you’re not invited to the next one.

– SAY A LOT IF YOUR INVITATION COST ME SOMETHING. For better or for worse, few studios recognize the power of the small website, the fansite, the struggling comic, or the ranter. If I had to cash in chips to get you invited to the press event, you need to do more than a half-assed paragraph underneath your machima porn expose. I’m in the trenches arguing that you have more value than PC Gamer, so don’t make me look like a schmuck by “forgetting” to post anything substantial.

– DON’T REPRINT THE HANDOUT. Some professionals may disagree with me here, and their logic is sound enough. If twenty fansites just reprint the handout, well, that’s a pretty sweet job of saturating everyone with our talking points, right? If everyone says it, the intended playerbase will believe it.

However, that’s the problem. The handout is often written by someone who isn’t playing, someone who trusts the producer to not exaggerate, someone who wants to steer the development agenda by publicizing unfinished features, or all of the above. If twenty fansites print the handout verbatim, every item becomes received truth to the players and causes the CM no end of aggravation. Also, your particular readers will bitch that you only posted what everyone else did, and you’ll be back to me in hours asking me for exclusives that I can’t give you. Better for all of us if you use the handout as a starting point, colored in with investigation, questions, and experience.

– REMEMBER THE PURPOSE OF THE EVENT. Marketing’s budget paid for everything from your pleather dice bag to the steak you had for dinner. The purpose of the event was therefore to market a product. If your precious ethics prevent you from giving the studio publicity as a result of the event, you had no business eating the steak.

The actual event is benign, because MMOs are difficult to promote to people who have not had hands on experience with the actual game. It benefits everyone to get you in a room for a full day or two playing the game and talking to more than one project lead. The steak is designed to make you feel warm and fuzzy towards the product, but I believe it is possible to eat the steak and write fairly, even critically, about the game… assuming you had your ass in the seat, watching the demos, taking notes, asking questions, and shooting video instead of passed out drunk in your hotel room.

So, in short, if your ethics won’t allow you to write about a product after you’ve been wined and dined, don’t come to the event. And if you come to the event, come to all of it, not just the party.

Duh.

Anyone else want to chime in on what they expect from the press after an event?

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12 Comments

  1. Ashendarei said,

    September 8, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    That’s a pretty good write up, I can’t say I’d expect anything different were I in those shoes.

    now to find a hobby/part time job that lets me do stuff like that šŸ˜€

  2. Apache said,

    September 9, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    I haven’t been to any super awesome over the top press shindings in a while.

  3. Bob the Barman said,

    September 10, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    It’s always a problem when people want your money/whatever, but aren’t prepared to do any competent or even professional work for it.

    GOA made you any urgent middle of the night phone calls yet?

  4. Frank said,

    September 10, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    Not much to add.

    I’d have to say, “Gratitude, Please”. I haven’t done anything along the lines of a press event for a game, but I used to organize conventions and did once-overs on press interview events for guests of honor in the industry. Some publications were very gracious about the time, while others made it seem like they were doing US a favor by being there.

    I get that there is a symbiotic relationship between the press and companies, but even a big press entity is there on the company dime. Just like you’re supposed to say thank you at the dinner table when you were a kid at someone else’s house even if the dinner was McDonald’s, it doesn’t hurt to give a thank you to the person or person(s) who gave you the opportunity to gain an exclusive or credibility to your rag, online or not. I see a lot of write-ups missing this more often than not, and all I have to do is scratch my head and wonder who taught them basic manners.

  5. September 13, 2008 at 7:38 am

    […] the wake of ‘Toboldgate‘, we thought this post from Sanya@Eating Bees was interesting. She’s speaking from the PR point of view as to what they expect from a […]

  6. Szadee said,

    September 14, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Actually, I don’t feel that a reporter owes you anything, even if you fed him a steak and gave him a crummy t-shirt. That is the price of actually getting someone there to listen to your schtick. If the schtick was engaging enough to write about, great, the writer can do so. If not, oh well, thanks for the steak, at least it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

    If you feel obliged to write about something just because someone in marketing (a sleazy occupation that gives me shivers just thinking about it), bought you a steak, then you are basically just a meat eating whore.

  7. Zubon said,

    September 14, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    Copy of the game, steak, and press materials: I’m in, and I have a blog. My address is…

  8. September 15, 2008 at 12:26 am

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  9. September 15, 2008 at 12:45 am

    […] Weathers has tossed down a bit of a rant on her Eating Bees blog, regarding the relationship between media and public relations (albeit from […]

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  11. Mats N said,

    September 18, 2008 at 11:02 am

    While I agree with some of this post, mainly the bits about not copying the press release, I don’t think the journalist owes the PR anything. If you want to get write-ups, show a good game – the fluff, steaks, drinks and whatever are unimportant. I work as an editor for a large mag, and I hate when PRs play the guilt card. We’d rather turn down a dubious press event than have to write about something that simply isn’t worth it.

    That said, people who go to press events to drink and eat, and never intend to write a word, shouldn’t be working IMO. I’m all for honesty and integrity, and never lie to a PR, but never promise them coverage either.

  12. October 2, 2008 at 9:11 am

    […] Weathers has tossed down a bit of a rant on her Eating Bees blog, regarding the relationship between media and public relations (albeit from […]


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