Every so often, I get emails from nitwits that haven’t bothered to really read through my blog or figure out if I would be receptive to their frankly outrageous and offensive offers. But maybe I am just an anomaly, a dissenting voice in a sea of folks who think there is nothing ethically wrong with selling their opinion or agreeing to post favorable mentions for a product, service or event in exchange for a free trip to Boracay, hotel accommodations PLUS a cash fee. Not biased they will say, really liked the product or service anyway, the freebies and money had nothing to do with swaying opinion, or obtaining print/post space. Yeah, right.
I received the following email from someone purporting to represent a fairly established PR/Marketing firm, a local arm of an international organization, tribal DDB. I can’t possibly think that the ethical standards in the U.S. would condone this sort of behavior. Or the ethical standards anywhere in the world, for that matter. I reprint the email below verbatim, but cross out the name of the sender out of a sense of delicadeza. It isn’t about the person, it’s about the practice that seems to be rather common in the Philippines. I have the IP address of the sender, email address, and I have checked that the person who purportedly sent the email is indeed connected with the mentioned company, and while I cannot be totally certain that the email is 100% authentic, I beg a reliable officer at the company to correct me if I am wrong. Also, it just so happens that I know a pretty senior executive at SMART handling investor and media relations so it shouldn’t be hard to confirm if this PR company is indeed handling work for SMART. Oh, and the reply I sent to the corporate email address did not bounce back, hence I assume it is a legitimate company address…
Thursday, May 5, 2011 9:38 PM
This is from Tribal DDB Philippines. We would like to invite you to join the Smart Bro LTE Test in Boracay.
It will be an all-expense paid trip. The event will happen somewhere between May 21- June 18. It will just be an overnight trip.
If you can also blog about this soon to be experience, please advise us of your expected compensation or rates if any.
Limited slots only. Please confirm as soon as possible.
This is the response I sent back a few hours ago:
I received your email below and frankly, am flabbergasted by the sheer audacity and lack of ethics that the email suggests.
I do not accept freebies and I most certainly do not accept payment in exchange for a favorable post about your client’s activity, brand or service. If you had bothered to read my blog first, you would have noticed that I have repeatedly railed about unethical behavior with respect to pay for posts and other such situations.
Is SMART aware of the fact that you are blatantly offering bloggers/press(?) outright cash and items/services in kind in exchange for an article or post? I can’t imagine how your parent company in the U.S. would react if it were discovered that employees at subsidiaries elsewhere in the world were found to be making such offers.
Take this as a no. And read my post on the matter on my blog.
A VERY SWIFT RESPONSE FROM THE CEO OF Tribal DDB Philippines:
I got a call from Ms. Melissa Limcaoco, CEO of Tribal DDB Philippines around 11 am this morning and we had a chance to discuss the email that I received from her firm, penned by a member of her staff. First and foremost, it was a genuine apology for the email I was sent, and any “misunderstanding” it may have caused. The crux of our discussions boiled down to the following:
1. The email sent to Marketman was not written well and Tribal DDB did not communicate their real intentions properly. The idea was to have an all-expense paid trip to Boracay to try the service of their client that is only available in that location at this point. The idea was for there to be no out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the invited bloggers/guests and that includes airfare, hotels, transfers and meals.
2. I asked her point blank, and she answered that “Tribal DDB Philippines DOES NOT pay for posts”.
3. When asked why there was a sentence suggesting possible compensation, she explained that was meant to be linked to the all-expenses paid trip, but not to any cash payment to bloggers in exchange for a post/editorial, etc. She agreed it didn’t sound right and could definitely be read the wrong way… My conclusion on this matter is that the sentence was not related to the trip, but to the post, and the sentence explicitly reads that way.
4. We both agreed that there is NO requirement that the post be positive, but I also said it was unlikely that anyone who accepted an all-expense paid trip would write a negative post. At best, they wouldn’t write anything at all.
I totally appreciate the quick and very senior response to the post I wrote above. I completely understand that mistakes are often made, but that a real, earnest, comprehensive attempt to clarify the matter, accept responsibility, apologize for errors, etc. is the only appropriate solution. I do hope folks have learned a lesson about the importance of how we communicate, even in emails, and the consequences that poorly crafted emails will have on the individual who wrote it, the company they represent, their clients, and public perception. I am always willing to give folks the benefit of the doubt, and while I consider this issue closed, I will leave the post up as it is a factual exchange of emails and discussions and it will hopefully help others avoid the same mistakes in future. Thank you.
I have written several posts on this topic. Here are some of them for anyone who is interested:
Mad Crowd Media, Don’t Piss Me Off!!!
Mad Crowd Media, The Concluding Post
P.S., Nestle Just Sent an email
Why I Don’t Write for a Newspaper/Magazine and Refuse to Accept Freebies
Full Disclosure for U.S. Bloggers who Accept Freebies
“I Told You So!”
Ethics in Journalism and Food Journalism… Why shouldn’t the same standards apply to all bloggers?