There are two invites flying around the personal finance journalism world at the moment from large financial services companies. One was a yachting day with 5 star hotel the night before that I was invited to. The second, a fellow journalist told me about another jolly available to the Edinburgh festival that another provider’s putting on.
These come thick and fast when you’re in my position and I must admit it’s a wrestle. Lots of journalists from all the papers and elsewhere will be going on them. However, I recommend products in a way they don’t and ask myself the question “if there was an article on the front page of a newspaper detailing that I’d gone, would I be happy?”
So the line is difficult to draw. Personally my rule is – I won’t go away for the night, but will go for dinner and entertainment – so sports and events in London are a yes, further a-field a no.
It’s tough. I genuinely don’t believe any hacks are influenced by such treatment. It’s treated as a fringe benefit to the job. So you may ask, why do the companies do it? Well it does buy them something. It buys them ‘not having the phone put down’. They do it for relationship PR, as once you know someone you have to listen to them when they call you.
This works and is true. The PR officers I know and respect I listen to. Doesn’t mean I agree, and mostly I don’t and still slam their products. Yet I give them a couple of minutes on the phone – rarely does it change my mind. Then again I work off spreadsheets, rather than emotions when I write.
Tricky issue though…..