|Pic hat tip: https://www.facebook.com/TheSimpsonsArt|
Many of you by now will have seen that news story on the #PricelessSurprises/@MasterCardUK Brit Awards debacle, which in true social media fashion broke this morning and was splashed across the internet in what seems like a nanosecond.
Lots of pithy Tweets, and lots of fun had at Mastercard's expense. But how can something like this be allowed to happen in the first place?
The truth of the matter is that these arrangements occur all of the time. There have even been TV programmes dedicated to it. But businesses still engage in these shady tactics to get engagement and conversation started.
However - there is a distinction. You cannot tar every business which asks for promotion via social media with the same brush. If, for example, you are co-promoting an event with a brand/artist/etc., it is reasonable to ask for a mention or a share of some of the content you are collaborating on, possibly mentioning each others Twitter handles, maybe even cross-promoting one another's social media accounts. As long as the relationship is mutual, transparent (i.e your audience are aware of it) and reciprocal, then there shouldn't be a problem. This article on Social Media Explorer explains the benefits of partnerships of this kind really well.
The problems begin, however, when one half of the arrangement starts behaving in a dictatorial manner. And that's what The Brits and Mastercard are guilty of.
Mastercard have managed come out of this looking both greedy and stingy at the same time. To make press passes to an awards ceremony conditional on tweeting nice things about the sponsors is noxious in the extreme, and to try this trick on journalists is stupidity in excelsis.
That's ultimately the problem with those pesky journalists - most of them know what a good story is. Writing about #PricelessSurprises at an awards ceremony is not a story. Being bribed by a PR flack in exchange for a ticket to an awards ceremony? That's a much better story - even I can see that, and I'm no journalist.
The Brits and Mastercard could have had some great coverage of their event if they had just laid on these so-called #PricelessSurprises to people for nothing - not mentioning it, just doing it. After all, when you're sponsoring the event, and you have your branding everywhere, what's wrong with giving a little something away in exchange for, well, nothing? As it is, the supposed opulence and bare-faced hubris of the event is somewhat tarnished by the miserly approach of it's main sponsor.
think Brit Awards think heavy handed arm twisting against those who report it— Jon Snow (@jonsnowC4) February 19, 2014
Couldn't have put it better myself, Jon - grammar and punctuation aside, of course.