No more gifts

Has the gift giving culture caused a disservice within the communications and media industry in the region? Alex Malouf offers his thoughts…

Trying to stop the culture of gift-giving in our industry today is akin to putting a plaster on a surgery patient

Let’s be honest, how many times have you given, or been given, a gift? Gift giving is such a common practice that I doubt there’s a single person in the media and communications industry that hasn’t seen a gift being given. Why do we do it? Because we want coverage and we want influence with the media person. Why does the media person take it? Because everyone else is doing it and there’s no one telling them not to.

Unfortunately, we’ve gotten ourselves in a big mess. Trying to stop the culture of gift giving in our industry today is akin to putting a plaster on a surgery patient. The practice is so embedded in the regional industry that what is needed is an industry-wide effort – for everyone to say enough is enough.

But why should we stop giving gifts some will ask. It gets the job done, and the client is happy with the ensuing coverage. I’m going to step aside from the ethics of the issue and look at gift giving from other perspectives. First, let’s consider what we’re trying to do as communicators. Our job is to engage with the public (or sections thereof) and shape their opinion.

By sidestepping the need to craft a bunch of facts and opinions into a story that by itself is newsworthy and gifting our way to coverage, we’re fooling ourselves into believing that our audiences are not able to discern advertising from editorial. We live in a period and a region where a consumer can source information from tens of thousands of sources. If what we produce isn’t interesting, different or of a good enough quality to catch a reader’s attention, then they will simply go somewhere else for their information. If we’re unable to engage our public with news that is printed based on merit, then we’re not doing our job of influencing their opinion.

Secondly, let’s look at where gift taking gets us. Gift giving effectively leaves the communications professional powerless and here’s why. If you give a gift, you’ll get your piece published. But even if nothing is said, the expectation will be that every time you proffer a gift, that item will have to be better and more expensive than the last. When do you stop giving gifts? Can you afford to keep giving gifts, especially as the cost of what you are doing goes up and up? And when you do stop, will you get your materials published again by that journalist? It’s unlikely to say the least.

As an industry, we need to encourage better media practices. There are some remarkable journalists out there in our region – we should be promoting these people and extolling their work. We need a media that are credible, reliable and publish information based on merit. Our own reputation is tied to that of the media. Our trustworthiness is intrinsically linked to that of the media – the more that the public and our own clients trust the media the better it is for our own credibility. Unfortunately, all it takes is a few people to start giving gifts for others to feel that they have to then follow suit.

Let’s stop giving gifts for coverage and instead do our jobs as communications professionals.


Alex Malouf is the Professional Development and Knowledge Sharing Co-Chair at MEPRA. Follow him on Twitter @alex_malouf

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