PR 365: Free Vs. Fee that is the Question

PR 365: Free Vs. Fee that is the Question

By: PR 365

Over the course of one day, I get tons of emails offering me everything under the sun. Some requests are simple and genuine – asking me if I’d be interested in receiving a product for review on my blog (totally fine in my book), while others wonder if I’d like to host a review and giveaway (again not a deal breaker at all). But as the day progresses, the “opportunities” seem more and more like things I would have eagerly said yes to if I were an unpaid intern looking to break into a new career.

Except I am not.

I have over 20 years experience in media relations and PR.

I have a master’s degree in journalism.

I currently get paid by a number of websites and print publications for my work.

And yet, I have been asked time and time again to contribute content to corporate websites for free. Or make media appearances on behalf of a brand – you guessed it…for free. Perhaps the person on the other end of the email thinks I’ll be thrilled to get the opportunity to appear in print or on TV – except appearing on television is not fun. You spend the night before fretting about what you’re going to wear. Your hair inevitably doesn’t come out looking the way you’d like on camera and you’re convinced that HDTV has added at least 30 pounds to your frame (even though what you really need to do is go on a massive diet). You can only speak in soundbites on camera because if you are long winded, the producer will start freaking out and will give you the high sign that you only have a few seconds left. And if you bomb, well, don’t ever expect to be invited back.

When you are booked for a TV segment and are representing a brand, you have to go through stringent media training so that you can get the brand’s message across in an organic manner. And sometimes, even when you try to get that messaging in, it winds up on the cutting room floor (if the segment is taped). Plenty of celebrities and authors are paid big bucks to appear on television and in print on behalf of brands. But parenting bloggers? In the wild wild west known as the Internet, bloggers are continually offered opportunities to appear on TV on behalf of a brand for free.

It’s one thing if you willingly enter a contest in the hopes you’re going to be plucked out of obscurity and then wind up in a magazine spread or on a talk show because you’re the grand prize winner. But when someone gets in touch with you and makes you an offer filled with nothing but promises of media exposure, this is definitely an offer you can refuse.

Your time is worth something. If you write a blog post about a product on your site, then you’ve decided that it’s something worthwhile that readers might enjoy hearing about. If you choose to attend an event either online or in real life because you believe the experience is worthwhile, then throw caution to the wind and enjoy yourself! But if that brand then reaches out to you, asks you to write for their own website and then promises to place you on a talk show – taking many many hours away from your day, your work and your family, then it’s time to raise a red flag.

I am making it my business to stop saying yes to things that come my way that are not so much opportunities as they are time suckers. If you ask me to go beyond the call of duty without compensating me for my time and efforts, then don’t be surprised if I politely decline your offer. I have spent way too many years getting paid for my experience. And if I miss out on some golden opportunity with no money attached, then I guess I am better for it. I’d rather spend my free time with my family anyway. Last I checked, Con Edison doesn’t accept media exposure as payment for my electric bill.