To Gift or Not to Gift – How to Acknowledge Journalists
Many years ago, I sent a box of Frango Mints, the signature candy originally made by the Chicago store Marshall Fields, to a journalist at the Wall Street Journal. She’d included my first book in her round up for the best work/family books for that particular year. Naturally, I was thrilled to be among her favorite titles and showing my appreciation with a pound of chocolates seemed like the least I could do.
Wrong. I went way overboard. A few weeks later, I received that same box with a gracious note indicating that certain ethics rules prohibited her from accepting my gift. Something about anything over $5 not being appropriate. Of course I wanted to right this wrong as quickly as possible, so I returned to the candy department and, fortunately, was able to find something for just under $5. Luckily, that seemed to do the trick, because it never came back.
But I learned something about when to gift and when to just way thanks. I plan to send holiday notes to journalists I’ve worked with over the year. For the most part, that will be anyone who I’ve had several pleasant email exchanges. If they’ve written about a client, that’s sort of icing on the cake. The fact that they’ve been open to communication is really what I’ve grateful for. I think we need to be really careful when it comes to thanking journalists for including our clients in their articles. Maybe what we’re really thanking them for is the opportunity versus the end result?
We never want to appear as if we’re trying to curry favor with a journalist, especially after we’ve gotten some coverage. I think the best we can do throughout the year is to respect their time and provide information that’s asked for in a timely fashion. On the other hand, I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with acknowledging our simple appreciation. “Thanks for taking the time to review the info I sent” or “It was a pleasure working with you on the such and such piece . . .” I think these kinds of notes are okay. I suppose the litmus test is asking yourself exactly why you’re expressing thanks. If your motives are sincere, I think it’s probably okay. If it’s to brown nose, reconsider.