Last week I went on a media trip – two days of sun, fun and free food. Oh yeah, and a presentation for a new product launch. When you're flown off to some exciting location and wined and dined on someone else's dollar, it's hard not to feel obligated to fit the host company's product du jour somewhere in your publication, to give it the coverage said company desires. Likewise, you're more willing to feature a product if you received a killer swag bag along with it. You start to add up the dollars, think of how much they spent on you... Sometimes you can feel indebted somehow, even just a little bit.
But if you give in to those feelings of gratitude too freely, you risk compromising your content. I've been invited on another trip, one to a place I am dying to visit, but the product just doesn't fit in with my magazine's subject matter. Believe me, I've given good, long, hard thought to it, trying to figure out what kind of story I could spin to create a reasonable place for the item while still having it make sense and be of value to our readers. But I can't accept the invitation because there's barely even a slim chance that we would feature the goods they're flogging.
I think the way to keep honest is to recognize that these gifts do have an influence, and to always step back and ask yourself why you're truly interested in featuring a product. As long as you keep the readers in mind first and foremost, your integrity should stay intact.
On a side note, a couple of years ago, Jean Godfrey-June wrote the book Free Gift With Purchase, which gives an insider's perspective on what it's like to be a beauty editor – the freebies, the events, the glamour. It's a fun read; I recommend it.
Corinna vanGerwen is a freelance editor and writer. She has worked as senior editor at Style at Home, senior design editor at Cottage Life and is the former Canadian Director of Ed2010. She has also held the position of operations manager at a boutique PR agency, where she handled strategic planning and daily operations.