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Should Expert Opinion Be Free?

Relationships between brands and journalists can be tricky - but if we all play by the rules it's really not that difficult to make it work.

“You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”: The relationship between journalists and PR practitioners is a two-way street, with benefits to both. The journalist needs comments on a product, service or sector so they ask an expert. In return the expert gets free publicity when their name or company is written about. It's a win-win situation for both parties right so what's the issue?

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While this relationship usually runs without a hitch, some journalists are complaining that the experts are starting to ask for payment. They say requests for input are being run past PR consultants first, who advise them to ask for a fee. The incredulous journalist offers up free publicity, only to be turned down by the expert. The expert is busy and time is money, and with no control over how they will be portrayed they are reluctant to offer up their services free of charge.

Hmm tricky one? Well, we would always advise a client to play the game, and to provide a comment as part of their ongoing PR activity, if it's relevent and targeted for them. This creates strong journalistic relationships, which are key to media relations activity. Why should they help us, if we don't help them?

However, whilst getting their expert’s name out there is vital, there is a line to be drawn between this and publicity for the sake of it.  If the experts don’t take the free press for granted, so the journalists shouldn’t expect the experts to jump at every chance to be quoted if they don’t believe there is value or credibility in it for them.

It, as always has been a 2 way street, and a few manners and decorum go a long way.