Are Brand Partnerships Inappropriate For Journalists?

Are Brand Partnerships Inappropriate For Journalists?

Written by Lois Lane
🕒 March 30, 2021

As a journalist who appears on TV, it’s likely that viewers will reach out and ask where you got your dress, who cuts your hair, and what brand of coffee you prefer. Sharing these details is a great way to build rapport with viewers, and can help build a genuine connection.

That connection to people is exactly what brands are looking for to expand their business, making it likely they will try to use your image to further their sales. Don’t take the bait!

It’s most likely the marketing time at a beauty company, or jewelry line, has already slid in your DMs with a message like this:

“Hey girl, it’s so great to see you love our new line! We’d love to send you more to try out. Would you be willing to share your experience with these products on your page?”

That’s a direct quote from a company that sells face creams and oils.

Brands can see how the trust you’ve developed with your followers can be a major asset to their business.

But when you start accepting free products for brand partnerships, an ethical line gets crossed.  

Most contracts, for on-air talent, stipulate that the employee is not to use his or her likeness for any business purpose not pre-approved by the employer. While there are a number of reasonable arguments against these restrictions, considering the low wages the industry pays, there are concerns about reputation at stake.

Aside from the blurry ethical boundaries involved, brand partnerships do come with some risk. For example, say that brand later makes an inappropriate post about a political issue, or it comes out that the owner has been exhibiting some unfavorable behavior.

Having posted glowing reviews about their product, and driving your followers to that brand, you’re now in a difficult position. That puts not only your reputation but the reputation of the station at risk.

Worst case scenario, your employer could use posts promoting other brands as a reason to terminate your employment for breach of contract.

Some large retailers, like Amazon, will pay influencers to post reviews about products they buy. This arrangement, which requires a vetting process, compensates the participant whenever his or her review results in a new sale.

Some argue that this is different from brand partnerships, because it’s something you purchased on your own volition. However, with the promise of commission, it seems unlikely you’d post a negative review, because it would defeat the purpose of the arrangement: driving sales.

Although the outside world believes TV News is a gold mine of pay, we all know it’s not. Many of us are balancing the cost of rent against dining out and paying for a new can of hairspray. Making ends meet can be difficult, and the opportunity for freebies are enticing. But, at the end of the day, this work is all about honesty and integrity, and outside influences are a threat to those qualities.

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