Watching the Brits, it's impossible to miss the in your face MasterCard/Brits partnership. It brings together my two loves - not Bruno Mars and debt, but music and relationship building. This high profile relationship has however come under unwanted scrutiny for the terribly handled PR - and by the company employed to make the most out of this partnership.
If you've not followed this particular storm, it involved the PR agency offering journalists tickets to the Brits in exchange for following a few simple tasks...like tweeting the hashtag #PricelessSurprises and mentioning the sponsor in any coverage. Unsurprisingly, the journos were not impressed and #PricelessSurprises has been used in a different way than the agency had anticipated.
Can we, the relationship builders, learn from this?
You will usually be playing the agency role and thus you can avoid making such ill advised decisions by working closely with the brand and developing all aspects of the partnership: including the way you will seek promotion of the relationship and relevant project.
If you are unfortunate enough to be dealing with an agency instead of a sponsor/partner directly, I'd advise making every possible attempt to build a relationship with the company and insist on an introduction. This is to cut out the middle man. In my experience, agencies do not always know best when it comes to mutually beneficial partnerships.
As can be seen from the MasterCard case, PR agencies are adept at promotion. Surely in this case however, MasterCard would have been better off letting the well thought out promotion do its own job. They are giving away some fantastic prizes via the aforementioned hashtag and MasterCard is all over the ceremony: the 'MasterCard Best British Album' award; the 'MasterCard Best British Act' award etc etc. Plus their ads sandwich each ad break. So, with all this in their armoury, why put pressure on the individuals that are capable of giving some unbiased positive coverage if they feel like it. No self respecting journalist wants to be told what to say, and this has backfired horribly!
So, what exactly can we learn from this PR disaster? The best plan of action is always to use those powers of persuasion you've been honing in your fundraising. Be extra nice and schmooze anyone that can help you with good publicity for a partnership. Most important when promoting a partnership? NEVER write a journalist a draft tweet.