When Does An Offer Of Help Constitute A Bribe?

I’ve been wrestling with something over the last 24 hours and I’m hoping you all might have some thoughts on the matter.  As I’ve mentioned before, as someone who blogs on a regular basis, I get offers from various folks almost every day.  These offers are interview opportunities, review copies of books, maybe the odd report here or there, and I’m usually happy to hear about them.  It may not seem like it, but coming up with content for the screed can be a challenge!

Bribe Deutsch: Bestechung Suomi: Lahjus Русски...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyway, yesterday I received an offer from a publicist to interview an author and/or to get a copy of the author’s new book.  Nothing unusual there.  What followed in the email, however, is what’s giving me pause:

In exchange for your help, we’re also happy to help you in any way we can – from blogging about you, sending traffic your way or even getting you linked into our affiliate program to make you a few bucks.

As an author myself, I’m always looking to grow the readership of this blog (and I hope you tell folks to check it out when you can!), so an offer of traffic or publicity or some cash based on book sales are things which are appealing.  On the surface, this is something that’s just a “you help me out, here is how I can help you” exchange that goes on in business all the time.  So let me explain why I’m troubled.

There’s a statement on the PR firm‘s website which says they always act with honesty and integrity and never compromise the truth. They also stick to “white hat” marketing tactics, never trying anything that could comprise a client’s image or brand.  Very commendable, so why does the above offer feel smarmy?  In my mind, it feels like a bribe – write about our client and we’ll do what we can for you.  Maybe it’s because everything is conditioned on me publicizing their client instead of a “we love your blog, we’re going to publicize it and by the way, you might be interested in this other person with whom we’re working.”  Of course, one had to wonder what happens when 20 or 30 of these offers are accepted – how much linking and writing can they really do?  How many book sales would it take to generate meaningful cash, or even enough for a trip to the movies?

I turned them down, mostly because the author’s expertise doesn’t really match the focus of this blog.  I probably could have found an area of the author’s expertise to fit but there was the other issue of why I was speaking to her in the first place.  While this isn’t the first time I’ve received offers for stuff beyond the interview opportunity or review copy of a book, it is one of the most blatant.  So what do you think?  Am I being too critical or do you think this steps over the ethical line?

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Filed under Reality checks, Thinking Aloud

4 responses to “When Does An Offer Of Help Constitute A Bribe?

  1. You made the right decision. If it feels dirty, it is. Obviously, they’re offering something in return for a favorable review. Not good. Well played on your part.

  2. Radar

    If it feels smarmy….trust your gut!!

  3. John McGourty

    Get the money and run.

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