In our past life as a
media whore public relations executive, we learnt that one of the defining elements of PR with Chinese characteristics is that cash is not only frequently extended in return for positive coverage, it is actually industry standard that you hand out the cash to journalists in nice little envelopes discreetly tucked into the media kit as “travel expenses” (车马费). That this is standard practice is hardly news, but tough luck anyways for the Gehua New Century Hotel which hosts the official non-accredited media center for the Beijing Olympics because it’s just been busted by Nick Mulvenney of Reuters for offering journalists “500 yuan for a ‘positive’ article on the hotel of 100 to 500 words in length and 1,000 yuan for an article of between 500 and 1,000 words”. PR manager of the hotel Zhao Xiaoda explained it away in a phone interview with Reuters by saying, “We want to extend our reputation through the opportunity of the Olympics, it is necessary to promote our brand. I understand it is different from international practice. It was a decision of the PR department not the hotel.” Let’s see how BOCOG deals with this one.