Campaigns: Crisis Management - Premier’s pre-emptive strike at BBC

On 23 November 1999, the BBC showed a film about the world of modelling as part of its MacIntyre Undercover series. Using hidden cameras and tape recorders, the documentary exposed the alleged seedier aspects of the industry. One agency in particular bore the brunt of the bad publicity - Elite Model Management.

On 23 November 1999, the BBC showed a film about the world of

modelling as part of its MacIntyre Undercover series. Using hidden

cameras and tape recorders, the documentary exposed the alleged seedier

aspects of the industry. One agency in particular bore the brunt of the

bad publicity - Elite Model Management.



For eight years, Premier Model Management had been part of the Elite

Group and was known throughout the world as Elite Premier, especially

through promotions such as modelling competitions.



Premier broke away in November 1998 to become an independent agency

again but, as the agency had not publicised its split from Elite, its

owners were concerned about the effect that the documentary might have

on business.



Reporter Donal MacIntyre had infiltrated Elite’s offices in Milan and

Paris, and fellow reporter Lisa Brinkworth filmed in Premier’s London

offices, where she posed as a student on work experience. While secretly

filming models and staff at Premier, her hidden camera was spotted and

Premier realised it would have to act.





Objectives



To disassociate Premier from the documentary’s allegations about Elite

and establish Premier as an independent agency in the media.





Strategy and Plan



Premier’s retained PR agency BHM began crisis management from September

1999. The BBC refused to hand over a copy of the programme before

transmission but by talking to the producers, BHM established that the

film would focus on the activities at Elite.



The agency also made sure that the BBC knew the date and circumstances

of Premier’s split from Elite and the potential damage to Premier’s

business should viewers link the programme’s allegations with Premier’s

activities.



As there had been much pre-publicity for the programme, BHM decided that

Premier should maintain a strict ’no comment’ policy until after the

film was screened and issued just one press release which simply stated

that Premier was no longer part of the Elite Group.





Measurement and Evaluation



At the very end of the programme a statement was read out which said:

’We would like to make it clear that Premier are no longer part of the

Elite Group and operate as a completely separate company.’



Because of the nature of the allegations in the documentary, MacIntyre

Undercover received a lot of coverage and comment in the national and

regional press. However, BHM managed to establish Premier as a separate

agency in the majority of stories.





Results



BHM director William Bose admits that this has very much become ongoing

crisis management work as the allegations in the programme have left

their mark on the modelling profession as a whole and because some

people are still linking the two agencies.



’The modelling industry has taken a bit of a battering because of this

programme,’ says Bose. ’Even though a statement was made at the end of

the programme, Premier still had a barrage of enquiries about it, from

the press and concerned parents of young models.’



But BHM did manage to get a statement inserted in MacIntyre Undercover,

and in many press stories the agency was able to turn the situation to

Premier’s advantage.



In several cases in the press Premier Model Management was positioned

with quotes as a positive alternative to Elite, so the crisis was in

effect turned into a launch pad for Premier as an independent

agency.



Client: Premier Model Management

PR Team: Bose Hewitt Management

Campaign: Crisis management before and after broadcast of BBC

documentary MacIntyre Undercover

Timescale: September 1999 - ongoing

Budget: Undisclosed



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