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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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