The question of whether PR agencies should put their own staff
forward as case study subjects requires a fresh look this week as
Granada made plain its anger at The SPA Way for not disclosing that a
healthcare case study subject enthusing about a medical procedure worked
for the company paid to promote it.
Since disinterested case studies are notoriously hard to find - and
since the media are constantly keen to personalise dry material - the
tendency of PR agencies to rely on their own staff to act as clients'
brand champions is on the rise. In sectors such as financial services,
consumer health and technology, the practice of agency staff acting as
case studies is almost ubiquitous.
The IPR code and PRCA guidelines place a clear and unambiguous value on
honesty, accuracy and, above all, openness. It is the last of these that
raises the most serious questions for the industry. To ban any agency
employee from acting as a case study is to discriminate unfairly against
agency staff, despite most case studies being both genuine and
illuminating of the matter in hand.
But to fail to make plain to the media - whose trust PROs need - that
the subject is on the payroll, is to invite suspicion where none is
PR consultants routinely advise that the perception of sharp practice is
as damaging as the reality. Since these incidents have the ability to
tarnish the image of the industry as a whole, it is crucial to err on
the side of full disclosure.