Blog post: The ethics of ‘real life’ case studies…

We’ve all done it (haven’t we?!), called in a favour with a friend or another PR type to be a client’s ‘real life’ case study. I know I have – including being asked by a comrade to appear in a chlamydia awareness article for Cosmo.

This week Fuel PR has been getting criticism for putting forward one of their own employees for a client’s case study (here). Duly picked up by PA and subsequently picked up by the Daily Mail and the Mirror to name just two. Two publications (as well as PA) who were not best pleased when they found out the real-life case study Esme de Silva was in fact a Senior Account Executive at Fuel PR (but published under a different name) – the Agency appointed last year to work for Odaban (the subject of the story).

As I said, we’ve all called in favours and I would imagine that a lot of real life case-studies are probably PR people by trade, and that doesn’t mean they aren’t real life people and customers of our client’s products.

(It’s also a tad ironic when you think about the amount of bias and misleading content coming from our dailies – see previous blog posts on this… )

That said, does this not go a bit too far. Yes, she may well be a customer of the client, but using one of your own employees is a bit too close to home for me. Especially as it was not disclosed and the name had been changed – suggesting that the Agency also wasn’t too of the ethics either. They’ve claimed that the name change was to protect privacy, and that is understandable as this is a potentially embarrassing health problem, except there was no issue with her photo being plastered across all the coverage.
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Not disclosing that Esme de Silva’s name was changed just suggests that Fuel were trying to hide something (and I guess there were). As ever with PR it comes down to being open and honest, and the perception here is that they are hiding that this person is (essentially) an employee of the brand they are promoting.

Would it have been so hard to find an actual ‘real life’ case study for this?

Here’s the story in PRWEEK: http://www.prweek.com/article/1360288/press-association-advises-newspapers-remove-real-life-story-victim-revealed-employee-pr-firm-fuel

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