House PR, the agency at the centre of the Mastercard Brit Awards storm, has defended its policy of offering press passes to journalists in exchange for promotional tweets, saying that the agency’s job was to “pursue all coverage opportunities”.
The agency, which is handling PR activity for Mastercard’s sponsorship of the Brits, came under fire earlier today when it emerged it had offered Telegraph journalist Tim Walker press accreditation for the Brit Awards ceremony in exchange for publishing promotional tweets. Journalists, media commentators and members of the public were gobsmacked at the PR agency’s methods.
In a statement, Ginny Paton, MD at House PR, said: “The role of the PR agency is to pursue all coverage opportunities on behalf of its clients. This includes providing accurate brand references from the outset, for use across all platforms. It is a two-way conversation between the journalist and the PR in order to reach a mutually beneficial outcome. “
Despite House PR’s email to Tim Walker requesting his agreement to not only publish tweets, but guarantee sponsor mentions in editorial coverage following the event, Paton added: “Editorial control always remains with the journalist.”
In response to the situation, the PRCA, of which House PR is a member also released a statement.
Francis Ingham, director general of the PRCA, commented: “Our Professional Charter states that all members have a positive duty to observe the highest standards in the practice of public relations. We also state that a member should not engage in any practice nor be seen to conduct themselves in any manner detrimental to the reputation of the Association or the reputation and interests of the public relations profession. Furthermore, a member has responsibility at all times to deal fairly and honestly with the media.”
He continued to highlight that the organisation’s Media Spamming Charter stated that practitioners should not guarantee coverage unless agreed by the publication for a particular purpose but would not comment on the individual circumstance.
“We have not received a complaint. If we do receive a complaint, we will follow the normal procedures to deal with it,” he concluded.
Mastercard has yet to comment.