19 February 2014 - 12:56pm | posted by | 7 comments

House PR justifies disastrous #pricelesssurprises Brit Awards PR tactics for Mastercard

Controversy: House PR has responded to criticismControversy: House PR has responded to criticism

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.


19 Feb 2014 - 13:46
stevecater's picture


19 Feb 2014 - 14:27
mwawo17451's picture

Smacks of astonishing arrogance / naivety by the PR people.

Have to wonder how they got the gig in the first place?

19 Feb 2014 - 14:26
nathanlane's picture

I don't think that response will cut it. Here is Todd Carty's dance interpretation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gGR28wrKiQ

19 Feb 2014 - 15:47
katie13614's picture

Lol if anyone believes editorial control still remains with the journalist. We all know better than that.

19 Feb 2014 - 20:32
james17287's picture

The role of a PR agency isn't only to pursue coverage opps. Ginny is probably more suited to an account manager role rather than MD if she believes this

19 Feb 2014 - 21:08
MarkP's picture

There are some very sanctimonious people treating this like a constitutional matter. The Brits awards is, of course, a lame, tame and shameless PR stunt full of gormless spivs, chancers, pimps, hangers-on and other media types. Neither the 'event' nor a journalist on a freebie are demeaned any further by a hashtagged tweet on behalf of a brand paying for the champagne, canapes and taxis. The only astounding thing is there are still people gullible enough to go.

19 Feb 2014 - 23:05

I have to disagree with you MarkP, I don't think people are being sanctimonious. This was a colossal blunder that was insulting to the media and arrogant and ill-advised on the part of the PR firm. The Mastercard campaign actually had merits (at least as adverts go), and there were much better ways to promote it than to attempt to extort coverage from media in return for admission to the event. All that achieves is to further antagonize the relationship between PR and media and confirms every poor stereotype and sentiment they (and the public) have of us. It also showed little respect for the Brit Awards PR firm who apparently were never consulted or notified. It put their PR brief at risk.

As for it being a constitutional matter, it isn't, but in my opinion it should be. We see examples of poor PR over and over again and we all tut tut and frown on it and then completely ignore/forget about it. Until some form of censure is put in place for such offenses to the industry, PR firms and practitioners will continue to commit them assuming they can get away with it.

It's true, pursuing all coverage opportunities on behalf of a client is one of the roles of the PR agency. But it's also the role of the PR agency not to risk the client's reputation by engaging in questionable practices on their behalf. If you work in PR and the best way you can conceive of gaining coverage from the media is to extort it...perhaps you should consider a career change.


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