The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has launched an investigation into the DWP after benefit claimant testimonies on leaflets were found to be fabricated.
The body has written to DWP asking whether it had any part in the production of the leaflet which featured fake benefits claimants ‘Zac’ and ‘Sarah’.
On the marketing material, Sarah expressed how happy she was to have her benefits cut – all in aid of her fulfilling a CV deadline.
Zac on the other hand was pleased when his work coach meeting was rescheduled due to him having to attend the hospital.
Sarah Pinch, the CIPR president, said: “Falsely creating the impression of independent, popular support is a naive and opaque technique which blatantly disregards the CIPR’s standards of ethical conduct.
“It is deeply disappointing if public relations professionals allowed it to be published.”
The DWP clarified that it had removed content from its website – although many noted that there was no apology for misleading the public.
You may have seen the case study story trending here on Twitter. To let you all know we've removed them now - they were illustrative only
— DWP (@DWP) August 18, 2015
Others wondered why the DWP could not just find some legitimate positive testimonies…
The issue has echoes of Fuel PR’s gaffe in which it was found this week to have deceived media outlets by supplying them with a ‘real life’ story from an undisclosed staff member under a pseudonym.