The principles of principles

One of the best things about working for yourself is that you don’t have to put up with all the nonsense that all too often accompanies a “proper job”. 

In the world of PR, being an independent practitioner means you succeed on the merit of your own abilities; building a reputation based entirely on what you know and do.

For many of us, that means reflecting strong personal values in terms of knowing what you stand for and being principled about what you will and won’t do.

A friend and fellow “freelancer” called me this morning to ask for my opinion. She had been offered an opportunity to work with a consultancy for two-days a week, but still working from home, on a key piece of business in her area of expertise. 

For someone who has to earn a crust, this regular income was very attractive.  Then, although agreeing to work with them, she discovered this consultancy was citing in its pitch document as one of its prime accounts, a client of my friend. 

This was not credited to her at all and the implication is that the high profile that this organisation has gained with the media was down to them, not my friend.

This is outrageous and totally unethical.  They are seeking to win business on the back of someone else’s work without any reference to that person.  Her credibility as having won and managed this client’s work over many years could be damaged.

The row earlier this year in the saw lawyers called in and that was very different to this situation.  There both Communique PR and a former employee, Natalie Bagnall referenced to work for particular clients.  Provided each is clear about their involvement in their claims, this is a standard practice.

Here, the consultancy has never met my friend’s client let alone achieved some amazing PR results.  I have never heard of such blatant “passing off” in PR.

But what can she do?  Apart from the obvious of not working with this unprincipled PRs, should she brief the lawyers?  Talk direct to the potential new client? 

What would you do?

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

2 thoughts on “The principles of principles”

  1. It depends how the reference was presented….if it was in the context of the account team’s experience it should be ok. Still, it’s just good manners to discuss such things in advance. What did she do?

  2. Sherrilynne – as I understand the consultancy didn’t cite the client in any such context. As you say, at the very least, they should have discussed with my friend how to present her expertise. I am waiting to hear the next part of the story – so I’ll keep you informed.

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