In an interesting turn of events, Cleartrip fired their PR agency. Routine affair? Of course, but they also fired the agency publicly, on their blog!

What happened? Why? How?

Here is Cleartrip’s own blog post.

Now, I’m a HUGE fan of Cleartrip from multiple perspectives and I have also written about them in the past in glowing terms.

This incidence, however, seems odd.

The agency in question – Buzz PR – deserves what Cleartrip did to them. Let me not even go into the details of it since it is quite clear from the blog post (unless Buzz PR has another side of this story to add to, that is).

My only wonder is this – was this public firing ‘needed’? Not ‘deserved’, but ‘needed’.

When Cleartrip signed on the agency, I’m sure they’d have talked about it (even the agency may have done some announcement since Cleartrip is definitely one of the better clients to win!) and there would have been the reason to go with Buzz PR. This is industry practice.

What is unusual is maligning the agency when it is being fired – albeit for perfectly valid reasons.

I get what Cleartrip has taken great pains to explain – a public tweet from an aggrieved party (receiver of spam) that seems to indicate that Cleartrip was somehow involved in this spam business. Of course, Cleartrip has to defend its reputation (for which the agency was hired in the first place – Oh the irony!).

So, what are Cleartrip’s options?

Find out where the spam originated from? Done.

Warn the concerned party? Done. Twice (as per the blog).

Not working? Fire the agency? Done.

Blog about how there was a minor lapse by Cleartrip in trusting a vendor with select bloggers’ contact details for a legitimate purpose? Done.

But, does Cleartrip need to name and shame Buzz PR in the process? Or, could they have let the action take the center stage than the party which caused it?

Not convinced? Think about it from this perspective.

Any client-agency (business-vendor) relationship goes through up and down phases. As someone who has been in agencies, I have heard and faced horror stories of MNC/well-established clients not paying agencies on time… and even months together. No agency ever exposed such clients in public. There are agencies that have sued clients (ex-clients) for payment and these don’t make it to media/social media since these are between two parties.

Your argument could be – the issue between Buzz PR and Cleartrip was not merely between two parties alone; it also involved customer trust for Cleartrip the brand.

Fair point. But then, consider this scenario – PR agencies, like legal firms, are privy to a lot of confidential client information. Such information could even be about how a client/clients are harming consumers/users/target groups in one or more ways.

So, should the agency take moral responsibility of such a fact and fire a client? Of course, they can and some of them have even done so in the past.

Do they go about explaining to the public on why they dropped a client and use that explanation to seem holier than thou? I’m not so sure.

To be clear – Cleartrip is right in firing Buzz PR. Buzz PR did goof up by using information given by Cleartrip for a very specific reason and misusing it. The only issue is the way Cleartrip ‘used’ the situation to ‘come clean’ in the eyes of its customers.

Had this been focused on the issue and not on the party that caused it (which has been fired anyway – can be easily mentioned as ‘certain vendors/agencies that had breached our trust with very, very select customer data. We have resigned from our relationship with such vendors and…), it would obviously lead to speculation in the blog’s comments section on who the ‘vendors/agencies’ are, but will remain unconfirmed.

Does Buzz PR need the double whammy of losing a client (fired unceremoniously) *and* public naming and shaming?

I’d like to believe that the latter seems harsh and unwarranted mainly because it breaks the code of diplomacy between the already strained client-agency relationship in general. This is not some sort of Omerta code of silence, just a simple practice that says they part their ways for a reason best discussed and closed between them… without involving a trial-by-public blog post.

Picture credit.