Creative intellectual property: Why protecting the lifeblood of successful PR matters

by | Jul 27, 2021 | Analysis, Public Relations

Issa PR takes a stand to fight for creative rights, lighting the way for other PR agencies

The importance of protecting creative intellectual property (IP) is just as crucial in the PR industry as any other creative field. By failing to be proactive, creative agencies can oftentimes face issues as working with unethical and unprofessional clients and prospects, which is unfortunately an experience that is far too familiar to many. While creatives—both agencies or consultants—aim to share the embodiment of their best ideas, they are always forced to take the risk of their ideas being compromised.

As members of a creative industry, there is a code of conduct we follow

We must respect others’ ideas and remain ethical. According to research by the PRCA, “46% of PR agency leaders report intellectual property rights infringement in the past year.” The World Intellectual Property Organisation defines IP as “creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.” While many agencies create trailblazing ideas, very few agencies understand the importance of protecting IP.

Creative intellectual property: Why protecting the lifeblood of successful PR matters As the CEO of global luxury and lifestyle brand strategy, and marketing agency, Issa PR, we recently experienced a highly unprofessional situation. With teams in New York, London and Los Angeles, we choose the companies we pitch to carefully, ensuring they align with our values. Our pitch to Getir, a Turkish delivery service launching in the UK, was no exception. We created a full-service proposal for creative, PR, social media and digital, and media buying to ensure a successful launch in London. For each and every client, including Getir, a wealth of stories are ideated and a cadre of powerful traditional, and non-traditional guerrilla marketing concepts were shared.

The Turkish start-up expressed support for the majority of the suggestions, with the exception of one which they felt may be dangerous and distracting to passers-by. Yet, a few weeks later, every single idea proposed, including the one they declined, was executed by Getir all over London for their launch in January. We never heard back whether we had won the pitch for five months and any emails inquiring about the results were ignored by the delivery service start-up. After months and countless attempts to reach Getir, we knew that the company had taken our creative intellectual property and ran with it.

Creative intellectual property: Why protecting the lifeblood of successful PR matters So what needs to be done?

Agencies and creatives can utilize patents, copyright and trademarks to legally protect their IP. In those cases, the law is the catalyst in fostering healthy client relationships and enabling all creative parties involved to be recognized and financially compensated for their creative contributions. Yet, it is a lot more complicated when such legal preventative measures have not been taken, which happens more often than not. When an agency generates ideas and presents them to their potential or existing clients, they are usually unprotected and therefore vulnerable. It is then a client’s responsibility to respect the creative input and give credit rather than take advantage of someone else’s hard work.

While most clients will act professionally, demonstrating their ethics and respect, every now and then it is possible to run into a client (or prospect) whose intentions are unethical and self-serving. These are clients who will take advantage of anyone and anything, at any cost.

In addition to registered patents, trademarks and copyrights, there are other ways to protect the innovation and creativity of an agency just like ours. Confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements are a start but cannot wholly protect ideas. These type of agreements are also known by other names including:

  • A non-disclosure agreement (NDA)
  • Confidential disclosure agreement (CDA)
  • Proprietary Information Agreement (PIA)
  • Secrecy Agreement (SA)

Creative intellectual property: Why protecting the lifeblood of successful PR matters While protecting IP can be expensive, it is absolutely necessary to know how to safeguard the embodiment of creative ideas. intellectual property generated by an agency is our value and creative currency. They are valuable assets that can make or break a PR campaign and reflect the agency’s ethos, creativity and hard work. Intellectual property is the lifeblood of a creative and our innovative excellence. It even provides a competitive advantage that sets an agency apart from others.

It is also important to raise awareness and shed light on issues that PR professionals face across the globe. From PR agencies to professionals in any creative field, businesses and clients must acknowledge our efforts and the value generated by the industry. Regardless of whether an agency is chosen by a client, every idea deserves credit and every creative deserves recognition for their contributions. In turn, we must support businesses who are ethical, professional, who act with integrity and have the best of intentions.

Viet N'Guyen
Viet N’Guyen is the founder and CEO of Issa PR, a luxury and lifestyle brand strategy, and public relations agency. The dynamic leader & strategist with over 20 years experience built the luxury & lifestyle division for Edelman, #1 agency in the world.


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