One of Hollywood’s most prominent media relations agencies, Principal Communications, has announced a new company that will specialise in scrutinising the backgrounds of figures in the entertainment world to protect the reputations of companies before they hire talent.

This is according to The New York Times, which reported that the agency is starting a sister company, Foresight Solutions, which will deploy the consultancy capabilities of former intelligence experts to uncover talent’s potentially damaging secrets, through a partnership with Edgeworth Security.

The new company indicates not only the intrusive requirements now involved in defending reputations, but also the effect of a social media-inflected world that has left people – not least celebrities – and their pasts vulnerable to discovery. Principal Comms and now Foresight Solutions is betting on being able to uncover these skeletons before others do.

Part of the problem the founders have observed is the sheer depth of the internet – the fact that 55% of it does not show up on Google – and the potential for deleted social media to reside there before being found.

Principal Communications Group represents clients including AT&T and Marvel. It has said that this side business idea was built over six months, having observed and dealt with PR crises precipitated by talent’s past misdemeanours, which tend to catch companies off-guard in the face of the backlash.

“We have reached this trajectory point because of the speed and accessibility of data, from what is available on the internet to amplified social listening, coupled with the backdrop of information and evolving industry standards,” Principal Communications Group partner Melissa Zukerman told the media website Deadline.

“What we want to do is be an industry partner to both the advocacy groups, the individuals who could be subjects of these things, and the studios and the media companies looking to do business in this era,” she added.

Commenting on the firm’s new partners, Edgeworth Security, Zukerman said it had “the best possible technology, data and security partner. They place a premium on following the rules surrounding privacy.”

“We’ve bared [sic] witness to the evolution of this on all sides, we’ve also made conscious decisions to not work with those who do not fit our code of conduct. That code of conduct is the through line and cornerstone of our business model. We will not cover up any discriminatory act or any criminal behavior. Our business model has always been that the cover up is always worse than the crime.”

Reputation management has never been so prevalent in the entertainment world. In December of last year, Kevin Hart stepped down as the host of the 2019 Academy Awards after several tweets emerged in which he used the word “gay” as an insult. Last month, one of the writers of the Oscar-nominated film Green Book apologised for an anti-Muslim tweet made in 2015; the studio behind the film had to deal with the fallout.

“Twitter is ten years old and a lot of the young, burgeoning talent you see or the talent that has pushed up since then, they posted on Twitter before anyone understood its power”, said partner Paul Pflug. Though the company will provide the “bells and whistles” of reputation management, it will be part of a larger program.

“We have built in sensitivity training. We will make sure we are working within a code of conduct with advocacy groups like GLAAD [a media monitoring NGO looking after LGBT issues] and Times Up [the movement against sexual harassment and assault in the workplace], which want to see reformation and repair. We all need to understand what that looks like and how to move past wrongdoing. That’s one of the things we’re looking to partner on.”

Sourced from The New York Times, Deadline; additional content by WARC staff