For several months now newspaper frontpages have been dominated by a seemingly endless stream of Downing Street party pictures. Shocking revelation has piled upon (perhaps not so shocking) revelation as the story continues to drag on, from lockdown-violating Christmas ‘work events’ to champagne-fuelled office quizzes. ‘Partygate’ is a clear reminder of the power the press has when it comes to holding our government and public institutions to account. 

If there was a Ghost of Christmas Past committed to teaching us this lesson, it might take us back just over a decade to the 2009 MP expenses scandal – another occasion where investigative reporting showed that it’s hard to keep secrets from the press, especially when journalists smell blood. The damaging revelations from that year included the fact that one MP, Sir Peter Viggers, had tried to claim £1,645 for a floating duck house; an extravagance that became a symbol for the scandal.  

None of this would have come to light, however, were it not for a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request, which was submitted in February 2008. 

Since the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act in 2000, FOIs have become a powerful tool for journalists and have been used to expose a multitude of high-profile stories. The data from FOIs is highly sought after by the press and that’s part of the reason why they’re also an incredibly effective PR tactic. 

What is an FOI request? 

FOI requests allow individuals to request recorded information held by any public authority including data, printed documents, computer files, letters, emails, photographs, and sound or video recordings. There are some limitations to the information that can be shared by public officials, but broadly any information that doesn’t conflict with GDPR or compromise an ongoing investigation is accessible. 

From a PR perspective, an FOI request is a cost effective (free!) way to obtain high quality exclusive data from some of the most credible sources (government departments and public authorities). 

While incredibly powerful, crafting good FOI requests can be a tricky art. For a more detailed look at how to create impactful Freedom of Information requests for PR, take a look at our blog. 

How does this benefit our clients? 

Ultimately, our top priority with any FOI request is to deliver value and results for our clients. This means providing them with unique data that they can rely on for business or strategic insights, as well as generating strong press coverage that showcases their spokespeople as subject-matter experts in the press. 

Back in 2020 we submitted an FOI request for our client, Buck, and secured data that showed the true scale of the FCA’s concern around pensions transfer advice. We used this to work closely with the Financial Times on an exclusive piece that featured online and on the very front page of the paper’s weekend edition.  

We went on to secure further coverage in the Financial Times, City A.M. and a range of trade publications, building awareness of our client and showcasing the knowledge and expertise of their team to a wide audience. 

Find out more 

To find out more about how we use FOI requests to provide valuable information and press coverage for our clients, contact the Rostrum team: team@rostrum.agency 

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