Arun Sudhaman 05 Sep 2017 // 4:05PM GMT
NEW YORK — Richard Edelman, CEO of the world's biggest PR firm, has described the expulsion of Bell Pottinger from the UK PR trade association as "a proud moment for the PR industry."
Bell Pottinger was expelled from the PRCA yesterday, after its work on behalf of South Africa's Gupta family was found guilty of breaching the PRCA Professional Charter and Public Affairs and Lobbying Code of Conduct. The PRCA said that Bell Pottinger's attempts to inflame racial tensions had brought the "industry into disrepute", in the latest twist to a saga that has dominated UK media headlines in recent days.
Edelman told the Holmes Report that the PRCA decision represented a "firm stand against fake news and subterfuge."
"We must have zero tolerance for work that undermines democratic institutions," added Edelman, who also denied that Bell Pottinger's work was representative of the PR industry. "It is an exception worth noting and avoiding in the future"
Edelman's comments come more than a decade after his own firm hit the headlines for creating a fake blog on behalf of client Walmart. In that instance, the firm was put on probation by WOMMA and has since implemented scrupulous ethical guidelines.
Two years ago, Edelman stopped working for the American Petroleum Institute, in a bid to distance itself from 'climate deniers'. However, the PR industry's work for controversial clients continues to attract scrutiny, amplified by recent cases such as Bell Pottinger's work in South Africa, Weber Shandwick's decision to stop working for the Egyptian Government, and Ketchum's controversial relationship with Russia.
For Bell Pottinger, the current state of affairs appears ominous. The Guardian reports that Chime has written off its 27% stake in the firm, while several clients — including Richemont, Investec, Clydesdale Bank and HSBC — have deserted the agency.
Bell Pottinger CEO James Henderson resigned shortly before the PRCA ruling. He remains a key shareholder in the business, alongside his fiancee Heather Kerzner.
Meanwhile, in an appearance on BBC's Newsnight, founder Lord Bell said it was “almost certain” Bell Pottinger would not survive the scandal.