How PR became the story

U.K.-based public relations company Bell Pottinger (BP) closed its doors in September 2017, as clients deserted it in droves. This followed its expulsion from the U.K.’s Public Relations and Communications Association which, in a harshly-worded statement, said that “BP has brought the PR and communications industry into disrepute with its actions.”

It seems inconceivable that South African media and members of the public would come to know and revile the name of an international reputation management agency. The levels to which that agency would stoop to foment racial disquiet in a country that has so newly embraced non-racialism and democracy were astounding. The unthinkable happened: A PR agency became the news, and its leaders the “poster boys” of unethical practices.

This presentation will review this story, and the ramifications for businesses and the PR industry. It also looks at some of the profound questions that arise when  clients inevitably come to us with a problem.

You’ll learn:

  • How an uncontrolled and unmanaged crisis can impact reputation, across borders.
  • The role of social media and citizen-reporting in reputation destruction and management.
  • Ethical considerations and practices that agencies need to consider and adopt, and how to ensure that staff are aligned.
  • Useful principles and practices.

Career level: Strategic Adviser
Date and time: Monday, 4 June, 12 p.m.

Presenter / Charmane Russell /South Africa founded R&A Strategic Communications in 1999. The agency offers strategic counsel and implementation support on reputation management, communication and reporting strategies and human rights. R&A is niched in the natural resources sector with more than 35 clients in South Africa and abroad. Russell is the spokesperson for the South Africa Chamber of Mines. Previously, she headed up corporate communication for Anglo American, before she moved to AngloGold Limited when that company listed as a separate entity.