The Crisis of Communications

A PR firm is supposed to do their best to make their client look good, and to limit the amount of time that scandals are in the news, rather than draw attention to themselves. In the recent case of Bell Pottinger, accused of attempting to enflame racial tensions while trying to protect Oakbay Investments in South Africa, the company found itself as a new focus for the scandal. While the investigations into their actions is still undergoing, much can be learned from their problems by PR firms and professionals.

Writing for, Claudine Moore, a board member at the World Communications Forum Association, offers four key lessons that can be drawn from Bell Pottinger's troubles:

  • Keeping leadership informed: Make sure higher-ups are aware of any potential controversial approaches, so that they're prepared for any potential blowback, and can intervene if needed.
  • Recognize that some business is worth passing on: While a client may be profitable in the short term, the long-term effects of controversial companies on a firm's reputation may be harmful and costly.
  • Manage your own reputation: Consider how each approach and technique could change how potential clients view your firm, and whether the risk to your reputation is worth it.
  • Create diverse teams: Ensure teams contain people with a variety of backgrounds and beliefs, to help identify potential problematic areas that may be missed by more homogenous groups.