Bell Pottinger have threatened an African woman’s group with legal action for linking them with the government of the DRC. Following a protest outside their offices, the PR group has released a statement claiming attempting to distance themselves from the regime of Joseph Kabila:
“Bell Pottinger does not work for President Kabila; for the government of the DRC and did not work in any form on the recent election in that country. [Chairman] Peter Bingle has never worked for the DRC or any other African government.”
The press releases continues:
“Bell Pottinger has contacted the organisers of the current campaign against the DRC election result to understand why we have been implicated but has yet to receive a response.”
Perhaps Scrapbook can explain how this confusion has arisen: because Bell Pottinger’s own promotional documentation boasts of their previous work for the discredited regime! A presentation given to undercover reporters cites work for the government of the DRC on a slide entitled “Some of our experience: country campaigns”.
Some more top-class PR work on the back of last year’s sting by the Independent.
As the fallout from the Independent’s sting on Bell Pottinger rumbles on, it has now emerged that they have used so-called “sockpuppet accounts” to spin Wikipedia pages for their clients — including smearing Gordon Brown’s sister-in-law by adding material accusing her of “inciting racial hatred”.
Clare Rewcastle Brown is a Malaysian-born British investigative journalist who has made a career out of campaigning against corruption and environmental violations. She founded a blog and radio station against deforestation in the state of Sawark.
Building on work from blogger Tim Ireland, Wikipedia have identified a list of accounts operated by Bell Pottinger, along with a collection of pages which they have edited. The account Biggleswiki — which Bell Pottinger have confirmed was operated by them — has created and populated a section for “criticisms” of the journalist.
Before it was removed in the cull of Bell Pottinger material, material was added which was sourced to a newspaper owned by a governing political party in Malaysia:
“On 25 February 2011, the Malaysian Deputy Information Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Joseph Salang announced that Radio Free Sarawak [founded by Rewcastle Brown] was not licensed by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, and was therefore operating illegally. At the same time, RFS was accused of inciting racial hatred in Sarawak through its daily broadcasts.”
To further impugne her reputation, edits to the page to cast aspersions on her being born in Malaysia. Bell Pottinger have also been linked to other Wikipedia content supportive of vested interests in Malaysia, including creating the page for the Earth Awards, established by the Malaysian government, upon whom they heap praise.
Who do PR companies call for crisis PR?
In the wake of the Independent’s revelations on dodgy lobbying, Bell Pottinger will be investigated by a PR industry trade body after a complaint was made by a top spinner from a rival firm. According to PR Week’s David Singleton, Mark Adams of Lansons Communications, whose clients such as JP Morgan and RBS Insurance, has filed a written complaint with the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA).
According to the body’s disciplinary procedures, any complaint brought my a member against another member will be investigated by the PRCA’s Professional Practices Committee. Scrapbook imagines the following sections might crop up at some point:
“political consultants are required not to act or engage in any practice or conduct in any manner detrimental to the reputation of the Association or the profession of political organisations in general.”
“Neither propose nor undertake any action which would constitute an improper influence on organs of government, or on legislation, or on the media of communication.”
Under the PRCA’s arbitration and disciplinary procedure, the Secretary of the Association must inform Bell Pottinger of the complaint and allow them 14 days to respond with written observations. The complaint must then go before the Professional practices committee by 2nd February 2012 at the latest. If the Committee find that there is a case to answer, then both sides have 30 days to submit written evidence before a decision will be made. This means a decision will be due, at latest, in March 2012.
Public affairs will eat itself!