Worldwide, the public relations industry is a small, tight-knit industry. The business generally makes sense to me as the founder of 5WPR, a top-25 US PR agency, but sometimes I shake my head in amazement.
In a heinous criminal act, it’s recently been revealed that Britain’s Standard Chartered bank helped to launder $250 Billion dollars of Iranian money. The New York State Department of Financial Services says the US financial system was “vulnerable to terrorists” after the actions of the bank. NY regulators blasted the 150-year old bank as a “rogue institution” that “helped sustain a global threat to peace and stability.”
According to multiple reports in industry trade magazines, leading UK PR Agency Maitland was hired by Standard Chartered following a competitive pitch process where over 10 PR agencies bid for the work. Undoubtedly, it’s a high-profile, well-paying assignment – and it goes hand in hand with previous reports that terrorist organizations have hired PR agencies to lobby for them in the press and on the world stage. There was recently a fascinating expose published in The Daily Beast about how Assad’s Syrian regime worked with a firm to write a glowing profile of Asma Assad, Syria’s First Lady, in February 2011.
Earlier this month it was revealed that one of US President Obama’s closest aides, David Plouffe, was paid $100,000 by a company doing business with Iran just before joining the White House staff.
Dealing with Iran and Assad, who has killed thousands of his own people? The powers that be deem that acceptable – but contrast that with the headlines in media worldwide when Israel reached out to European communications companies. Israel, which ranks higher on democracy, freedom and women’s rights than any other country in the Middle East, was criticized in the media by countless PR agencies – and had a hard time choosing a company that would work with them.
Burson–Marsteller, one of the largest PR firms in the world, said they wouldn’t meet Israel:
We will not deliver tender to such a project…we are running a commercial venture. If we accept this project, this will create a great amount of negative reactions…Israel is a particularly controversial project.
Another European agency, Geelmuyden-Kiese, said that they wouldn’t work for Israel:
We are working for Amnesty International, and found these two relations would be in conflict. We were invited (by Israel), which we actually found positive, but had to refuse to participate.
West Anderson, a representative of the PR firm, said that they would not take the commission because “Israel is occupying Palestinian land, in violation of international law and multiple UN resolutions.”
Launder billions and endanger the West, and countless PR firms will grovel all over themselves to work for you. The fact that Arab countries already control territory nearly twice the size of the United States (including Alaska), while Israel is smaller than New Jersey, isn’t noted by these wonderful thinkers. Never mind that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that is not an apartheid regime.
In the Middle East, slaughtering of innocent people continues – and public relations pros stand in line to spin the media.