Better Reputations

“My profound belief is that a small number of words, a strong visual image, can change the way people think. At Bell Pottinger we tell stories – I don’t mean lies. We work for people who want to tell their side of the story.”- Tim Bell

Here’s the ex advisor to Thatcher, Asma al-Assad and the Pinochet Foundation Tim Bell, founder of Bell Pottinger in his car-crash Newsnight interview. This is a PR disaster by supposed PR gods.

“Is this curtains for Pottinger?”

“Almost certainly yes, but it’s nothing to do with me.”

Is he even aware he’s on the tv?




This is PR’s Ratners moment, and a good space for those engaged in critiquing the media to look beyond the front page to those supplying the spin. And if those of us who watched the Indyref and Brexit shrouded in a mist of “stories” – there can be no denying the schadenfreude of this event. This will be tempered only by the cold realisation that behind Bell Pottinger there will be a queue of tricksters, spinners and conmen ready to do whatever the dollar asks.

Some of Bell Pottinger’s clients have included: the government of Sri Lanka; FW de Klerk; Thaksin Shinawatra; Alexander Lukashenko, the dictator of Belarus; Rebekah Brooks after the phone-hacking scandal broke; the governments of Bahrain and Egypt; Trafigura; Cuadrilla; BAE Systems.

The Guardian reports:

“Bell Pottinger, one of the City’s leading public relations agencies, has been expelled from the industry’s trade association after an investigation found its secret campaign to stir up racial tensions in South Africa to be the worst breach of ethics in its history. The Public Relations and Communications Association said Bell Pottinger was unethical and unprofessional, had brought the industry into disrepute and has banned the firm from its membership for at least five years.

“Bell Pottinger has brought the PR and communications industry into disrepute with its actions and has received the harshest possible sanctions,” said Francis Ingham, director general of the PRCA. “The PRCA has never before passed down such a damning indictment of an agency’s behaviour.”

The PRCA said the Bell Pottinger campaign was “likely to inflame racial discord in South Africa”.


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Comments (1)

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  1. manandboy says:

    The voters, who ask only for an honest and open explanation or statement, have no defense against men such as Lord Timothy Bell and the Public Relations industry. They make Machiavelli look like Snow White.
    It is clear that neither the present generation of Tory leaders nor the Public Relations industry on whom they depend, have any moral compass. They will do anything just so long as it is not right and true. Their entire connection with the electorate and others, like the EU, is pursued in bad faith.

    If there is a fault with the electorate it is that they are too trusting. They seem not to know that when, say Theresa May speaks, she is using a script written by someone from a PR company. Those voters who can be fooled all the time, actually believe what they hear and that it comes from Mrs May herself. And those voters are enough when added to the hardcore support.

    So who starts the lying? The client or the PR company? It is of course the client but the PR Company quickly get the idea and follow suit, with vigour. If this interview is a Ratner moment for the PR industry then great. May it sink to the bottom.

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