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Reputation laundering 101

Reputation laundering 101

Major PR firms in London have moved beyond corporate PR and are now earning millions managing the images of foreign regimes with poor human rights records.


August 4, 2010 4:13 by

London, according to the UK’s Guardian, now has a reputation as the “laundering destination of choice” for foreign heads of state whose controversial activities may have stained their countries’ public images.

An investigation from the paper has revealed that public relations firms in the city earn millions every year promoting countries including Rwanda, Kazakhstan, and Sri Lanka.

The paper says the PR firms “are earning as much as £2m per contract to provide communications advice to governments whose records on issues such as torture, corruption and free speech have been attacked by international organisations including the United Nations and the Commonwealth.

“Politicians from Russia, Madagascar and China are among those to have sought out British PR firms to help burnish their image in what the Public Relations Consultants Association has identified as ‘a growing market.’”

Reportedly even Omar Bashir, the president of Sudan, who is wanted by the international criminal court on suspicion of crimes against humanity, has approached two London firms asking for their help in managing his image.

“Autocratic governments are realising they need to be more sophisticated in the way they act rather than just telling people how it is,” said Francis Ingham, chief executive of the PRCA.

“There is great growth in the former communist bloc and in China,” he added.

Kipp’s initial view of this story was one of disgust and anger, but after reflecting on it we have changed our tune slightly. Isn’t every country, and every person, entitled to give their side of the story? To communicate their take on matters? We are sure these PR companies are not soulless monsters, and they will be asking themselves some serious ethical questions before they take a client on.


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