We’re not all guilty, will stick with PRCA rules – Bell Pottinger | Fin24

We’re not all guilty, will stick with PRCA rules – Bell Pottinger

Sep 05 2017 16:56
Jan Cronje

Cape Town - Public relations firm Bell Pottinger said on Tuesday it would continue to follow the code of conduct of a UK PR regulatory body “on a voluntary basis” as not all of its staff worked on the Oakbay Gupta account.

This comes a day after its chief executive resigned and as it was kicked out of the UK-based Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) for its work it did for Oakbay and the Gupta family.

The PRCA, an industry body that regulates and represents the interests of over 20 000 PR and communications practitioners, said in a statement late on Monday that its committee found that Bell Pottinger’s South African campaign was “by any reasonable standard of judgement likely to inflame racial discord in South Africa and appears to have done exactly that".

The finding follows a complaint by the Democratic Alliance and a subsequent PRCA investigation into Bell Pottinger’s contentious campaign to represent Oakbay and the Gupta family.

The PRCA said its Professional Practices Committee was unanimous in the view that Bell Pottinger’s Oakbay campaign breached four separate clauses in the industry body’s codes of conduct and professional charter. It recommended that the PRCA board terminate Bell Pottinger’s membership with immediate effect.

“The board approved that recommendation unanimously,” the PRCA said in the statement.

PRCA director general Francis Ingham said the association had never before passed such a "damning indictment of an agency’s behaviour".

Among the clauses that the PRCA found Bell Pottinger to have breached, was one that forbid public relations companies from causing offence “on the grounds of gender, race, religion, disability or any other form of discrimination”. 

In response, Bell Pottinger said on Tuesday that it would continue adhering to the association’s rules and regulations. 

“In common with those of our major competitors who are not corporate members of the PRCA, we will abide by the PRCA code of ethical conduct on a voluntary basis,” said Bell Pottinger in a statement.  

“The overwhelming majority of our partners and employees played no part in the Oakbay Capital account and have not been accused of breaching the PRCA code. Many of them will now consider applying for individual membership,” it said. 

On Monday the PR company’s chief executive James Henderson resigned, saying he felt “deeply let down” by Bell Pottinger colleagues whom, he claimed, misled him about the content of the Oakbay account.

Other parts of the Bell Pottinger empire were on Tuesday distancing themselves from work done for the Gupta family and Oakbay.

Archie Berens, managing director of Bell Pottinger Middle East, told Fin24 that Bell Pottinger Middle East did no work on the Oakbay accounts. 

“In fact we actively turned down the opportunity to do so,” he said. “Our business in the region remains strong and we continue to deliver exceptional work on behalf of our clients.”

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