07/07/2017 14:01 SAST | Updated 07/07/2017 14:02 SAST

Who Briefed Bell Pottinger And What Did It Say?

No public relations firm acts on its own, the desired outcome of any PR campaign comes from the client.

PA Archive / PA Images
Anti-fracking demonstrators outside the office of Bell Pottinger in High Holborn in central London, UK.

Bell Pottinger is a public relations firm that just does what their clients request of them. I don't think they have ever taken into consideration the morality of what they are doing. I'm also not sure if many other such companies look at the morality aspect of their work, because money seems to be far more important than morality.

Bell Pottinger's apology isn't good enough. The company has probably been hoping for months that the outrage and media attention will all just go away and it clearly hasn't, and their apology is merely another spin to try and make it disappear. What we need more than anything is to find out who briefed them and what the brief said. Bell Pottinger needs to tell us who gave them their directive.

What happens with PR companies is that clients brief them thoroughly regarding what is expected of them, and I'm wondering if they were told to make the Guptas and President Jacob Zuma look good. If this was the case, then it is important for South Africans to know who sat down with this PR firm and gave them their instructions, because Bell Pottinger did not do this on their own.

It is clear that they worked from the objectives they were given and the concept of white monopoly capital, which Bell Pottinger clearly dreamt up, was in response to a directive from their client. This can only mean that whatever brief they were given was meant to destabilise the South African economy.

The idea of them making recompense by donating money to the Nelson Mandela Fund, etcetera is nonsense and simply a means of getting out of the situation they are in. This is precisely why pressure should be kept up on the firm to divulge who gave them their brief and what it said. Without it, this entire campaign against Bell Pottinger is pointless. The brief will determine if the PR firm was just spinning or if it was interfering in the affairs of another country.

This is not new in public relations. There are other examples regarding US President Donald Trump and his PR team. There is no morality in it whatsoever. One needs to be extremely careful as a government when you employ people.

Zuma and the current government, with the help of companies such as Bell Pottinger, have stirred up a hornet's nest of racism.

The insanity of this situation is that our government deemed it fit to go overseas, to England, to hire a PR firm to do a job for them. It's crazy. We have PR talent in South Africa who are competent and can do the job equally well. It is ludicrous that we had all that money going overseas to spin doctors in London.

To a great degree, this is how it works in PR. I am not aware of many PR firms that have turned down an account because they don't agree with the brief or philosophy of the company employing them. It is extremely rare for a PR firm to say no, sorry, morally we cannot accept that - especially when there is big money to be earned. This is not, however, unique to PR companies. In business in general, morality and money simply do not go together. Money wins.

From a public relations perspective, the fallout is enormous and I don't think anyone will ever understand the extent of the damage Bell Pottinger has done. The situation has created unprecedented racial tensions in this country. Zuma and the current government, with the help of companies such as Bell Pottinger, have stirred up a hornet's nest of racism. And this is all a direct result of Bell Pottinger's campaign of white monopoly capital and the blatant promotion of racism, which has damaged the social fabric of South Africa in an enormous way.