Edelman is a US company and the largest public relations firm in the world. It has 67 offices world wide, approx 7,000 employees and, in 2018, it was listed number 4 in the list of 200 Most Influential PR Companies by Richtopia. Here’s a rather polished and professional promo advert for Edelman UK.. watch out for guest appearances from Tony Blair and Amber Rudd…
But what does it say about Luciana Berger and Chuka Umunna that they would take top jobs with a major global PR company that has a track record like this (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edelman_(firm))?….
Working Families for Wal-Mart front group
In the 2000s, Edelman created a front group called the Working Families for Wal-Mart, which said it was a grassroots organization, but was actually funded by Wal-Mart. It paid two bloggers to travel the country interviewing Wal-Mart employees, one of whom was a senior Edelman employee’s sister. According to The New Yorker, “everyone she talked to was delighted with Wal-Mart”. In 2006, BusinessWeek reported that the public relations effort, which was positioned as a grassroots blog, was actually paid for by Wal-Mart. The New Yorker called it a “blatant example of astroturfing”.
E.ON Kingsnorth coal power station
In 2008 Edelman’s work with E.ON, which planned to build a coal power station at Kingsnorth attracted protests at Edelman’s UK headquarters. In 2009, to coincide with the weeklong “Climate Camp” range of protests, a group of naked protestors occupied Edelman’s reception.
Keystone XL pipeline and climate change deniers
Edelman was commissioned by TransCanada Corporation to run campaigns supporting the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed pipeline to carry tar sands oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf coast of Texas. Edelman also developed a strategy for the proposed Energy East pipeline intended to carry tar sands oil through Québec, en route to a deep water harbor at Cacouna, Quebec for export abroad in supertankers and to refineries in New Brunswick. This resulted in a major controversy when documents leaked to Greenpeace revealed that Edelman had made some unethical proposals to sway public opinion in favor of its client. TransCanada distanced itself from those proposals as soon as the “dirty tricks” were published in the press.
News Corporation phone hacking scandal
Edelman provided crisis communications to News Corporation during the phone hacking scandal. Other clients have included Vidal Sassoon, Red Cross, Cantor Fitzgerald, Royal Dutch Shell, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Starbucks and the government of Saudi Arabia. It has used front groups to help the American Petroleum Institute reduce the perceived environmental damage caused by oil companies.
Russia and Yukos
In June 2016, Edelman was hired by the International Centre for Legal Protection (ICLP), led by Andrey Kondakov, former director in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The company was hired to “turn the tide of public opinion” and “help influence U.S. opinion on a massive court verdict involving the oil giant Yukos.”
Equifax privacy breach crisis control
Equifax hired Edelman for crisis control after the October 2017 privacy breach.
Geo Group private prison
Edelman supported private prison company GEO Group and helped in “laundering the reputation of private US concentration camps” in July 2019. In May 2019, executives from the Washington, DC office, including office president Lisa Ross and former Trump White House deputy press secretary, Lindsay Walters, went to Florida to present the pitch. In June, when word spread across the company that the work was being pursued, debate sprang up on networking app Fishbowl. The work was resigned by Edelman in July 2019 and announced during an all-hands meeting in Washington. On Fishbowl, an employee commented that the executives “took the opportunity to basically shame us for ruining the work for the company because they couldn’t trust us not to leak it to the press.” Other employees on Fishbowl made similar comments. Edelman has also refused to confirm they did similar work for another major private prison company, CoreCivic.
Also, in 2015 a grassroots direct action network group staged an event at Edelman’s UK offices to protest against the tactics they use to promote fracking. Two activists posing as a pregnant woman and her husband, filmed themselves entering the Edelman building and delivering ‘a fracked baby’, after a number of health institutes reported up to a 30% increase in certain birth defects for babies born to parents living close to fracking sites.
Even more worrying, potentially, is how closely Edelman work with senior politicians and Broadcast media officials. You’ll see the likes of Amber Rudd, Jacob Rees-Mogg, David Milliband, Jess Phillips, Stella Creasy, Tony Blair and even Tony Hall (Director General at the BBC) giving speeches at the Edelman ‘Trust Barometer’ events and you can even see how politicians formulate strategies and how that impacts on Edelman’s approach. For example, here’s an Edelman campaign specialist commenting in an ‘Election Briefing Wrap Up’ video from March 2015, in which he explains that the upcoming election campaign will be different because all the main parties are “interested in using the online forum as another arena for electioneering and that seems set to join broadcast and print media as a key election ground for the parties to try and get their message across”…
However, by January 2019, once it had been established that left wing activists were easily winning the online forum campaign battle, it was clear to key, right wing and neo-liberal political figures that something had to be done to either take that platform away completely or at least severely curtail left wing dominance on social media.
It would also have to be more than mere coincidence, one would have thought, that Lady Nicola Sharon Mendelsohn, wife of Baron Jonathan Mendelsohn (a Labour Party life peer since September 2013), was named vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa for Facebook in June 2013. According to the Daily Telegraph, Lady Mendelsohn is “the most powerful woman in the British tech industry”. It is equally unsurprising that the former leader of the LIberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister of the UK, Nick Clegg, got appointed Vice-President for Global Affairs and Communications at Facebook in 2018.
With the likes of Luciana Berger and Chuka Umunna now joining the ranks of Edelman UK, I think it’s going to be interesting to observe the direction the company now takes in respect of the guidance they give to key political figures and campaign groups.
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