This story has it all — corporate deception…shady characters…government corruption…civil unrest. This isn’t the Rock’s new action movie. Nope. It is about a PR agency gone rogue.
In 2017, UK-based marketing communications consultancy Bell Pottinger experienced a stunning collapse after its work for an Indian billionaire with close ties to the South African government came to light. I encourage you to spend a few minutes with the New York Times’ riveting profile:
Even for marketers who have an unwavering commitment to professional standards, the tale of Bell Pottinger offers important lessons.
- When it comes to clients (or corporate management) it is important to trust, but verify. If something seems out of place or feels wrong, we have a responsibility to question authority; to seek clarity. Clients can be replaced. A new job can be found. A soiled professional reputation is near impossible to shake.
- The power of compelling content is clear and undeniable. It shapes opinion. Creates momentum. Inspires audiences. Bell Pottinger chose the dark side. For ethical companies, thought leadership can enhance valuation, sales, culture and recruitment.
- Search and social connect marketers to an audience of millions. Exceptional content with little regard for or investment in distribution is a missed opportunity. Define, test and tweak organic search. Spend wisely on social media advertising. Sponsor and contribute to credible buyer communities.