As a global PR firm, Edelman makes a lot of money helping its clients manage their reputation. Unfortunately this morning it’s having to deal with some unwelcome publicity all of its own, after a group of climate change campaigners descended on its offices in central London. Some took to the roof, while others glued themselves together in the lobby with nothing but a large pink banner proclaiming ‘Climate Lies Uncovered’ to preserve their modesty – apparently a reference to the firm’s work for energy firm E.On, promoting a new coal-fired power station. How are they going to spin their way out of this?
The protest is part of a two-pronged attack on the City this morning – protesters also showed up at state-owned bank RBS, blockading the doors and unfurling banners complaining about the bank’s investments in fossil fuel projects (like the tar sands extraction in Canada). ‘RBS is 70%-owned by the public but it is completely against the public interest for our money to be used to fund climate change,’ said one of the hemp-clad eco-warriors told the Guardian. ‘Yet again, the banks are putting profit over people.’
The good news for RBS is that after the events of the last 18 months, it would be hard for it to sink much lower in the public’s esteem – and since these protesters are just stopping people who have absolutely no connection with this tar sands investments getting into work, and thus hindering RBS’s attempts to recover sufficiently to pay back taxpayers’ money, we’re not sure this idea is terribly well thought through (what are the chances).
The situation’s rather more complicated for Edelman, however. In an ideal world, it wants to be seeing its clients’ names in the headlines rather than its own – and it certainly won’t like having a load of Climate Camp protesters in the buff in their lobby, accusing them of being the ‘new coal spin doctors’. They’re apparently doing some work for E.On on promoting a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth in Kent, the site of last year’s Climate Camp – and unusually, the eco-warriors are going after them as well as E.On itself. It’s a timely reminder that advisers aren’t going to be able to stay in the shadows if they get involved with this kind of work.
Sadly for Edelman, their usual charms may prove ineffective on people who are clearly more interested in publicity than debate – our spy on the ground tells us that Edelman’s CEO has offered to discuss the protesters’ concerns with them directly, but they’ve declined. But the smooth PR types must secretly admire the attention-grabbing nature of this particular stunt. Let’s hope it doesn’t turn out that some rival PR firm dreamed up the idea...
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