Will some pr companies stop at nothing?

Over the years we have seen many US PR firms undertake campaigns which range from the unethical to the outright dishonest. In the UK Bell Pottinger, literally as well as metaphorically (just to show the blog is among the fuddy duddies who insist on the distinction between the two), saw its company and brand destroyed after its work for the Gupta brothers in SouthAfrica.

 Now we have an Israeli PR company joining the guilty parties, and  making the front page of The Australian Jewish News (7 December 2018),  because of its work for Malka Leifer- the woman Australian authorities are trying to extradite to Australia to face 74 counts of alleged child sexual abuse.

Now the blog is not a regular AJN reader but a friend, knowing the blog’s interest in PR firms acting badly, gave the blog the relevant page. The PR consultant involved, Ronen Tzur, tried to build a campaign around the idea that Leifer was a grandmother deserving of sympathy while trying to discredit the Israeli psychiatrists who think she is fit to face extradition. Not content with impugning the psychiatrists the consultant also tried to discredit the Israeli Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, as ‘rotten’ by claiming that she had links to “wealthy Australians and the Australian regime.” Local Israeli PR consultant, Ran Rahav, described the campaign as a ‘disgrace’.

 Now no one would for a minute think that the Scott Morrison government and its predecessors, as well as Australian courts, were part of a regime. In Morrison’s case he’s not competent enough to head a government let alone ‘regime’. But more importantly the Tzur smears are frighteningly reminiscent of Hungarian, Polish and US conservatives’ attacks on George Soros.

 Tzur initially justified his work by saying: “To fight for this truth is right and a matter of pride and I will continue to do so” –but when the AJN contacted his colleague, Ofer Rosenbaum, a crisis communication specialist who was managing the Leifer case for Tzur, it was told the Leifer account had been closed.  

Rosenbaum told the AJN: “For the last few days we are not with the Leifer family anymore.” The Leifer family lawyer, Yehuda Fried, said: “This entire campaign had nothing to do with the family.” Now the blog, and its firm, took on many pro bono clients but can’t help thinking this may be the only example it knows of a PR company taking on a PR campaign on a pro bono basis without telling the client.

The Bell Pottinger group collapsed following the revelations about its work for the Gupta brothers in South Africa. Mr Tzur may suffer the same fate although, presumably, without the crash being associated with millions of rands, or its equivalent in shekels, in lost fees and debts.

 It should be said that the blog knows little about Israeli PR companies although it did spend some time chatting with a representative of Gitam Porter Novelli – part of the Porter Novelli network of global companies of which the blog’s firm was part – at a global conference inMiami a long time ago.

 Some of the conversation was about how sorry the blog was to miss the bar mitzvah of a friend’s, son. But none of the rest of conversation, about the Australian and Israeli PR industries, gave any indication that people like Tzur were operating there.

Now, as PR firms behaving badly spread around the world, it could be an excellent theme for a future International History of PR Conference in its second (see last blog) decade.