Give UK regulators a ‘Bells’!
NEWS that UK-based public relations firm Bell Pottinger has been found to have breached at least one of the Public Relations and Communications Association regulations should be a note to all involved in political communications and not just those involved in public relations.
It was the late 19th and early 20th century general and military theorist Carl Philipp von Clausewitz who famously said: “War is the continuation of politics by other means.” Over time, the phrase has had several modifications but all the translations agree that politics is, or should be, a less bloody way of settling conflicts among competing interests in society and in the world.
It would appear Bell Pottinger took at step further and believed that all is fair in love and war. To them, the means to a political objective are justified by the end. The firm will know at a high cost to its reputation, and possibly its bottom line, that their attitude is unacceptable.
To recap, the British firm known to be the preferred agency by the rich, famous and infamous, has been accused of aiding the controversial Gupta family create a narrative with the potential to exacerbate racial divisions in South Africa.
The Public Relations and Communications Association has not said what the decision on the case against the agency was, except that certain processes had to be followed and that Bell Pottinger had the right to appeal against the final decision, which would confirm whether the agency was guilty of any of the charges against it, and which would be known in the week starting September 4.
The message to political players in South Africa and perhaps worldwide is that they had better be careful how they play their game. They must be careful that as they use catchphrases to excite the political space and perhaps win votes or followers, they will be held responsible for what they say and the consequences of their utterances.