Fossil fuel-friendly PR agencies' PR problem gets worse
Hundreds of climate scientists shoot aim flak at flacks with oil company clients
(A native of England, Matthew Diebel is a veteran journalist who has worked at NBC News, Time, USA Today and News Corp., among other organizations. Having spent his childhood next to one of the world's fastest bodies of water, he is particularly interested in tidal energy.)
. . . . In November we reported how PR giant Edelman had its own embarrassing PR problem — a campaign called #EdelmanDropExxon, which called on the flackery giant to drop America’s biggest (and, many say, baddest) fossil fuel company from its client roster.
Now, reports Reuters, Edelman and other image-polishers such as WPP (WPP) and Interpublic (IPG) — as well as the CEOs of their clients who promote sustainability goals, including Unilever (UL), Amazon (AMZN) and Microsoft (MSFT) — have come under attack from a group of 450 scientists for spreading disinformation about climate change.
“As scientists who study and communicate the realities of climate change, we are constantly faced with a significant and unnecessary challenge: overcoming the advertising and public relations efforts of fossil fuel companies that seek to obfuscate or downplay our data and the risks posed by the climate crisis,” penned the academics.
In addition, Penn State climatologist Michael Mann, one of the signatories of the letter, complained that he and his colleagues “have been drowned out by these public relations campaigns funded by the fossil fuel industry.”
In typical PR fashion, the agencies have issued smooth assurances. “WPP recognizes the importance of its role in addressing climate change by applying rigorous standards to the content we produce and helping customers accelerate the world’s transition to a lower carbon economy,” the company intoned in 2020. Meanwhile, Edelman said it would establish a panel of “outside climate experts to provide input and guidance on strategy and assignments and customer concerns” and that it is reviewing its client roster to “align with a new sustainability strategy.”
Meanwhile, no doubt, hoping that the critics go away, persuaded by clouds of pixie dust. . . .