Adweek reported PR shithole Edelman is facing heat over a blog post that called the death of Robin Williams “an opportunity.” Gawker already skewered the place for its corporate clumsiness and cluelessness, so there’s no need to pile more dung onto that particular heap. The fiasco does, however, present an opportunity to rip Edelman in a different way. In recent years, the PR giant has sought to position itself as a digital expert. It’s another sad example of every communications company—from traditional advertising agencies to shopper marketing firms—claiming to be an online guru. Anyone who has ever worked firsthand at Edelman can attest that the place is not qualified to reboot a laptop, let alone spark intelligent conversations on the World Wide Web. Hell, the joint can’t even produce print ads or PowerPoint presentations. Yet here is an Edelman executive vice president definitely demonstrating digital dumbness—and having the hubris to leave the offending post for all to see. Need additional proof that Edelman has no business labeling itself as digitally savvy? In 2011, they rated MultiCultClassics as impressively influential and admirably trusted. The PR wonks clearly don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.
PR Giant Edelman Apologizes for Calling Robin Williams’ Death an ‘Opportunity’
But says blog post on sparking mental health discussion will remain live
By David Griner
Edelman is usually tapped with helping brands avoid or disentangle themselves from public backlash, but the global PR firm instead found itself in the hot seat this week.
At issue was a blog post from media relations strategy evp Lisa Kovitz, who said the suicide of comedian Robin Williams created a PR opportunity for groups advocating for better treatment of mental illness.
“As we mourn the loss of Robin Williams to depression, we must recognize it as an opportunity to engage in a national conversation,” she wrote. “His death yesterday created a carpe diem moment for mental health professionals and those people who have suffered with depression and want to make a point about the condition and the system that treats it.”
While she certainly has a point about such a high-profile tragedy bringing mental health and depression into the spotlight, quite a few readers found the post to be in poor taste.
Most of the backlash likely stemmed from Gawker’s writeup calling Edelman a “soulless PR conglomerate” using a celebrity’s suicide to promote its own expertise.
Asked by Adweek whether she regretted the phrasing or the intent of the blog post, Kovitz directed us to Edelman’s tweet of apology this morning:
Despite the company’s apology, Kovitz said the blog post “will remain live.”
Most critics of the post said they felt it was positioned as a sales message for the PR agency:
“Using someone’s death as an opportunity to position yourself as THE PR company to walk potential clients through the best way to benefit from this ‘conversation’ is callous,” said commenter Erin Blaskie, who shared her complaint with her 30,000 Twitter followers as well. “Instructing potential clients to pay your firm money to help them take advantage of this situation is gross. This isn’t a PR opportunity. This is someone’s life lost.”