For one of the world’s best known PR men, Lord Bell really should have known better. After reading the interview he gave to the Financial Times yesterday, Bell was clearly inclined to agree. Apologising in a grovelling internal email to staff he concluded: “I am supposed to know how to deal with journalists, friendly or hostile”.
The interview is a crash course in terrible PR. Bell, who boasts South African bank Investec among his blue-chip clients, harks after the days of nepotism and calls bankers “complete criminals”. “Some of the things I’ve done have been terrible, but I find them very funny” he is quoted as saying, adding that Twitter is “the end of civilisation” whilst reclining in his chair, shirt unbuttoned just a little too far.
It’s that last detail that really set tongues in the Bell Pottinger office wagging yesterday, with staff poring exasperatedly over the damning copy as others sought to pacify angry clients.
Adding insult to injury, Bell failed to follow his own golden rule in his mea culpa email: admit a mistake but never apologise. His staff must be wondering if the famed PR man is losing his touch.
‘I apologise for the aggravation I have caused and the upset I have caused any of my colleagues. If I need to talk to upset clients you know I will and will do so successfully.’