More than one-third of respondents to a PRWeek online poll said Edelman was correct to apologize for an agency blog post saying the suicide of Robin Williams was an opportunity to promote mental-health organizations.
More than 34% of respondents said Edelman’s blog post "came off as self-promotional, disrespectful, and boorish," the leading vote-getter as of noon on Monday.
However, more than 32% of respondents gave the firm the benefit of the doubt, voting that "the language wasn’t as articulate as it could have been, but the intention to promote mental health is always a good one."
More than 16% agreed with the statement that the uproar over the blog post was "a fake controversy," that "a number of blogs completely misrepresented the position Edelman took."
In fourth place was the statement that "we all know PR firms promote their clients in circumstances everyone wouldn’t approve of, but Edelman should have known better than to blog about it." Meanwhile, the response that "a PR firm’s job is to promote its clients. Like it or not, that’s what it had to do at the time" garnered only 4% of responses.
As of noon on Monday, 185 readers had responded to the poll. The vast majority were from the US.
Edelman EVP and media strategist Lisa Kovitz penned the blog on Edelman’s website last Tuesday, the day after Williams was found dead of a suicide. Under the headline "Carpe Diem," a reference to the actor’s classic film Dead Poets Society, Kovitz argued that Williams’ death "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."
"There’s a very careful line they need to walk so as to not seem exploitive of a terrible situation but at the same time, it is a national teachable moment that shouldn’t be ignored. (We too are balancing that line with this post," she said.
The post took a beating on blogs such as Gawker, which referred to Edelman as a "soulless PR conglomerate."
Edelman left the post up, but added an update two days later, saying, "We apologize to anyone offended by this post. It was not our intent to capitalize on the passing of a great actor who contributed so much."
We apologize to anyone we offended with our post. We did not intend to capitalize on the passing of a great actor who contributed so much.— Edelman PR (@EdelmanPR) August 14, 2014
The blog post was also the impetus for a passionate back and forth on PRWeek’s Facebook page.
"I don’t think this is different than what any PR agency would strategize. Typical of the business model," said Maryanne Caruso. "However, the greater good would suggest that Williams’ tragic death should call to greater light the need to raise greater awareness of clinical depression."
Tim Doke said: "The offensiveness of the original post is exceeded only by those of its defenders. Clueless."