The PR week: The good, the bad and the bizarre from the last seven days

Your rapid-fire review of the global goings-on in PR, as viewed by PRWeek Asia head of content Gary Scattergood.

Alibaba has come out fighting
Alibaba has come out fighting

Not short, and not sweet

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba hasn’t had the best week after facing a mauling from investor mag Barron’s – which claimed its share price could continue to fall by another 50 per cent.

Alibaba has been under the media spotlight since being the subject of the world’s biggest IPO last year, and a fair chunk of the coverage has been negative. The Barron’s article, however, seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back with Jim Wilkinson, Alibaba's senior vice president, International Corporate Affairs, penning a lengthy response to the publication’s editor and president Edwin Finn.

And he didn’t hold back.

"Your September 12 article with the sensational headline "Alibaba: Why It Could Fall 50% Further" lacks three key ingredients – integrity, professionalism and fair play," wrote Wilkinson.

"We urge you to issue a correction and we stand ready to discuss this with you at any time."

While no-one is in any doubt of the strength of Alibaba’s feelings, opinions remain divided over whether a 1900-word missive was the correct PR response.

Either way, for the sake of Alibaba’s highly scrutinized bottom line, we hope Wilkinson isn’t being paid by the word.

Flying low

Another firm hitting back this week is European low-cost airline Ryanair, after it came bottom of a recent YouGov survey for PRWeek of major companies and brands the British public consider to be ethical and responsible.

Ryanair head of comms Robin Kiely put forward the ethical case for the controversial airline – which has been making a concerted push to improve its reputation in recent year’s after outspoken owner Michael O’Leary said it had to be "more fluffy".

Writing for PRWeek, Kiely said: "Ultimately, it comes down to choice. Consumers choose what’s best for them, or not, for their own reasons. People vote with their feet, or in Ryanair’s case, their bums, as well as with their hearts and minds, and an additional 14 such bums can be found seated on every Ryanair plane this year."

Spirited defence aside, we hope that last line means Ryanair planes are now more full and not that they’ve crammed in more seats, thereby further reducing the less-than-generous leg room on their flights.

Playing it clean

It might be the world’s biggest PR firm, but Edelman was less than keen on elaborating on its own latest PR decision this week.

According to The Guardian, the agency has reportedly decided to stop working with clients that produce coal or deny climate change in an effort to protect its own reputation..

"On climate denial and coal, those are where we just said this is absolutely a no-go area," Michael Stewart, president and CEO of Edelman Europe, told the Guardian.

In an email to the agency’s global management team in July, Edelman COO Matthew Harrington wrote: "When it comes to determining our client assignments, the only issue that experts repeatedly advised Edelman to stay away from was climate change deniers/denial and related activities," according to The Guardian.

When PRWeek reached out to Edelman about the changes, a spokesperson said via email, "Our comment on those issues appeared in The Guardian article. We are not commenting further."

Where’s Edelman’s version of Jim '1900 words' Wilkinson when you need him?

Movers and Shakers

In Asia, International property group Grosvenor Asia-Pacific has hired Amanda Cheung from Edelman as director of marketing and communications; Ex-Ketchum exec Kitty Parkes has been named global PR lead for architecture firm Lead-8; and Ruder Finn has promoted three members of staff to senior positions in its China leadership team.

In the UK, The City of London Corporation - the local government for the Square Mile - has appointed fomer Labour Party head of comms Bob Roberts as its new comms director; ex-Instinctif partner and Hill+Knowlton UK MD Ben Curson joined CNC as managing director; and FleishmanHillard's head of healthcare in the UK Dan Kent is leaving the business.

In the US, Brian Burlingame is to replace Jeffrey Sharlach as JeffreyGroup CEO and Weber Shandwick named Jennifer Sosin and Josh Gilbert to newly created global roles.

In terms of new business wins, Global asset management firm Henderson Global Investors has appointed FTI Consulting to provide financial and corporate comms support; Diamond producer Lucara Diamond Corp has appointed Portland for a Europe-wide comms brief; and Rice Communications has strengthened its consumer presence in Singapore with three new deals.

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