LONDON: The PRCA (Public Relations and Communications Association) called out the Global Alliance of Public Relations and Communication Management after the trade body forbade one of its U.S.-based members from future direct communication.
In a lengthy exchange on Twitter, Mary Beth West, a senior strategist at Fletcher Marketing PR, questioned Jean Valin, a founding member of Global Alliance, about whether the alliance could enforce its code of ethics by holding its member organizations accountable.
In one of her tweets, West posted a screenshot of an email she sent to the Global Alliance’s chief administration officer Mateus Furlanetto.
Very helpful information! And bravo to the GA for having a compliance mandate (breaking news, @Meadepr!). I never rec’d such an answer to my question from the original email I sent to the GA nearly 2 months ago. @Global_Alliance, what is process to launch a suspension inquiry? pic.twitter.com/uKLIwHrckG— Mary Beth West, MPRCA (@marybethwest) February 4, 2020
The Global Alliance, which is comprised of dozens of organizations worldwide, including U.S. trade body the PRSA, then took the unprecedented step of cutting off all direct communication with the U.S.-based PR pro.
In an email to West, Furlanetto expressed “extreme disappointment and concern” that West published “private correspondence” on a public platform.
“We find this totally unacceptable,” he wrote to her. “Therefore, to protect our staff, members and our organization we will no longer engage with any future enquiries submitted directly by you.”
He added that the alliance is willing, however, to accept correspondence submitted on West’s behalf “from your official Global Alliance member PRSA or your legal representative,” Furlanetto said via email. “Regrettably, this is the first time in the 20-year history of our international global organization that such regrettable steps have had to be implemented to protect our staff, board members and organization.”
West said her correspondence with the Global Alliance was never marked as being confidential.
“This is a conversation we should be welcoming as an industry – not shutting down,” said Francis Ingham, director general of PRCA, in a statement.
“I find it shocking they chose to do that when nothing I communicated or the manner in which I communicated was inaccurate or unprofessional in any way,” West said. “I don’t understand the basis of that decision.”
Furlanetto said via email West’s publication of her emails concerned Global Alliance from a “data protection and simple fairness perspective.”
“As a voluntary, not-for-profit membership organization we have a primary obligation to ensure our staff and the members of Global Alliance are treated fairly, honestly and truthfully,” he added via email. “Global Alliance must ensure that both parties involved in any complaint process maintain confidentiality to respect the rights of all parties and not to prejudice the matter.”
Global Alliance declared February as the month to “help raise the awareness of ethics in PR and communications,” using the hashtag #EthicsMatter to promote the program. The issue became a lightning rod in the PR industry following the Bell Pottinger scandal.
Working on behalf of Oakbay Investments, Bell Pottinger inflamed racial tensions in a controversial campaign. The PRCA later blacklisted the firm, leading to its collapse in 2017.
“I will only say this much,” Valin said in a message on Twitter to PRWeek. “My comments have been made in private to GA leadership and I wish it to remain that way.”