One of the industry’s pioneers, Freud has promised to protect staff jobs, wages and families as the agency doubles down to help struggling clients.
Freuds, which has about 450 staff, is the biggest communications agency PRWeek is aware of to guarantee job and wage security in response to the pandemic, which is predicted to lead the UK into recession. The message was delivered to all agencies in Freuds parent group, The Brewery.
In a passionate and deeply thoughtful staff email, seen by PRWeek, Freud said the agency is “completely committed to our work and people” and will not lay anyone off, reduce salaries or ask staff to “share the pain of what will be tough economic times, any more than your share of the rewards of our success”. In other words, staff can expect fewer parties, bonuses and treats.
“We will support you in any way that we can,” he continued. “If you get sick, we will try and make sure you get everything you need. That goes for your families and dependents, too. If you are struggling, we will help.
“It is easy to talk about values. But at times like these, it is not talk that matters. I am resolute in ensuring that freuds and the brewery companies will make the best of this mad episode and that includes the welfare of our entire community.”
‘Our country depends on you’
Freud described the coronavirus pandemic as a “uniquely challenging” and “unprecedented” situation during which staff must “increase your effort and work ethic over the coming months” to help clients through the global health crisis and subsequent recession.
Freuds provides communications and crisis advice to several leading organisations at the frontline of tackling COVID-19, including the NHS, the Home Office, 10 Downing Street, the Department of Health, Public Health England, London's City Hall, the UNHCR and World Health Organization.
“Every single company that we work with is actively engaged in doing as much as they can to assist in this effort. I have finished every day for the last two weeks proud of their courage and commitment and proud of our role in helping them to articulate and execute it,” Freud wrote.
“There may never be a time when our contribution and expertise has been put to better use, and although exhausted, stressed, scared and daunted, I am so proud to have the opportunity to play a role and determined to do everything I can to not fuck it up.”
He continued: “We are key workers, any way you look at it. I am depending on you and the country is depending on us to do everything we can to contribute. It is our responsibility, but more than that it is an opportunity for us to meaningfully help and I would be heartbroken if we didn’t deliver.”
Greta Thunberg with activists at the World Economic Forum. (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI, Getty Images)
Can COVID-19 cure HUBR-15
Freuds has a track-record of running meaningful campaigns that have changed the face of communications, with Freud widely regarded as a revolutionary in the industry.
The agency was behind cultural phenomena such as Live 8, Comic Relief and Product (RED), and has a long history of purpose-led work.
In his address to staff, Freud said it was his hope the coronavirus pandemic would “force us to confront the massive problems that we weren’t dealing with, even though it was obvious that we needed to".
“I have found the world to be a very troubling place over the last few years,” he said. “It looked to me like our world was in serious trouble, but by and large the mood music was jolly.
“The economy has felt so fragile to me and social injustice screaming from every news story, but the complacency and inertia was overwhelming. The stock markets were flying (I don’t do shares) and the cloud of smug emanating from the global elite was contributing to the toxic air quality that is choking our children."
Freuds is regularly involved in organising events at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Freud believes Swedish climate-change activist Greta Thunberg (pictured above), who delivered an impassioned plead for business leaders to do more to tackle climate change, "wasn't angry enough", and that the issue is largely approached "like an irritation rather than an existential threat" in polite discussions in alpine retreats.
“I couldn’t make sense of the disconnect between what I saw and what I heard," he explained. "It seems to have taken COVID-19 to bring the world to its senses. It may even have cured the other epidemic of HUBR-15 which has been rampantly spreading through certain sections of society.
“The economic devastation that is beginning to break like a tsunami over us is triggered by COVID-19, but it is not because of COVID-19. The insanity of a market-led economy that only thought about profit for the last decade has left millions in the perilous state that only now will be recognised and addressed.”
Freud, who is a PRWeek UK Hall of Famer, believes the coronavirus emergency will prove that society can reduce carbon emissions overnight if required, prioritise the elderly and vulnerable, and pump money and care into the NHS.
He said it also shows society can support people disposable to their employers, and subsidise companies that face massive challenges from global competitors who avoid tax and do not need to be profitable.
“Perhaps most importantly, we can pull together as a nation and a community to overcome almost any obstacle,” he added.
“I am not happy that COVID-19 is here, but I genuinely believe that the world on the other side of it will be more functional, more human and more honest than the Trumpian, Brexiteering pantomime of the last four years.”