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The Right to Defend

Richard Levick speaks with PRovoke Media in support of the right of public relations firms to work with the fossil fuel industry.

“There’s no question that 20 years ago Exxon and most of the Seven Sisters were involved in anti-climate change communications. There is no question that they were, from an activist’s perspective, on the wrong side,” said Levick chairman & CEO Richard Levick, whose past clients include Chevron and Citgo. “But flash forward a decade and a half, and they are starting to move in the right direction.”

Communicators also said that working with an energy company — or any company that has a mix of businesses under its umbrella — comes down to how any such relationship sits with employees, and whether it is in line with an agency’s ethos. “In the end, you have to make one of those calls,” an agency leader said, on condition of anonymity.

And then there is the industry’s proclivity for working with clients that raise ethical questions — oppressive regimes, arms companies and big sugar, in addition to tobacco and energy among others. Much of that can be tied to the belief that doing ethical work, even for unethical clients, can lead to reform and better behavior. PR agencies must also reckon with how this kind of work affects their own image on a worldwide stage. Read more

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