Less than 24 hours after Adweek reported that Edelman, the world’s largest PR firm, ended its contract with private prison company The Geo Group, the former client fired back.
A spokesman described unflattering media coverage of his company as “politically motivated attacks” and suggested Edelman bowed to political pressure in deciding to terminate the contract.
“It’s truly disappointing that a renowned public relations firm, which prides itself on helping companies tell their story, would allow the personal political beliefs of some employees to undermine a business contract,” wrote representative Pablo Paez in an email to Adweek. “The Edelman senior-level staff assigned to the contract visited our facilities, talked to our employees, heard directly from individuals entrusted to our care, and based on first-hand observations acknowledged that the story being told about our company in the media is based on false narratives and deliberate mischaracterizations.”
Paez added: “Edelman’s decision sends a chilling message to their other private-sector clients who may in the future come under politically motivated attacks.” When asked to clarify, he said the quote referred to efforts by “well-funded outside groups” to generate negative media coverage of The Geo Group.
Edelman declined to comment beyond Tuesday’s statement confirming it had decided “not to proceed with this work.”
Adweek reported that the firm won The Geo Group’s business in a non-compete pitch, and that the contract began July 1. After several days of internal debate and multiple meetings regarding the business, leadership in Edelman’s Washington, D.C., office confirmed the company would end the relationship.
According to multiple sources with knowledge of the matter, Edelman chose to resign due to the objections of its own staff and concerns that its relationship with The Geo Group could affect dealings with other clients such as Wells Fargo, which has publicly distanced itself from the private prison industry.
Edelman declined to confirm or deny claims that The Geo Group competitor CoreCivic was also a client until its contract expired in June.
One source within Edelman said U.S. CEO Russell Dubner forwarded the company’s statement to employees Tuesday night as soon as Adweek and The New York Times ran competing stories about the firm and its client parting ways. The news coverage “clearly hit a nerve,” the source said.