It's OK to Spin for Terrorists, but Not the World Cup

Representing sports is off-limits, but terrorists are acceptable.

Ronn Torossian

OpEds Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian

This week, PR Week uncovered via a front-page expose that “Two of the five top-tier global PR agencies that FIFA invited to pitch for an assignment burnishing the reputation of the next two World Cups have pulled themselves out of contention,” as “industry insiders say the winning shop could face reputational risks to its own business.” Concern came from the fact that the 2018 FIFA World Cup is in Russia, and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.  

Those who seek to kill innocents - and do - are acceptable clients for whom pr agencies try to influence public opinion through the media.
The feeling is that to represent sports in this region is, as a source said, “mission impossible.” Spinning the largest sporting event in the world is deemed unacceptable for some of my peers in the public relations world. Scandal in sports is unacceptable.

On the other hand, when it comes to representing terrorist nations, some of these same PR firms do not have qualms. Qatar, which has Sharia law, discrimination against gays and women, and is a major funder of Hamas, is represented by major international Public Relations firm, Portland Communications, “for a communications/political push targeted at Congress and federal agencies to improve ties with the US.”  The firm is run by Tim Allan, a former adviser to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.  

Against the backdrop of Burson Marsteller refusing to represent Israel, while they do accept the business of the Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood, terrorists remain active on social media. A Washington, D.C. based firm represented Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Brown Lloyd James represented the Assad family, and there are many others who have shamefully worked for terrorist organizations.

Those who seek to kill innocents - and do - are acceptable clients for whom pr agencies are willing to try to influence public opinion through the media – but a worldwide sporting event? No way. 

Hypocrisy at its finest from my peers at public relations agencies.

Ronn Torossian is a 2-time winner of Public Relations executive of the year for the American Business Awards, and Founder of one of the 25 largest American PR Agencies.