PR support for Gaddafi? Tanks but no tanks!

Gaddafi needs help with his image

Scanning the web this morning for blogging fodder, I learnt that some big, shiny London PR agencies received a curious email last month, purporting to be from Libya’s Ministry of Information.

Turns out this mysterious ministry was asking for PR support to improve the image of Muammar Gaddafi.  Many dismissed it as the work of a hoaxer and I suspect I would have done the same – not that I was asked (obviously not big, shiny and London enough).

However, writes PR Week in a surprising twist, two weeks later an official at the Libyan Mission in New York has declared it to be legitimate.

Dia Abubaker Alhutmany said: ‘The government is trying to gain the support of people outside the country.’

A dirty job perhaps (depending upon your opinion) but surely someone has to do it? Shouldn’t all the facts be conveyed as accurately as possible? Isn’t it a PR’s job to tell the client’s story? Shouldn’t the media be able to access both sides of the story?

This little affair did make me wonder, would I have pitched or taken a brief if I had been invited? My wondering lasted all of 5 seconds as I just couldn’t bring myself to sell my soul (in my humble opinion) to this regime. Also, in more practical terms, just imagine trying have a contact meeting (perhaps Skype?) or chasing down the accounts department for late payment!

But seriously, consider the impact on the agency that DOES take this account on. What would their other clients think being part of that portfolio? What would employees, suppliers, investors, prospects and peers make of it?  Could adding such a client ultimately prove to be a fatal PR move for the agency itself?

What about you? Have you ever been invited to pitch for some business (PR, Marketing, Legal, Banking, Accounting, whatever it may be) and just though “nah, I’ll leave that one, not good for the reputation” or do you think it is your professional duty or perhaps your right to choose whom you work for and with and nobody else’s business?