Top PR firm Bell Pottinger, founded by Thatcher guru Lord Bell, has apparently been impressing their client, the Gupta billionaire brothers, and South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma with some clever strategies for diverting attention away from the controversially close relationship between Zuma and the Guptas.
Allegedly, for £100,000 a month from the Gupta’s Oakbay Capital firm Bell Pottinger employees cleverly set up a fake blog and false Twitter accounts to stir up anger against wealthy white South Africans. Twitter users were secretly paid to spread propaganda, and to troll journalists who questioned the false claims, sexually smearing some.
The clever PR tricks of Bell Pottinger came to light earlier this year when a trove of information about their impressive methods was published anonymously. Since then their clever CEO, James Henderson has resigned and dozens of major firms in South Africa and the UK have dumped them, although it is understood that, at the time of writing, they are still being used by Bloomsbury Publishing, Cineworld and Waitrose.
In the UK the PR trade body, the PR and Communications Association is most unimpressed with Bell Pottinger’s cleverness and has banned them from membership for five years claiming that they have “brought the PR and communication industry into disrepute”.
Lord Bell appeared on a “car-crash” BBC Newsnight interview with Kirsty Wark earlier this month where he first claimed that the debacle was nothing to do with him before being shown one of his emails in which he promised to “oversee” the Gupta account for clever Bell Pottinger. In 1977, when Bell was 36 he was fined £50 for indecency after he allegedly cleverly pleasured himself at the bathroom window of his Hampstead house in full view of female passers-by.