APCO Worldwide: Representing and Attacking Facebook

APCO Worldwide

PR firms – much like law firms – have conflicts of interest and issues they cannot discuss.  This is especially true when representing one of the largest companies in the world, Facebook.

In recent days, APCO Worldwide made a public statement on behalf of Facebook – and also criticized the company publicly.  Leaving us a little confused. Can one of the world’s largest PR firms have it both ways? APCO Worldwide works with clients like Dell, Ebay, and international accounts like Sony Africa.

The Facebook Controversy

Facebook is not one of the companies listed as clients on their website – or in other disclosure documents, yet, consider The Washington Post’s quote:

“After the German minister wrote to Facebook, the company told Bloomberg in a statement through PR firm APCO Worldwide, “Facebook is no place for racism. Such content clearly violates our community standards, and we would urge people not to try and use our platform to distribute hate speech.’”

The quote comes in the context of photographer Olli Waldhauer, 41, posting a picture of a topless woman and a man holding a racist quote with the caption “One of these people is violating Facebook’s policy.” As expected the picture received notice to take it down because it violated Facebook’s nudity policy. APCO’s PR response came on behalf of needed damage control for Facebook.

APCO Worldwide

Whose Side is APCO Worldwide on?

And, If APCO Worldwide represents  Facebook than this quote by Jim McGregor, Chairman of APCO Worldwide Global Public Affairs in Vice Magazine critiquing Mark Zuckerburg’s dealings in China is odd:

“Zuckerberg is obviously a very accomplished and intelligent individual, but he doesn’t seem to have a clue on China,” he says. “You don’t get anywhere by pandering to China. Xi might be fine with you, but most doors are closed. They don’t respect you.”

The context of this quote comes in the face of increasing battles about censorship in China where Facebook is one of the many foreign social media platforms censored.

Censorship and Branding

The question though for APCO is why they represent Facebook on matters concerning censorship, and on the other hand, why are they critical?

Did Vice or the Washington Post get it wrong? Or does APCO not have internal communications in order? Either way, the two quotes make it difficult to understand APCO’s relationship to Facebook, and in some ways makes for an unclear PR campaign for Facebook’s handling of censorship.

Reflex or Coincidence

On December 16, 2015, APCO posted a video on its Facebook page with the caption, “APCO wouldn’t be what it is without our clients, vendors, friends, and colleagues all over the world.” Was this in response to the double-sided management of Facebook’s brand – both for and against it? Or was it just coincidence and an appropriate way to close out a successful year? The video only adds to the many questions brimming since APCO Worldwide’s statements about FB.

About APCO Worldwide

One of the largest privately owned PR firms and strategic communications consultancies in the world, APCO Worldwide calls many places home. The firm has three headquarters in Washington D.C., Hong Kong, and Belgium. Some of the dozens of awards the company received in 2015 include, New York Observer’s 2015 PR Rising Stars and 2015 PR Power 50, PR News’ Hall of Fame (Margery Kraus) 2015, and PR News’ Top Places to Work in PR Awards 2015.

Margery Kraus founded the firm in 1984 and remains active in her role as Executive Chairman of the firm. Though they are a full-service firm, they specialize in reputation and crisis management as well as public affairs. Many of their key people have worked in notable government positions, giving them deep ties into government agencies and a knowledge base for moving things forward.

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