How Much Oil Do Public Relations Firms Buy?

2013-03-22 by Ronn Torossian

ronn torossian pr oil

The Middle East is sensitive stomping grounds for anyone in business – for many reasons.  Then again, oil money pays well.

The world’s largest PR firm, Edelman has recently been hired by the Saudi Arabian government.  Their female staff who works on the account won’t need to worry about driving when they go visit their client – Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world which doesn’t permit women drivers. The American State Department says “discrimination against women is a significant problem” in Saudi Arabia.  Quite a contrast for an industry where it’s estimated that 75% of the PR industry is women.

According to a federal lobbying filing Edelman Worldwide is working on a variety of assignments for the Saudis from December 19, 2012 through the end of 2013 – with tasks including development and production of brochures, book development/giveaways, video production, and more. And just 2 weeks ago, the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) hosted “The 4th Public Relations Forum” in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The SaudiKingdom (which spent millions after 15 of the 19 9/11 bombers were found to have been Saudis) has consistently spent a lot on public relations efforts.  Of course, what should be examined is why they spend so much oil money on PR.

In part, perhaps its because Saudi Arabia has the highest execution rate per capita in the world. Recently seven men were executed by the government – after torture and without lawyers or the right to appeal at their trial. Saudi Arabia doesn’t recognize the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Saudi Arabia has a judicial system based upon Islamic law – which considers public beheadings to be acceptable forms of punishment – along with occasional stonings. All Saudi Arabian women are required to have a male guardian and need their guardian’s permission for marriage and divorce; travel, if under 45; education; employment; opening a bank account; and they can’t drive or vote.

While we have worked for political and governmental interests in Lebanon, Morocco, Israel and elsewhere in the region, am wondering (aloud) if others in the PR industry have concerns about working in the Middle East.  Some have made clear that Arab oil is holy.

A NY PR Agency, Brown Lloyd James has worked with Syrian President Assad and Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi. Burson-Marsteller in Europe made their feelings clear a few years ago about the Middle East: “Israel is an extremely controversial project, and we will not deliver tender to such a project in Norway. We must think of our other customers; and cannot without any good reason undertake controversial projects. Israel is a particularly controversial project.” (Israel ranks higher on democracy, freedom and women’s rights than any other Middle East country.)  Bahrain, which has a horrid human rights record in the last 12 months, has hired at least ten public relations companies since last year.

One wonders how many reporters are spun every year with Arab oil dollars – while terrorism continues.

About Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations. He is an experienced leader in the public relations industry with over 20 years of experience. Ronn Torossian has been named as Public Relations executive of the year by the American Business Awards, and has run countless award-winning Public Relations programs.

Ronn Torossian: Insights from a Native New Yorker and CEO of 5WPR

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 250 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, and a recipient of Crain’s New York 2021 Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities