Staff Reporters
Mar 7, 2022

How global PR agencies are responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Many had abandoned the Russian market in the years before the war started, and all are pledging to help employees affected by the crisis.

Ukrainian soldiers unload weapons from the trunk of an old car, northeast of Kyiv. (Photo credit: Getty Images).
Ukrainian soldiers unload weapons from the trunk of an old car, northeast of Kyiv. (Photo credit: Getty Images).

In general, how has the war in Ukraine impacted your business? 

Richard Edelman, global CEO, Edelman

Edelman has no offices in the Ukraine or Russia and has not dealt with any issues for its clients. In a blog post, Edelman said “geopolitics has become the new test for trust.” 

“We saw this with the allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang and the war between Ukraine and Russia has only reinforced it. The line between policy and geopolitics continues to become less clear and more difficult for business to navigate. This is a window into the future, with enhanced expectations of employees, consumers and investors motivating companies to act in a broader societal interest,” he said. “Let’s pray for the people of Ukraine and hope that these actions by business can play a role in causing the madness to end before thousands of more lives are lost.”

APCO Worldwide

“As a firm that has worked in the region in both Russia and Ukraine for more than 30 years, we are deeply saddened by the recent events. Since we are known by our clients as having deep understanding and experience in the region, we have been advising our clients on the impact on their employees and their business and in developing bespoke strategies to navigate both the complexity of war and the disruptions in supply chains. We have also helped them interpret the impact of sanctions on their business and developed a daily briefing for those interested to stay on top of the changing dynamics. We are also mindful that many of our colleagues are Ukrainian or Russian by nationality or origin and we are working to help them at this difficult time.”

Hill+Knowlton Strategies

"As a global family, we are deeply concerned for the safety and wellbeing of our colleagues. We are in constant contact with our leaders in Ukraine and are working with WPP to provide them with financial and practical support. We will continue to address needs as they evolve. We also recognize that many of our colleagues and clients around the world have connections to the region. We offer our support to them as well, and to all those engaged in the extraordinary effort to restore peace and security."

Weber Shandwick spokesperson

“Weber Shandwick has no wholly owned operations or employees in Ukraine or Russia, only partners. We have been in contact with our longstanding Ukraine partners and are using our network to connect them with as much support as possible.”

Gail Heimann, CEO, Weber Shandwick, in a memo to staff

"For many of us, Russia's invasion of Ukraine — now in its sixth day — exists as a series of images — stark, devastating, frightening — images of war waged against innocent people. Images that are painful and incomprehensible. Images we never want to see, and have seen too many times all over the world. But the searing pictures are the day and night reality of the Ukrainian people under siege. The pictures that cross our feeds and screens every day are wrenching. But may they be a call-to-action for the world – to come together to bring a swift end to this chapter in our collective history and to work tirelessly to prevent it from happening again. We stand with the Ukrainian people, condemn this invasion and are committed to help those suffering in ways that make a difference." 

Ketchum spokesperson

“Our top priority is the safety and well-being of our people. As a global firm with a tight-knit international community of colleagues, including those in our Moscow office, we are shocked and disheartened by the evolving conflict in Russia and Ukraine. As we closely monitor the impact of this situation, our focus is on supporting our colleagues and delivering business continuity for our clients, both domestically and internationally. Like everyone watching this issue unfold, we’re deeply concerned about the safety and livelihoods of the Ukrainian people, and as such we’ve dedicated funds to the International Rescue Committee to aid in on-the-ground support for refugees of the conflict.”

James Wright, global CEO, Red Havas and global chairman at Havas PR Global Collective

“The conflict has created some caution in certain markets and industries in regards to spend, but it’s evolving all the time. However, for all of our clients we are looking at being very conscious about what messaging and campaigns are being put out at this time, so we are sensitive to what’s happening. At Havas, we have been able to support some of our colleagues in leaving Ukraine, and they are now being supported by our teams in Poland. We are also setting up ways for our teams to tangibly support the Ukraine through fundraising that we are launching in the coming days.”

Kris Tremaine, senior managing partner, ICF Next

“We have not been directly impacted yet, and we do not have operations in the region.” 

Mark Shadle, global corporate MD, Zeno Group

“Across the board, we are talking to clients about the multiple layers of impact that war is having on business – on employees, on relationships with industry partners, on customer communications – but most important, we’re offering ongoing counsel to clients on the tone and timing of their communications during an historic tragedy.” 

Jessica Berk Ross, managing partner, global public affairs, Finn Partners

“Many of our clients are deeply concerned about the situation in Ukraine, and we have been working to support them and provide counsel across multiple program areas. We are also working with clients to anticipate the potential impact of the escalating situation.”

Are any of your staff in Ukraine, Russia or Belarus affected by the invasion? 

Jessica Berk Ross, managing partner, global public affairs, Finn Partners

“We currently do not have any staff in that region. We do have clients in Ukraine, and we have reached out to offer any and all assistance in this time of crisis. Thankfully, our staff is not in harm’s way. However, we have been in close contact with industry colleagues with whom we collaborate…Our staff have family and friends in both nations; they are worried and we worry for them”

Kris Tremaine, senior managing partner, ICF Next

“We do not have employees working directly in this area, but there may be family and friends of our colleagues to consider, as well as the impact of this crisis on our fellow humans.”

Barby Siegel, CEO, Zeno Group

While we do not have Zeno staff in Ukraine, Russia or Belarus, we do have staff here in the U.S. who have very close family – parents and grandparents – in Poland. We have been in touch with those individuals on a daily basis, offering our support as they process a scary and devastating time that hits rather close to home for them. The day the war started, I devoted my weekly Thursday night email to the war, noting, “Once again, we find ourselves in all-too-familiar territory as the world and our humanity are put to the test. Near or far, our hearts are aching for the people of Ukraine and those in neighboring countries. And, we know this takes a toll on our well-being. Please remember what we have discussed over these last several years – your mental health matters. Take care of yourselves. Step away from the news, your devices and your desk. Get out into the fresh air. Go for a walk. Connect with loved ones. Raise your hand. Ask for help or simply say “I am not ok.”  Take self-care time and be kind to your mind. Above all, know that we are here for you.” 

If so, what have you done to help staff in Ukraine?

Arthur Sadoun, CEO, Publicis Groupe

Publicis Groupe has about 350 employees in Ukraine. Sadoun held a roundtable with these employees along with local officials, taking questions, listening to concerns and committing to security and relocation measures. 

"In this unprecedented context, we are going even further and taking unprecedented actions. So we gave them our guarantee that, whatever happens during the rest of the year, we will ensure they are paid their salaries, in full, every two weeks,” Sadoun said in a memo to employees. “While these financial measures can only help a small part of the turbulent reality they face today, we hope it will give them some sense of security, help provide for their loved ones and allow them to plan and take back control of their lives. We are taking these actions in the name of all 87,000 of you, and the solidarity that ties us to our Publicis family in Ukraine. As we all hold out for better days to come, they can count on us to put the full power of the Groupe behind them." 

Kris Tremaine, senior managing partner, ICF Next

While we don’t have staff there, we know some of our people may have family members in the region or be eager to help in some way. We have a wide range of counseling and support services available for employees. We also fully match most charitable contributions made by employees, including those to international aid organizations working in the region. 

Have you had to pull back on work with Russia-based organizations due to sanctions or by your own choice? Who?

APCO Worldwide spokesperson

“We are monitoring the broader domestic legal and political situation as it relates to doing business in Russia very closely. Our clients are not subjects of sanctions nor are they affiliated with the Russian government or its principles.”

Weber Shandwick spokesperson

“In terms of client guidance, last week, we established a Ukraine task force comprising advisers across public affairs, social impact, crisis and issues, media security and disinformation, paid media and employee communications. This group is actively working with companies across sectors to provide guidance on business and communications implications for companies amid the conflict. We do no work for Russia-based companies or Russian government organizations. Through an independent affiliate, we help multinational clients on ad hoc projects regarding the Russian market.”

FleishmanHillard

“FleishmanHillard condemns Russia’s invasion and violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty. We hope for a resolution soon that respects the freedom of Ukraine and protects the lives of its people. We divested our ownership in an affiliate in Russia in 2021. We do not own any operations or have employees in Russia or Ukraine. To our knowledge, we do not currently represent any Russian, Donetsk, Luhansk or Belarus clients, and have no clients on the recently updated sanctions lists. In addition, FleishmanHillard will not accept any work with Russian, Luhansk or Donetsk based companies or individuals, or with majority Russian owned enterprises or investment funds.”

APCO Worldwide spokesperson

“We do not have staff in Ukraine or Belarus. APCO is donating and asking colleagues and others to donate to responsible NGOs active in Ukraine. We are in close contact with our team in Moscow to support them. We are mindful that they too are caught up in this situation through no fault of their own and we want to ensure they are taken care of as best we can.”

What have you done in general to help the people of Ukraine?

APCO Worldwide spokesperson

“Given the humanitarian impact this conflict will produce, we are providing a corporate donation to effective charities in the region and are encouraging our team to do the same. We are organizing a list of effective and vetted organizations that can make a difference. We are also working on advising clients on their donations.”

Jessica Berk Ross, managing partner, global public affairs, Finn Partners

“Finn Partners stands with the people of Ukraine, and we stand for peace. Finn Partners has made a charitable contribution through a trusted organization to support the people of Ukraine. Our global staff has been making contributions as well, which we will continue to match. Also, we have helped guide people to evacuation points and addressed alternative travel possibilities where rail services are interrupted.”

WPP

“We’ve partnered with UNHCR, the U.N. Refugee Agency, to run an emergency appeal to help people forced to flee their homes in Ukraine. Join us in donating to support families in need of humanitarian assistance.” H+K has pledged to join WPP in donating.

Weber Shandwick spokesperson

“We are also making donations to several humanitarian organizations including the International Committee of the Red Cross, UNHCR – The UN Refugee Agency, Save the Children and World Central Kitchen. Today we began an employee matching program as well.”

MSL

The agency has pointed people who are interested to credible sources to donate to and reminded them about charitable matching programs. All of this is housed within Marcel, alongside timely updates and additional ways to support our people.”

Source:
PRWeek

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