by Scott Grammer
GEO Group, a private prison company, had hired Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm, to improve its public image. But Edelman found itself with a PR problem of its own because of its ties to GEO. The company has contracts from the Trump administration to run immigrant detention centers where children were being forcibly separated from their parents and where members of Congress were not being allowed to visit.
Just two months after landing the deal, Edelman decided to end the contract with GEO Group on July 12, 2019, mainly because its own employees objected to it. Edelman feared that news of the contract would be leaked. Fishbowl, an Internet-based networking application for professionals, was used by Edelman employees to discuss the contract with GEO Group. According to the New York Times, one employee using Fishbowl wrote, “I am beyond disturbed.” Another said, “This is an inherently political, moral and values-based issue.”
Edelman is not the first or only firm to drop ties with GEO Group and its main competitor, CoreCivic, for fear of soiling its own image. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, BMP Paribas and Wells Fargo have stepped back from private prison companies and the detention centers they operate. Edelman’s employees are not the first to complain about ties to Immigration and Customs Enforcement either. Microsoft and Amazon have had similar complaints from their employees.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Pablo Paez, a spokesman for the GEO Group, said, “We have sought out and will continue to seek out a number of strategic communications firms to help us tell our story, which we believe has been largely misrepresented in the media.”
Sources: adweek.com, nytimes.com, crow.house.gov, chicagotribune.com, fishbowlapp.com
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