Edinburgh PR agency share their thoughts on Saatchi scandal

by Stuart Milne

Friday, August 5th, 2016

One man in Scottish PR explains his misgivings over the misogynistic ramblings of a doomed agency boss

Edinburgh PR agency thoughts on sexism

IN PR there are, at entry level at least, an abundance of women working as hard (sometimes harder) as their male colleagues. 

I’m fortunate enough to work alongside talented PR practitioners of both genders and have benefited greatly from their guidance, advice and input.

Yet in PR and marketing, as in so many other sectors, workplace discrimination is rightfully still a hot topic. So when Kevin Roberts, the chairman of renowned creative agency, Saatchi & Saatchi claimed that women employees did not have “vertical ambition”, I was taken aback.

When you make claims about an entire gender, it is a good idea to have some evidence to back up your claims. Unfortunately Mr Roberts had none. In fact, it appeared he was working on a flawed assumption – there are fewer women in management because they have less ambition – and the case is proved because there are fewer women in management.

If there is one thing we should (yes, should) all agree on, it is that some women are just as ambitious as some men and vice-versa.

You can read the full interview with Kevin Roberts at Business Insider. After the piece was published he was placed on a leave of absence by Saatchi & Saatchi and its parent company and later resigned,  after issuing a grovelling apology.

In a world of free-speech, was he wrong to speak out? On two counts, yes.

Firstly and most importantly, his belief isn’t supported by evidence so making this potentially harmful claim isn’t supported or justified.

Secondly, he has done some serious damage to his reputation and that of his company. So, if he had concern for both those things, he would have been personally better off not mentioning this choice piece of opinion. If morality and justification hadn’t sounded the alarm in his mind, self-preservation probably should have.

Lessons to be learned

1 – Think before you speak.
This may seem self-evident. Certainly the vast majority of business leaders will already know this.
But since this guy was supposed to a renowned, industry influencer it just goes to show the point is always worth reiterating.
If Mr Roberts thought people would agree with him he was mistaken and I think, if he’d had any counsel before making such a statement, he would not have done so.

2 -If you’re going to be controversial pick the right subject
Controversy is not always your enemy – and not something to be avoided at all times.
Perhaps the Saatchi & Saatchi boss had in mind some of their more combative ad campaigns that drew attention for their edge, creative or otherwise.

RyanAir CEO, Michael O'Leary, was at Edinburgh Airport to announce the next set of expansions for the company over the next year. (c) Wullie Marr/DEADLINE NEWS For pic details, contact Wullie Marr........... 07989359845Why cheap doesn’t have to be nasty: check out our post on how the bosss of Ryanair regularly creates a media stir with his controversial comments and how taking a stance on difficult issues can still yield positive coverage



If your business is planning on generating some media regarding a touchy subject make sure that you don’t:

  • Alienate 51 per cent of your target audience
  • Pick a subject that is truly offensive
  • Make claims which you have no way of defending

3 – Get smart with positive PR

Inevitably, some things you say will be misconstrued, re-contextualised and re-appropriated for others ends.
So, even if you’re not making sweeping statements about entire sections of the human race, it can be a minefield to navigate the best ways to say something, who to say it to and when to say it.


PR agency in Edinburgh show how they can present you as a thought leader in your industryMaking big controversial statements is one way to get attention, but a sustained and positive approach to building up credentials is usually more successful. Check our modest person’s guide to becoming a thought leader – without being a blowhard

Getting any one of these wrong can lead a misunderstanding, a lack of exposure, inappropriate timing or any combination of the three.
The best way to ensure your message is managed properly is to engage with a PR partner with the experience, credentials and nous to assist bring business benefit to your organisation.
From advice on how to pose your comments, to hooking you up with journalistic contacts, a good PR company will ensure that you are in the titles that matter for your business to thrive.
Not only do we know what will strike a chord with our colleagues in the news rooms, but we can phrase it in a way that they’ll like and time the release right, maximising coverage.

4 -Actions speak louder than words

If you do slip up it can be key to demonstrate your business fighting against what you were perceived to have said.
By quickly accepting and owning your mistakes – usually by making a swift and heartfelt public apology – it can be possible to move on.
However, the longer it takes to take that responsibility,


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The suspension of Mr Roberts in the aftermath of the scandal was arguably the very least that Saatchi & Saatchi could do.
Following this up with the comments from Kate Stanners, global chief creative officer at Saatchi & Saatchi, was a smart move whether orchestrated or not.
It showed that the views of Mr Roberts are not inherent to the agency and pitches them as a forward looking organisation cognizant of their flaws and putting forward an example that bucks the trend which Mr Roberts comments are endemic of.

Can your business make the best of what it’s got and avoid the pitfalls posed by the media? We’ll make sure every step is perfectly placed.

We’d love the chance to speak with you about how our PR can build your reputation and protect you from pitfalls and help you avoid making missteps.

We are a chatty bunch, so you can easily get hold of us on 0131 561 2244, or take a few seconds to fill out the simple form below and we’ll get straight back to you:

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