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Statement from John Saunders, President and CEO of FleishmanHillard

May 28, 2019
By John Saunders

Over the past two weeks, work we have done regarding a stakeholder outreach project in Europe has become the subject of attention. The focus has been on planning documents we were asked to develop to prepare for outreach to stakeholders.  While we are open to critical discourse, a lot of the recent attention has mischaracterized our work.  It is important that you know what kind of work we do, and what we do not do.

Corporations, NGOs and other clients rightfully expect our firm to help them understand diverse perspectives before they engage. To do so, we and every other professional communications agency gather relevant information from publicly available sources. Those planning documents are fundamental to outreach efforts.  They help our clients best engage in the dialogue relevant to their business and societal objectives.

We realize and accept that some will never agree with our clients’ points of view. That is both normal and healthy.  Diversity of opinion through discussion and debate is the bedrock of a well-functioning democracy. It would be a disservice to society and to the policy-making process to stifle important information just because it may not be popular.

As we have said since this situation began, we work at the direction of our clients. We do so ethically and in good faith. Our employees are instructed to report any behavior they deem to be unethical. They are also encouraged to opt out of working with clients if they have personal objections to the work. If we find a client behaving unethically, we will walk away from the business.

We have been, and continue to be, a leading voice in developing codes of conduct for our industry through relevant professional associations. Every FleishmanHillard employee is required to complete ethics training when they are hired.

Our firm bears the names of two of the most principled and ethical leaders in the field of communications.  Al Fleishman and Bob Hillard spent their careers helping clients and communities address important issues through dialog and debate.  They were committed to ending racism, providing opportunities to people of all backgrounds and lifestyles, and ensuring fairness and equality in society. Their approach was cutting edge at the time, and more than 70 years later, their values-based approach remains at the core of our business philosophy.

FleishmanHillard is proud to support robust societal dialogues and informed debate on important issues. We will always do so based on the highest standard of ethics.  That is how our firm began more than 70 years ago and it will continue to define us.