Bell Pottinger Asia seeks to distance itself from British parent following South Africa scandal

As problems continue to pile on for Bell Pottinger around the world following the fallout of a controversial campaign in South Africa, its Asian namesake has taken great pains to assure existing and potential clients that it is a separate legal entity.

According to the Straits Times, Bell Pottinger Asia, which has four offices in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Myanmar, is also keen to change its name to distance itself from its British parent, which was booted out of the Public Relations and Communications Association, Europe’s largest body of PR practitioners, this week.

"We built this agency from the ground up. We needed a big brand name to park under and we chose Bell Pottinger, but we didn't set it up like a satellite office. We've been run independently and autonomously," said Ang Shih-Huei, Bell Pottinger Asia chief executive.

"I do want to emphasise this company has always held itself to the highest standards and we have turned clients away that didn't fit with our values.

“Sadly, an incident by a small team has been blown out of proportion, and action has been taken but today we still find ourselves dealing with it. We hope staff and clients stay firm and strong."

Experts believe that Bell Pottinger's woes may become a saving grace for the PR industry, while Francis Ingram, director general of the PRCA, has explained the industry body's decision.

Writing in The Drum this week, Ingram said: "We expelled them because they used the power they held for the wrong purposes. They broke our ethical standards and broke them severely. That’s why we handed down the toughest punishment we’ve ever handed down to a member."