Agency in turmoil
PR founder Beattie resigns over social media post
Gordon Beattie: ‘truly sorry’
Veteran PR executive Gordon Beattie has resigned as chairman of his eponymous company following controversy sparked by a post on social media.
Gordon Beattie, founder of Beattie Communications (originally Beattie Media), was criticised for a message on LinkedIn which was deemed racist and homophobic.
Mr Beattie insists the message was mis-interpreted from what he intended to say, but accepts that the language he used was “inappropriate”.
On LinkedIn he wrote: “At Beattie Communications we don’t hire blacks, gays or Catholics” but went on to say that this was because the agency only hires “talented people” and does not care about their skin colour, sexual orientation or religion.
Barrington Reeves, founder of Black Lives Matters Scotland, labelled Beattie “racist” and “homophobic” over his “insensitive” post.
Mr Beattie said he issued the post with the best of intent and was “truly sorry” for the offence it caused.
He said: “My post was issued with the best of intent, but it did not take account of the complexities of creating a level playing field – of which I am well aware – and the language I used was inappropriate.
“I am truly sorry for the embarrassment I have caused the wonderful team across the business and our clients, and for the offence it has clearly caused.
“I have always hired people based on their potential, talent and ability, and done my best to equip them with the skills to succeed.
“It’s a wrench to step down as chair but I feel I have no alternative. The time is right to go.”
In the LinkedIn post Mr Beattie wrote that companies should only hire people for their “talent, experience, knowledge and wisdom”.
He added: “We hire people we like, trust and admire and recruit people who have the potential to be better than us.”
Mr Reeves commented: “It was tone deaf, insensitive, racist, homophobic and utterly unacceptable.
“Gordon’s point of view enforces that it’s ok to overlook the struggles that marginalised communities face when attempting to seek jobs in the creative industries – his attitude is exactly the hurdle we have been trying to overcome for years.
“In the wake of BLM, many companies have been reassessing their hiring practices, some of whom may well be on Beattie Communications’ client list. However, it seems Gordon does not see the need for reflection himself or for his UK-wide company.”
Mr Reeves added: “I’ve had a few messages from former employees who were really disappointed with his indicative way of thinking – one of them told me they had to leave, due to the toxic work environment.”
Laurna Woods, Beattie Communications chief executive, said: “Gordon is devastated by the consequences arising from his LinkedIn post of last Friday, as is the entire Beattie team.
“There can be no excuses for the language he used or provocation exercised and he acknowledges that his actions, however well intentioned, were not only reckless, but out of touch.
“I’m personally saddened that he has chosen to resign as I have worked closely with him for 25 years and I can testify that he does not have a prejudiced bone in his body.
“But he was determined to draw a line in the sand so that the agency can look to the future.”
There is now likely to be some soul-searching at the company and a possibility that Ms Woods will seek to acquire the business.
Originally a local newspaper reporter, Mr Beattie founded the agency in Lanarkshire in the 1980s and went on to expand to other UK cities. It also has a business in Canada.
Mr Beattie moved to Monaco as a tax exile and then to Florida, having also made a significant fortune from property transactions.
Reaction to his comments and his decision to resign was mixed with some saying it was clear that he was only guilty of a bungled message. Others said that as someone advising some of the biggest companies in the UK and overseas on how to convey the message it was a huge misjudgement.
The company’s website states: “We contain careless comments so they don’t spread like wildfire on social media”.