Who wants to take on Big Tobacco? The famously disliked industry with deep pockets has had its fair share of scraps and sworn enemies. But how about a fight with the UN, or an international agency? Enter the World Health Organization (WHO), now aggressively throwing some tough punches at one of the world’s most powerful industries.
Two weeks ago was World No Tobacco Day. The day is used to generate awareness that tobacco kills nearly 6 million people annually. WHO, wanting to ramp up pressure, selected the provocative theme of “tobacco industry interference” as its big idea. Building on the idea that tobacco kills, a new layer of detail was added: Big Tobacco is a Big Bully.
Mincing no words, WHO said the campaign is meant to shed light on tobacco’s brazen attempts to undermine regulation. Describing the tobacco industry’s tactics as “nefarious and harmful,” it lists strategies from Tobacco’s PR attack template: Use front groups to make your case; interfere with political and legislative processes; and find ways to manipulate scientific evidence. The website, in a “name-and-shame” tactic, then obligingly lists groups and individuals that advance the industry’s interests.
The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for WHO and its very public and unapologetic fight with Big Tobacco. To have had this approved by the powers that be is extraordinary. To have heard nothing from Big Tobacco warning about Big Brother bureaucracies shows that this might be working.
PR Takeaway: “Know your enemy” seems to be WHO’s mantra. The campaign is a warning shot to every smart lobbyist in Washington and PR agencies globally that they are being watched. By exposing the PR playbook, WHO has the upper hand. At the same time, WHO might want to check that all its senior officials and budgets are in line and above reproach. Any weakness in that area is where volume two of the PR playbook typically begins.
Will WHO’s brazen tactics against Big Tobacco work or backfire? Give us your PR Verdict in Speak Your Mind, below.