NEW YORK — Richard Edelman has called on the PR industry to keep fighting for ESG principles, at a "golden moment" for the industry as advertising declines. 

Edelman was addressing a full house at PRovoke's North American Summit in New York today, in conversation with PRovoke Media founder Paul Holmes. He urged the PR industry not to waver in its support for ESG criteria, despite considerable political backlash.

“I want us to stand up for ESG," said Edelman. "I don’t want us to retreat on this because it's politically expedient. All the gains we have made in terms of DEI have been put at risk. It’s time to advise your clients, stand your ground."

Edelman also described the PR industry's opportunity as a "golden moment", given the decline of many advertising agencies. “If we don’t do it now, we are missing the golden moment," he said. "Who does fast content better than us? No one. We have to be able to compete and we have to be able to do it fast."

Amid considerable geopolitical turbulence, furthermore, Edelman advises companies to stop treating brand and corporate affairs as distinct issues. "We have to make brand marketing much more attuned to the realities of brands in politics," he explained. "The idea that you can just talk about price and quality is false. Brand marketers better pay attention to the reality of 50 elections this year. I believe there should be a public affairs person on every brand marketing team."

Describing trust as the "central question of society," Edelman also pushed the idea of 'net trust score' instead of 'net promoter score', to evaluate corporate performance beyond traditional metrics. And Edelman also expressed his continued displeasure with the PR industry's willingness to accept a supporting role at Cannes.

"It’s like the United Nations, you have to figure out how to win at the UN," said Edelman. "We have to stop bitching about losing [at Cannes] and win."

"We have to be smarter than the ad people who don’t look at issues like us," added Edelman. "Don’t be paralysed by message testing - you can’t test things to death. That’s why advertising loses, in case you think I’m anti-advertising. But I can afford to be because I’m not part of a holding company."