Zeno Group is getting backlash on social media after the Popular Information website published a strategy memo from the firm that advises clients to keep quiet about their stance on abortion rights.
On Friday, the PR firm tweeted that, when counseling clients on the pending Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade, the agency takes seriously its responsibility to help clients proactively navigate complex societal issues.
“We know and understand that companies are increasingly expected to take a stand on major issues, and we believe it’s right to do so when it is authentic to the organization, and consistent with their values and actions,” Zeno said. “We believe in equal access to healthcare for all and a woman’s right to make decisions about her healthcare. At the same time, we live in a world with different opinions and different views and we respect those differences.”
Earlier Friday, Popular Information obtained a memo from Zeno EVP for media strategy Katie Cwayna telling clients that for media inquiries related to Roe v. Wade, they should “not take a stance you cannot reverse, especially when the decision is not final.”
She added that this topic “is a textbook 50/50 issue” and noted that subjects that divide the country can be “no-win situations for companies because regardless of what they do they will alienate at least 15% to 30% of their stakeholders.”
Zeno Group CEO Barby Siegel later told Popular Information that Cwayna’s email was meant to advise clients within the first 24 hours of breaking news. Its main intent was to counsel clients to be measured in their immediate response to a story.
After Zeno tweeted the statement, it was met with a barrage of criticism. One user called the response “cowardly.”
Other users criticized the firm for declining to take a stand on women’s or human rights.
Zeno later said in a statement that guidance to the firm’s staff and clients was “misconstrued by some as telling clients to stay silent.”
“We know and understand that companies are increasingly expected to take a stand on major issues, and we believe it’s right to do so when it is authentic to the organization and consistent with their values and actions,” the firm said. “We believe in equal access to healthcare for all, and a woman’s right to make decisions about her healthcare. At the same time, we live in a world with different opinions and different views, and we respect those differences.”
This story was updated on May 9 with additional comment from Zeno.
This post originally appeared on PRWeek US.