INDEPENDENT NEWS

Weber Shandwick satisfied with vindication

Published: Fri 11 May 2001 05:05 PM
News Release May 11, 2001
Weber Shandwick satisfied with complaints vindication
Weber Shandwick Worldwide, New Zealand, is pleased to have been vindicated for the communications work carried out on behalf of State Owned Enterprise, Timberlands West Coast Ltd. This comes some 18 months after ethics complaints were laid against two of the company’s senior consultants.
WSW chief executive Klaus Sorensen said today that he and colleague Rob McGregor were very pleased with the outcome of the Rennie Report, the review of the complaints carried out by Queens Counsel, Mr Hugh Rennie.
“Mr Rennie, in his first round determination and found there was no ‘prima facie’ basis for 15 out of the 20 complaints.
The Rennie Report, released today, dismissed 19 of the 20 ethics complaints originally laid by Nicky Hager and Bob Burton. Mr Rennie left open the question of whether use of the word ‘extremist’ was unethical.
Mr Rennie concluded in paragraph 150 of his report:
“Shandwick delivered what the client wanted and expected, to high effect.
At times the complaint against them almost seemed to be ‘they shouldn’t be allowed to be this good’.
It was a tough campaign in a tough environment which tackled problems for a client who was correctly described as ‘besieged’” – Hugh Rennie, QC.
Mr Sorensen said Mr Rennie’s grasp of the issues was impressive and in contrast to the understanding shown by the Public Relations Institute both in its initial consideration and in its final determination, released today, following the Institute’s receipt of the Rennie report.
“Sadly the Public Relations Institute’s handling of the whole matter has been completely inadequate culminating in their decision to reprimand us for use of the term ‘extremist’. Mr Rennie left open the question of whether use of this term constituted an ethical breach, preferring to refer the matter to the Institute for a final consideration.
“PRINZ have decided use of this term was unethical, despite the fact that the term ’extremist’ accurately described the particular groups it was applied to, and represented the honestly held opinions of Timberlands and Shandwick, when they used the term.
“It appears the Institute has decided to reprimand us for use of this word as a ‘face saver’, having accepted complaints which were simply mischievous and baseless, to justify incurring wasted time and cost in effectively holding three enquires where none would have sufficed.
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Mr Sorensen said he and Mr McGregor were completely dissatisfied with the performance of their professional body and were today sending the Institute their letters of resignation.
“For the Institute to treat two individuals with a total of 32 years public relations experience in this way is appalling. They bent over backwards to entertain complaints from those who simply sought to promote themselves and in the process ignored the rights of their members and the Institute’s obligations to them”
“It is ironic that our ethical standards have been under attack by complainants who have no ethical qualms about the use of stolen confidential material.
“However we are heartened by the very broad support received during this fiasco, especially from clients who have remarked favourably on the determination which we showed on behalf of our client and our loyalty to that client, even when our company and ourselves as individuals came under extreme attack”.
Mr Sorensen said he and Mr McGregor would continue to maintain high ethical standards without the assistance of the Institute and they looked forward to the publication of the PRINZ list of words and phrases that its members were no longer permitted to use and opinions that can no longer be held.
Ends
For further information contact:
Klaus Sorensen
(04) 472 4190
Note: The Rennie Report is available on the PRINZ website: www.prinz.org.nz
Issued by Weber Shandwick Worldwide, New Zealand.

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