Shandwick's Story: From Good-for-Nothing to Global Threat

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This article was first published as "Shandwick's Story: From Good-for-Nothing to Global Threat", PR Watch, volume 7, number 1, First Quarter 2000. The original article was authored by Nicky Hager and Bob Burton and is used here with permission. As with all SourceWatch articles, feel free to edit and revise.

Peter Gummer, the British chairman of Shandwick, is candid about why he started a PR firm. "When I started off in public relations, it was a business that people went into because they weren't good at anything else," he wrote.

While working at a London venture capital firm in the early 1970s, Gummer observed a parade of his peers establishing their own businesses and making serious money. "So I thought that I'd like to start my own business. And as I wasn't very good at anything, I decided I'd better start a PR firm," he explained.

These days, however, no one disputes Gummer's success. Shandwick has grown from a one-person show to a company that boasts of employing 1,731 people "through a network of 122 wholly owned, associated and affiliated offices in 61 countries across the world," which are managed through regional hubs in London, New York and Singapore. Shandwick says it "serves clients in virtually every corner of the world." The bible of the PR industry, O'Dwyer's PR Services Report, lists Shandwick as the fourth largest PR firm in the world with total 1998 net fees of more than $170 million. (The three largest firms are Burson-Marsteller, Hill & Knowlton and Porter Novelli.)

During the recent reign of England's Conservative Party, Peter Gummer's brother John served as a government minister. Peter Gummer himself was knighted in 1996 and is now known as Lord Chadlington. He is pragmatic, however, about his conservatism, as Shandwick counts Tony Blair's Labour Party among its clients.

Internally, Shandwick is structured to concentrate on core industry and practice areas including the technology sector, entertainment, healthcare, and industrial. In October 1998, it was bought by the Interpublic Group of Companies, a U.S. firm that also owns the advertising agencies McCann Erickson Worldwide Group, Ammirati Puras Lintas and The Lowe Group. Interpublic claimed that in 1998 its fees from public relations would exceed $300 million, with approximately 70% derived from its work in the United States.

Some of Shandwick's current or recent clients include:

USA: 3M, Aerospatiale, American Cancer Society, Bayer, Brown and Williamson Tobacco, Browning Ferris Industries, Central Maine Power, Columbia Gas Systems, Chase Manhattan Bank, Ciba-Geigy, Coca-Cola, Compaq, Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Dun & Bradstreet, Earth Day USA, Eastman Kodak, the Falkland Islands, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Ford Motor Company, Gabon, General Electric, General Motors, Georgia Pacific Corporation, General Mills, Global Climate Information Project, Honeywell, IBM, KPMG Peat Marwick, Kraft, Lever Brothers, Mastercard International, Michelin, Monsanto, Mall of America, Microsoft, New York State Electric and Gas, National Pest Control Association, Northwest Airlines, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Ray-Ban, Remington and Sharp Electronics, Shell, Symantec.

Europe: Anglian Water, Corporation of London, ICI Paints, Meat and Livestock Corporation, MCI Worldcom, Mercedes-Benz, Nestle, P&O Cruises, Reckitt & Coleman, Shell International, Tesco, Unilever.

New Zealand: Real Estate Institute of New Zealand, Professional Firefighters Union, Southern Cross Healthcare, Timberlands.

Australia: Screen Producers Association of Australia, Australian Chicken Growers Council.

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