Weber Shandwick

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Weber Shandwick Worldwide (WSW) is, in 2004, the world's largest public relations company. A subsidiary of the Interpublic Group, it was formed as the product of the mergers of Weber Public Relations and Shandwick Worldwide in late 2000. In 2001, Weber Shandwick merged with BSMG to become the largest PR operation in the world.[1] It is a privately held firm.

WSW has been heavily criticized for its work for the Japanese Whaling Association and its work for the New Zealand government-owned logging company Timberlands. [1] WSW owns Planet 2050 [2], a PR firm marketed as "socially responsible", which claims to help businesses "navigate the environmental and social challenges needed to operate in a planet under pressure"[3].

Ties to Pete Peterson's "Fix the Debt"

The Campaign to Fix the Debt is the latest incarnation of a decades-long effort by former Nixon man turned Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson to slash earned benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare under the guise of fixing the nation's "debt problem."

This article is part of the Center for Media and Democracy's investigation of Pete Peterson's Campaign to "Fix the Debt." Please visit our main SourceWatch page on Fix the Debt.

About Fix the Debt
The Campaign to Fix the Debt is the latest incarnation of a decades-long effort by former Nixon man turned Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson to slash earned benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare under the guise of fixing the nation's "debt problem." Through a special report and new interactive wiki resource, the Center for Media and Democracy -- in partnership with the Nation magazine -- exposes the funding, the leaders, the partner groups, and the phony state "chapters" of this astroturf supergroup. Learn more at and in the Nation magazine.


China's Olympics

"After China lost its Olympics bid in 1993 ... Olympic insiders advised it to hire a public relations firm before its next attempt," reported the New York Times in April 2008. "Weber Shandwick, owned by the Interpublic Group, won the contract, and, [Weber Shandwick China managing director David] Liu said, his advice was that China separate its human-rights record from its Olympics bid." [2]

Weber Shandwick "suggested to the Olympic committee ... that if Beijing were allowed to hold the Games, it might lead to some movement on a number of fronts. 'If you give China the Olympic hosting rights, then it is like you are engaging China, and naturally they will improve on a lot of things,'" Liu said. China's hosting of the Summer 2008 Olympics Games provided opportunities for advocacy groups to highlight China's human rights issues, including jailing reporters and dissidents, occupying Tibet and supporting Sudan's repressive regime. But China's government has yet to address these issues. [2]

Exxon's Earth Day

In September 2004, O'Dwyers PR Daily reported that Weber Shandwick is "handling the 'greening' of ExxonMobil Corp. by promoting an alliance forged between the energy giant and Earth 911, a government/private sector entity with the motto of 'making every day Earth Day.'"

"The partnership aims to educate consumers about the importance of recycling used motor oil. ExxonMobil will provide funding for Earth 911 in return for the right to slap the group's logo on its Exxon- and Mobil-branded products. Earth 911's public service announcements will feature the Mobil 1 logo and the location of used motor oil collection sites. Earth 911's corporate partners include Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot, Aluminum Association of America and Vertex Energy, a company that recycles petroleum products." [4]

Post-9/11 crisis management for American Airlines

On the morning of September 11, 2001, the Dallas office of Weber Shandwick, one of world’s largest public relations agencies, mobilized a nationwide network of public relations professionals to assist the American Airlines corporate communications department.

"Within minutes of the first terrorist attack involving American Airlines, Weber Shandwick put in motion a national strategic support network, comprising more than 75 Weber Shandwick professionals, to assist American Airlines during this unprecedented crisis situation. Over the following week, the W.S. team worked around the clock on site at the AA corporate headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, as well as in New York, Washington, D.C., Boston and Los Angeles, providing strategic counsel and tactical support for both internal and external communications. Additionally, the Dallas office of W.S. was staffed 24 hours a day, monitoring breaking national broadcast and online news. Communications specialists in crisis management, consumer relations, internal communications, and government affairs provided support....Externally, AA faced the difficult challenge of controlling what was being said about the airline by unauthorized spokespeople. Flight attendants, pilots – and their unions - along with contracted security firms, airport authorities, government agencies including the FBI, FAA and National Transportation Safety Board, and local government agencies all issued statements regarding the events. Eyewitnesses, stranded passengers and post-September 11 travelers were also of concern. All of these external groups has an impact on American Airlines’ commnications strategy, requiring that the W.S. team ensure consistent communications with all audiences." [5]

Got Milk?

In May 2001, Weber Shandwick won what was reported to be $2 million issues management account with Dairy Management Inc, a trade association, to promote demand for U.S. dairy products. O'Dwyer's PR Daily reported that Sara Gavin heads the DMI account from Weber Shandwick's Minneapolis office with support from the Weber Shandwick's Washington, D.C office. The campaign had been expected to focus on concerns raised by foot-and-mouth and mad cow disease in Europe. According to the PR trade newsletter, the Holmes Report, DMI's executive vice president of public and industry relations Jean Regalie said the campaign will be broader than that, taking a long term view of "the way people look at food." Dairy Management Inc. also has accounts with Golin/Harris International and BSMG Worldwide, creator of the ubiquitous "Got Milk?" campaign. [6]

Food issues

In April 2008, Weber Shandwick announced it was launching a "a new food issues practice to assist food, beverage and agricultural organizations in handling complex issues," headed by Susan Ruland. The practice will address "environmental sustainability, food safety, food nutrition and obesity concerns, animal welfare, biotechnology" and related issues, through "legislative initiatives, as well as executive reputation and brand management" tactics. [3]

"In addition to having registered dietitians on-staff, Weber Shandwick offers a unique network of 100 registered dietitian spokespeople across the United States who are deployed on behalf of clients," noted the Holmes Report. [3]


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. Peter Gummer was knighted in 1996 and is now known as Lord Chadlington. [7]

In October 1998, Shandwick 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. Following the takeover, Shandwick was merged with the Weber Group. The merged companies operated as Weber Shandwick from January 2001. [4]


Some of Shandwick's current or recent clients include:


In a listing on its website of PR companies with a crisis management capability, the American Meat Institute described the "Shandwick Public Affairs (formerly Powell Tate)" in the US as having "done crisis management work for Jack in the Box, Food Lion, Hudson Foods, Hooters of America, Denny's, Federal Express and the National Association of Convenience Stores. Shandwick Public Affairs' cadre of senior professionals, who have been in the trenches with the senior management teams of global corporations, are ready to offer assistance at a moment's notice." [11]


Latin America

Asia Pacific

New Zealand



Former Personnel

Contact information

919 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10022
Phone: 212-445-8000

Articles & Resources

Featured SourceWatch Articles on Fix the Debt

Case studies


  • Nicky Hager and Bob Burton, Secrets and Lies: the anatomy of an anti-environmental PR campaign, Common Courage Press, Monroe, Maine, 2000.

SourceWatch resources


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  1. "BSMG Worldwide to merge with Weber Shandwick", Staff, Dallas Business Journal, July 12, 2001
  2. 2.0 2.1 Stephanie Clifford, "Tibet Backers Show China Value of P.R.," New York Times, April 14, 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Weber Shandwick Creates Food Issues Group," Holmes Report (sub req'd), April 27, 2008.
  4. Gidon Freeman, "Shandwick/Weber in IPG global merger", PR Week, September 22, 2000.
  5. PM's private land deal with lobbyist raises questions, Channel 4, 23 November 2011. At least it is discussed in the documentary segment aired on 23 November.
  6. Corporate Staff, Weber Shandwick, accessed February 11, 2013
  7. Corporate Staff, Weber Shandwick, accessed January 2008.