Weber Shandwick

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Nuclear spin.png This article is part of the Nuclear Spin project of Spinwatch.

Weber Shandwick is the UK subsidiary of Weber Shandwick Worldwide, one of the biggest global PR companies (owned by Interpublic). In 2006, the UK subsidiary had a fee income of £28 million.[1] The company has strong ties to the Labour Party through its CEO Colin Byrne.

Weber Shandwick Worldwide Offices, Central Edinburgh. Photograph taken on the Spinwatch G8 Spinwalk, 1 July 2005


Below are just a few examples of Weber Shandwick's work for clients:

Pro-Nuclear Activity

Weber Shandwick has a long history of involvement with the nuclear industry. Documents released under FOI, show that the firm worked for BNFL in 2004 and 2005.[2] In February 2006, the PR magazine O'Dwyer's also reported that Weber Shandwick was promoting BNFL's move to sell Westinghouse Electric to Japan's Toshiba for $5.4 billion. U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez had lobbied UK officials in favour of General Electric's bid for Westinghouse.[3][4] BNFL remains a lobbying client in 2009.[5] Former UK Weber Shandwick CEO, Philip Dewhurst, was recruited by BNFL in 2001. He is also the chair of the Nuclear Industry Association.[6]

Working towards a nuclear new build

Weber Shandwick has been working with BNFL towards a new nuclear build in the UK since 2004. The Labour Party manifesto in 1997 had been opposed to new power stations, stating that there was no case for nuclear power.[7] By 2006, Labour was claiming the opposite - that nuclear power needed to be part of the mix of energy supply for the UK. And in 2007, Tony Blair was linking new build to climate change: "If we want to have secure energy supplies and reduce CO2 emissions, we have got to put the issue of nuclear power on the agenda".[8]

In 2004 - a year before the government annnounced its "official review" into nuclear power in the UK - Weber and BNFL were working on their own plan:

  • "To secure from the review a meaningful commitment to a programme of nuclear new build, underpinned by commitments to:
  • Provide the necessary market and fiscal framewrok for replacement build;
  • Begin a programme or review which deals with the question of disposal of nuclear waste from repalcement build;
  • Analyse and bring in the changes needed in the planning and regulation regime which to enable speedy decision-making and construction".[9]

"Belief in the Cause"

One question people ask is whether PR consultants are neutral on issues like nuclear power and just provide professional advice. One email from Weber to BNFL from September 2004 gives an answer. It said: "As you know, you have a group of people over here who believe in this cause - we would love to do this work, and already feel excited about it".[10]

Using climate change to sell nuclear

One of the main PR strategies of the nuclear lobby over the last three years has been to use the issue of climate change to push for a resumption in nuclear. The argument they have put forward is that nuclear is a low emitter of greenhouse gases and should therefore be used as a key policy option to fight climate change. Part of Weber / BNFL's strategy has been to position nuclear as clean, safe, secure and climate-friendly (see also BNFL).

For example, in December 2004, Weber wrote a document “The Case for Nuclear Energy”, which re-iterated the major themes that the nuclear industry is using to push for a revival – climate change and energy security. According to the document, nuclear's main selling points are:

• Nuclear energy can be competitive with gas, and may in the future be the cheapest form of electricity; • Nuclear power is essential in combating CO2 emissions; • Nuclear power offers substantial security of supply benefits; • Nuclear plants can be built to time and cost; • Nuclear waste issues should not be a barrier to building new stations; • The track record of safety and security in the nuclear industry is excellent; • The nuclear industry plays a key role in the UK economy; • The need for Government action to keep the nuclear option open is increasingly urgent; • Action needed now by Government.[11]

But what about those who deny climate change? They could, by default, undermine the case for nuclear: In September 2004 a letter appeared in The Times signed by Lord Lawson, and known climate sceptics Wilfred Beckerman as well as Julian Morris from the International Policy Network, amongst others that attacked the need for action on climate: It said:

"Sir, Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition made major speeches last week on climate change and the policies that are supposedly required to deal with it (reports, September 14 and 15). It appears that, in this area, Tony Blair and Michael Howard are of one mind. They hold the same alarmist view of the world, and call for much the same radical -and costly programme of action ... There are no solid grounds for assuming, as Messrs Blair and Howard do, that global warming demands immediate and far-reaching action".

On reading this, Weber Shandwick emailed BNFL:

"Times letter today from Nigel Lawson and others which seems to be pooh-poohing climate change - anyone know anything about where this lot have popped up from?"... "Any intellgence (sic) gratefully received before we set to work here at WS end trying to find out what's going on..."[12]

Using third parties to push nuclear

Philip Dewhurst of the Nuclear Industry Association, and former CEO of Weber Shandwick, told PR Week in 2006 that BNFL was spreading its messages "via third-party opinion because the public would be suspicious if we started ramming pro-nuclear messages down their throats".[13] In the summer of 2005, the NIA and BNFL had approached key academics and independent researchers to attend a media training workshop, along with staff from BNFL and NIA, to be run by Weber Shandwick. Although a date for July and August was proposed for the training, the NIA's chief executive, Keith Parker, said in an email: "If, as we expect, the energy review is announced before parliamentary recess in July, we need to be well prepared to hit the airwaves confidently."[14]

Good news in Labour's 2005 manifesto

When Labour's 2005 manifesto was published, the spin doctors were quick to pick up on the following paragraph:

"We have a major programmme to promote renewable energy, as part of a strategy of having a mix of energy sources from nuclear power stations to clean coal to micro generators."

Weber Shandwick sent a note to BNFL:

" To me, at least, this is a step towards a declared pro-nuclear position".

BNFL replied:

"Wow...good news indeed".[15]

Smoothing over human rights abuses?

In November 2006, The Independent reported how political comedian Mark Thomas had criticised Weber Shandwick for accepting work with the Colombian government, whose human rights record is appalling. For example, some 460 trade unionists have been killed in the country since 2003. “Colombia is the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist,” said Thomas. “The government is found wanting. So for someone to come along and say, ‘We'll show you how to do good PR’ is disgraceful. Where will people draw the line? Would Weber Shandwick want to see the swastikas before deciding not to work with someone?”[16]


During the July 2000 meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Australia, Shandwick undertook a high-profile PR campaign for the Japanese Whaling Association including newspaper adverts in local media entitled "Whaling the facts," which claimed that "all whales aren't endangered”. They also distributed a leaflet that claimed that whale meat is to Japanese what meat pies are to Australians. “Don't interfere in our culture and we won't interfere in yours”, it said.[17][18]


Shandwick led a multi-million-dollar PR campaign to “neutralize” environmentalists opposed to rainforest logging in New Zealand. Leaked documents showed that a central part of the PR strategy was to stigmatise their opponents as “extremists”, who had “limited” support and who spread “misinformation”. Shandwick allegedly also spied on their green critics and infiltrated opposition groups.[19]

Working for Big Oil

The company has worked for Shell for a number of years, including countering criticism over its role in Nigeria at the time of the execution of writer Ken Saro-Wiwa.[20] In 2004 Weber Shandwick was said to be “handling the 'greening” of ExxonMobil 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'".[21]

Promoting the City's interests

In April 2009, Weber Shandwick UK was hired by International Financial Services London, now known as TheCityUK to promote the interests of the financial services sector in the City of London, for example on "key issues such as keeping markets open in the [then] current global crisis".[22] IFSL's press release announced that the account would be supported by Priti Patel, then "Director, Weber Shandwick Public Affairs" who will "provide additional counsel". Patel is now a Conservative MP. The then CEO of IFSL said: "Bringing the team at Weber Shandwick on board will help us establish IFSL's voice in the public debate on how financial services companies can best navigate the currently troubled economic waters." (Note the link to the IFSL press release is broken; Weber Shandwick's press release was changed in the run up to the 2010 general election, with Priti Patel's name removed. Patel's election campaign focused on her support for small business. According to her campaign website: “Her career outside of politics means she has an innate understanding about the issues faced by small businesses”).


  • Colin Byrne Chief Executive Officer, Weber Shandwick UK. Byrne is the former flat-mate of Business Secretary Lord Peter Mandelson. He was Labour’s Chief Press Officer up to the 1992 election, working with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown on media relations. He also worked for Labour’s election manager, Peter Mandelson in 1997 and for Labour on the 2001 election. Clients include BNFL
  • Alex Deane, head of public affairs: ex-director of pressure group Big Brother Watch (BBW). He is a former chief of staff to David Cameron and held the same role for Tim Collins, himself now managing director at Bell Pottinger Public Affairs, when Collins was a Conservative shadow cabinet member. Deane joined WS from Bell Pottinger Public Affairs, where he worked for less than a year.[23]
  • Jim Donaldson, executive vice-president: Donaldson joined WS early in 2011 from Hill and Knowlton. His responsibilities span WS's corporate, financial and public affairs practices.[24]
  • Jon McLeod, chairman of corporate comms and Public Affairs. McLeod went into public affairs in 1994, having spent six years in financial and legal journalism.
  • David Yelland Senior Vice Chairman, Weber Shandwick - UK
  • Nora Farrell, Managing Director of the Edinburgh office

Former staff

  • Andrew Brown, former director of media strategy. Prime Minister Gordon Brown's brother. He moved to energy company EDF from Weber Shandwick in 2004.


Lobbying clients listed in 2011:[25] Abbott Labs | Access Glasgow LLP | Advamed | Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board | AgustaWestland | Albyn Housing Association | Arts and Business | Asda | Association of British Healthcare Industries | Associated Newspapers | Bar Council | Bar Standards Board | Barclays | Bausch & Lomb | Bristow Group | British Water Cooler Association | British Waterways Scotland | Brookfield Europe | Bryson Recycling | BSW Timber | BT | Cala Homes | Care Visions | Centre for Cross Border Studies | Co-Operative Group | Covidien | Dalradian Gold | Devon County Council | Digital UK | Dispensing Doctors Association | EC Harris | Ecotricity | Eden Springs | Energy Saving Trust | Enterprise | ESEP | Finders Geneologists | Finmeccanica UK | First Source Solutions | GKN | Green Ocean Energy | Guardian News & Media | Hark Group | Health & Safety Executive | Henderson Global Investments | Highlands & Islands Enterprise | Horse-racing Group | International Power NI | Inverness Airport Business Park | Jacobite Cruises | Jewish Community Centre | Jigsaw Energy | KPMG Jersey | Mabey Bridge | Macmillan Publishers | MasterCard | McTaggart Construction | Mercedes Benz | Monster | NIE Energy | Northcliffe Media | Northern Ireland Horse Racing Group | Northern Ireland Tourist Board | Ofqual | Plasco | Poyry Energy | Quarriers | Rathlin Energy | Renewable Energy International | Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh | Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists | Rural Services Network | RWE nPower | Scottish Resources Group | Selex Galileo | Serco | Shell | Shred-it | SHS Group | Singapore Airlines | Social Enterprise Hotel | Solicitors Regulation Authority | South West College | Spen Hill Developments | Sport NI | Jersey (States of) | Sunderland City Council | Telegraph Media Group | Telford Trustees | The Geological Survey of Northern Ireland | The Glenmorangie Company | Trinity Mirror | University of Central Lancashire | Willis Group | Youth Community Support Agency

Lobbying clients listed in 2008:[26] Abbot Laboratories | Balfour Beatty | Barclays | British Museum | Carbon Trust | Devon County Council | Esmee Fairbairn Foundation | GKN | Goodman International | Health & Safety Executive | Leaning & Skills Council | Maximus | Nestle | Northrop Grumman | Advamed | Bar Council | BNFL | Camidoc | De La Rue | Dispensing Doctors Association | Finmeccanica | AgustaWestland | Selex Galileo | Jewish Community Centre | Mabey & Johnson | Mentor Employment & Skills | NHS Community Foundation Trusts | Paypoint | Association of British Healthcare Industries | Bennoy | East Midlands Development Agency | GB Group | Hammerson | Kalyx | Marie Curie Cancer Care | Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board | Norfolk County Council | Rural Services Partnership | Serco | Maxim | University of Central Lancashire | Industry Forum | Findon Holdings | Turkingtons | Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ireland | CEMEX | Taggart Homes | Matrix | Wright Bus | Aldi | National Osteoporosis Society | Digital UK | Waverley Rail | British Waterways | The Glenmorangie Company | Scottish Physical Activity Task Force | Circle Health Properties | Whiteburn Developments | Suffolk County Council | Hark Group | Virgin Media | Youth Sports Trust | Recycling Electrical Producers' Industry Consortium | Central Craigavon Ltd | Tourism Ireland | West Bay Capital | Down Royal Racecourse | Strathclyde Partnership for Transport | Henderson Global Investors | Tiger | Energy Saving Trust | NHS Health Scotland | Quarriers | MacFarlane Homes | Transport Scotland | Scottish Environmental Protection Agency | Surrey Police Authority | University of Hertfordshire | Whizz Kidz | Broads Authority | Inna Gudavadze | Frederick Solms-Baruth | Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation | Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission | The Construction and Property Group | Grosvenor | North British Windpower | Glasgow Airport Rail Link | Ukio Bankas | Eden Springs | Multiple Sclerosis Society | Highland Hospice | Viking Wind Energy | BSW Timber | Access Glasgow


(The following clients are currently unreferenced) Adobe | Anglian Water | British American Tobacco[27] | Coca-Cola | COLT Telecom | Corporation of London | Dixons | Eli Lilly | Euronext | General Council of the Bar | Intel | Meat & Livestock Commission | Merrill Lynch | Nestle | Panasonic | Peugot | Pfizer | R.J. Reynolds[28] | Scotts | Siemens | Unilever | Visa | Woolworths


Weber Shandwick
Fox Court
14 Gray's Inn Road
London, WC1X 8WS
United Kingdom
T: 44 20 7067 0000


Further Resources


  1. PR Week, “Madeleine, Mills and M&A Madness,” December 14, 2007, p23
  2. Paying to be propagandised, Chris Grimshaw, Corporate Watch, 10 October 2006
  3. "Weber Shandwick Gudes Nuke Deal"O'Dwyers PR Daily, February 6, 2006. - requires subscription
  4. P. Simpson (2002)WSW Picks Up BNFL Public Affairs Work, PR Week, 22 April
  5. APPC register, to Nov 2008, accessed Feb 2009
  6. Nuclear Industry Association website
  7. Government accused of U-turn on nuclear energy, Independent, 5 November 2001
  8. BBC News, 24 May 2007
  9. NewBuild Proposal, Email from Weber Shandwick to BNFL, September 16, 2004
  10. NewBuild Proposal, Email from Weber Shandwick to BNFL, September 16, 2004
  11. The Case for Nuclear, Email Sent from Weber Shandwick to BNFL, December 15, 2004
  12. Email from Weber Shandwick to BNFL, September 24, 2004.
  13. Plugging the gap, The Guardian, 3 May 2006
  14. Plugging the gap, The Guardian, 3 May 2006
  15. Email from Weber Shandwick to BNFL, April 13, 2005.
  16. Oliver Duff, “Comedian Starts PR War About Spin in the Jungle”, The Independent, November 7, 2006
  17. Andy Rowell, "Cutting edge", The Guardian, 29 September 1999, accessed February 2009
  18. Shandwick Works to Save the Fox, Kill the Whale, PR Watch, 1st Quarter 2001
  19. Andy Rowell, "Cutting edge", The Guardian, 29 September 1999, accessed February 2009
  20. PR Watch, First Quarter 2001, Volume 8, No. 1
  21. O'Dwyers PR Daily, September 2004, quoted on Sourcewatch
  22. IFSL press release, 3 April 2009, link broken
  23. [pointer=4&cHash=caac475601 Weber Shandwick lures ex-Cameron aide Alex Deane from Bell Pottinger], Public Affairs News, 15 sept 2011
  24. [pointer=4&cHash=caac475601 Weber Shandwick lures ex-Cameron aide Alex Deane from Bell Pottinger], Public Affairs News, 15 sept 2011
  25. APPC register, 1 September 2011 to 30 November 2011
  26. APPC register, to Nov 2008, accessed Feb 2009
  27. White's/Shandwick, A Slide Presentation to British American Tobacco of White's/Shandwick International, 13 June 2000, accessed 19 Feb 2010, p.8
  28. White's/Shandwick, A Slide Presentation to British American Tobacco of White's/Shandwick International, 13 June 2000, accessed 19 Feb 2010, p.8