Sandra Macleod

December 3, 2007

This is the only chance you have to gain advantage. Therefore, set up throughout your kingdom ears and eyes that can pick up the weakest signals before they are apparent to your enemies.
—Machiavelli

Sandra Macleod is part of Editorial Intelligence and Chief Executive of Echo Research Limited and Inc. She used the Machiavelli quote above in a presentation she gave at the conference of the International Public Relations Association Gulf Chapter in Kuwait. In the context of her discussion of ‘stakeholder research’ Machiavelli is described as an ‘expert’.

She has been in ‘communications and reputation analysis and evaluation’ for 20 years so it must be time for analysis and evaluation of her own reputation. Her European PR consultancy, Hayes Macleod, won the Best New Agency of the Year Award in 1989. One never-ending activity of the PR industry are ‘awards’ ceremonies: a psychological compensation for the demerits of the game. Hayes Macleod (there is no record of it on the web) was most likely a temporary — some might conjecture ‘fly-by-night ‘— venture with her fellow Echo Research Non Executive Director, Roger Hayes, the Executive Director of the International Institute of Communications (founded in 1968 with the support of the Ford Foundation) whose career includes “senior positions with the British Nuclear Industry Forum, Ford of Europe, Thorn EMI, PA Management Consultants and Burson-Marsteller…” None of these positions reaffirm a warm trust in Hayes Macleod’s honesty or ability to objectively disseminate news as a free agent—on a basic level quite the contrary can be argued.

The British Nuclear Industry Forum (like many of the reactors) has changed its name (like many lobby groups) and is now the Nuclear Industry Association: the UK nuclear industry trade association which “undertakes representative, informational and lobbying activities on behalf of its members.” Their nice new web page http://www.niauk.org/ sets the tone thus: “Nuclear — Climate Friendly Energy,” below a badly repeated pattern of nice fluffy clouds, which in this context resemble another routine lethal gas escape.

The site offers ‘news,’ engaging in a pretense that it is unbiased. We are to ignore that Philip Dewhurst, the Chairman has been British Nuclear Fuels Ltd’s Group Corporate Affairs Director since April 2001 and is a “communications specialist by profession”, President of the Institute of Public Relations in 1999, founder member of the City of London Guild of Public Relations Practitioners and in 1998 was voted PR Professional of the year by ‘the readers’ of PR Week. Before joining BNFL, Dewhurst was UK Chief Executive of the leading consulting group Shandwick International.

It is much the same case with the other directors. Keith Parker, the Chief Executive of the NIA is ‘Head of Corporate Communications, accountable for the strategic direction of the Forum’s communications, public affairs, media relations and issue management programmes’. ‘Head of propaganda, secret connivance, spin and illusion’ doesn’t have the same ring. His little biography tells us that during the 1980s Parker worked in the Department of Energy on the 2 major ‘public inquiries’ into Sizewell B and Hinkley Point C. In the early 1990’s he was closely involved in policy formulation and decision making in the areas of nuclear power, coal, electricity generation and energy efficiency. Now he is a lobbyist and spin doctor for the industry — which does give us something of an insight into how things are done in the Nuclear Industries and their junkie-like dependence on PR.

PR Weak

But what of Macleod’s reputation? If we were to believe PR Week (which she kindly writes for) and Echo’s own press releases (ditto) she “has been named as one of the 100 most influential figures in the PR industry in the UK”, although ”has been named” is somewhat specious there. Being the 20th (which is the case) is not so much to boast about. But here we have the essence of PR — the artful distortion of fact. Leaving aside what she actually does for her customers, Echo’s web site gives us a glimpse of the process. Its section called ‘What the Critics Say’ includes no criticism. Only three articles are cited, one states Echo was “providing communications research and reputation analysis for [..] Government Departments such as The Home Office.” That’s the ‘not fit for purpose’ Home Office whose reputation now stands at possibly the lowest since its creation. Does the fact that Macleod has made money trying to distract from this make matters better or worse?

Here is Echo’s own carefully phrased statement on one other big client, the Ministry of Defence:

“The Ministry of Defence has the role of defending the United Kingdom and its interests, and strengthening international peace and stability. Like many government departments, it is continuously under scrutiny by the public and in the news media and responds to many calls for information and explanation. Echo Research analyzed the profile of the Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces across all their operations, including Operation Telic (Iraq), assessing in particular the media debate around the case for Allied action in Iraq.”

But it is not all doom and gloom. Echo also work for The Environment Agency, let’s see the blurb this time:

“The Environment Agency protects and improves the environment, for both current and future generations. Its role includes legal action against infringements of environmental regulations. In this context, Echo Research tracked media coverage to see how the Agency’s actions to “name and shame” organizations violating environmental regulations had penetrated the public consciousness. The Agency also has a public information responsibility to help people deal with environmental hazards. Echo Research evaluated the extent to which people had access to safety information in times of flooding — a hazard likely to increase in tandem with the effects of global warming.”

Now you might be thinking ‘hey didn’t Mcleod’s fellow Echo Director Roger Hayes have an intimate proximity to the Nuclear Industy’s main lobby group?’ The inference being that Echo might not necassarily suit this environment as it were. But what is ‘The Environment Agency’, really i.e. as opposed to the PR puff reproduced above? It has £805m budget and is a government funded quango stuffed full of government appointees (who seem experts at sitting on committees) and Echo’s relationship is all quite normal.

The Environment Agency’s, Professor Lynda Warren is also on something called the ‘Committee on Radioactive Waste Management Committee,’ which is itself full of appointees including David Bonser, Director of British Nuclear Fuels plc and other representitives of the Industry. Another board member is Dr Lyndon Stanton from ICI and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority which has quite a line-up itself.

The Agency runs Charging schemes such as water abstraction licences hence it has Peter Matthews, the Deputy Managing Director of Anglian Water International.

The Agency’s Sara Parkin OBE and Barbara Young (Baroness Young of Old Scone) are members of The Forum for the Future — an elaborate form of ‘Corporate Social Responsibility,’ much as the Agency is itself. According to Friends of the Earth the Agency’s reports are misleading:

“…research has shown that a number of firms are legally allowed to release hundreds of tonnes of cancer-causing gases every year, but these companies are not highlighted as poor performers in the Agency report. Ironically, the biggest polluter — Ineos Chlor in Runcorn, releasing over 2000 tonnes of cancer-causing chemicals in 2002 (latest published data) — is highlighted in the Agency report as a good performer.”

It is also worth noting that data for Scotland and Northern Ireland is not available, since the Agency runs no ‘Pollution Inventory’ for these countries. When asked her opinion of the efficacy of Agency’s reprimands to big business, Lady Young of Old Scone, the chief executive replied:

“No deterrent whatsoever…”

The International Public Relations Association proudly presents… in a good light

The Public presumably assume that PR is aimed at them, but oddly PR seems to be in need of PR itself and is engaged in a dizzy self-referential spiral:

“For a further consecutive year, Echo presented an analysis of how the British press portrays PR at PR Week’s PR The Media conference. Has the image of PR changed since tracking began in 1999? What conclusions can be drawn from the interdependence between the media and PR? Is PR’s image spinning out of control? Or is greater advocacy by the PR industry on its value and role good for PR?”

Macleod has contributed to two ‘Gold Papers’ for the International Public Relations Association: “Quality, Customer Satisfaction, Public Relations” and “Public Relations Evaluation: Professional Accountability”. She was also a member of their Summit Advisory Board along with Hayes and Dewhurst mentioned above. The 2005 ‘summit’ proudly boasted of the inclusion of Alistair Campbell no doubt heading the IPRA Campaign for Media Transparency. The IPRA gave awards to various campaigns such as:

* Fleishman Hillard’s on behalf of the document shredding machine maker Fellowes,

* Edelman, who have finally crawled out of the woodwork on their work for the Moroccan American Center for Policy (a somewhat anonymous agent for the Government of Morocco) which put up a phoney humanitarian look-alike site, as some sort of vestigial remnant of the Cold War — the object of the game here is to overturn the International Court of Justices’ ruling in 1975 that Morocco has no claim to the territory of Western Sahara. Sahara-Watch (http://sahara-watch.blogspot.com/2006_04_01_sahara-watch_archive.html) had already spotted that the website was registered by Edelman’s David White. The mentality here is that while:

“Reports from Amnesty International and other groups show that the Moroccan Government is still denying its people basic political rights including the imprisonment of peaceful human rights activists and the use of torture. One of the most notable human rights violations by the Moroccan Government has been its attempts to silence debate on the issue of how to resolve the Western Sahara dispute.”

IPRA slap Edelman on the back for behaving like the CIA.

* APEX communications (Nairobi, Kenya) for a public information campaign ‘to combat public scepticism toward the privatised Nairobi Water Company. They built confidence in the new company and raised revenue collection by 54 percent’.

The IPRA Board also includes Donald Boham of Shell Nigeria — how well is he doing according to these criteria:

“The way oil wealth is managed in Nigeria is one of the key issues facing those living there. The government and oil companies have profited by hundreds of billions of dollars since oil was first discovered. Yet most Nigerians living in the oil producing regions are living in dire poverty. The oil region in Nigeria seems to be stuck in a time warp, with little real change since oil was discovered 45 years ago. Away from the main towns there is no real development, no roads, no electricity, no running water and no telephones. Most people are struggling to survive on less than $1 a day. People who live in the Niger Delta blame the oil companies for this shocking state of neglect, particularly Shell Petroleum Development Company, which produces most of the country’s oil.”

That report — which goes on to detail the poverty — is the first thing which comes up on Google with the serch terms “Donald Boham of Shell Nigeria”. Boham blames the government. The second Google result (from Forbes) blurs that distinction somewhat:

“Cozy ties between oil multinationals and the government (a partner in all ventures via the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp., or NNPC) make evidence of mischief hard to find.”

The report outlines the all-too-familiar mendacity inherent in Shell’s activities in Nigeria, in this case Abacha’s petroleum minister, Dauzia Loya Etete claim to have taped conversations between agents of the vice president and Shell discussing dirty deals and concludes with:

“Shell hopes to settle the dispute via arbitration in London. “It’s all speculation,” says Boham, of Etete’s charges. “The process of law will tease out the actual situation.” Maybe. Fire struck the NNPC offices in December, destroying many documents. Police are looking into arson. Given the history of past investigations into corruption, this trail will probably go nowhere.”

And the third hit — containing accusations that foreign oil companies are “providing their helicopters and air strips for military operations in the oil region” — is from FOX News. Neither the BBC, Forbes or Fox News are what one would term Anarchists. As we wander down the page its a litany of “a major, week-long oil spill”.

The Institute for Covert Connections

Macleod is a Trustee of the Institute for Public Relations (USA), a Fellow of the Institute of Public Relations (UK), Member of the Market Research Society, a Companion of the Chartered Institute for Management, Editorial Advisor to the Corporate Communications Journal, and Member of the Advisory Committee to Stirling University (Department of Film and Media Studies).

Echo Research engages in reputational analysis and measurement, with offices in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific, Echo works for a quarter of the FTSE and Fortune 100 companies (together with Government Departments such as The Home Office, the DTI and Surrey Police, and non-governmental organisations such as UNICEF and WWF) on: Consumer, Financial Services, Health, IT, Professional Service, Telecoms & Media, Utilities, Public Sector and NGOs. Echo Research is on the Register of Expert Witnesses — which might surprise some given the somewhat notorious disrespect for evidence at times associated with PR.

She has also served as Board Member of the DTI’s Business Links and is a Freeman of the City of London Guild of Public Relations.

Conferences

She will be part of the Expert Speaker Faculty at the Public Relations Conference in Dubai in September 2006. This kicks off with the Chairperson’s Welcome And Opening Address by Nima Abu-Wardeh, Presenter, BBC World — ‘Nation Shall Speak PR unto Nation’ perhaps… The event culminates in a Gala Dinner Announcing The “PR Professional of the Year” Award. Who will be the middle-man’s middle-man, will the prize be outsourced? Is it all just a cheap publicity stunt and are their prizes for that?

Sandra Macleod will be the moderator of the ‘How To Influence The Media Agenda.’ But this is no tedious homage to Dale Carneigie, right after the session its straight into:

“Effective Media Relations – Your Chance To Face The Media Head On! This is an open Q & A session as you take to the ‘hot seat’ and voice your concerns on the hot media relation issues of 2006, the good , the bad and the ugly, to a distinguished media panel.
Moderator: Fiona Ross, OBE, TV Presenter and Former Political Editor, Scottish TV, UK.

Panelists: Nima Abu-Wardeh, Presenter, BBC World – Middle East Business Report and Founder, MZone, UAE, Brian Scudder, Managing Director, Switch Media, UAE
MZone are sponsors of the event.

Fantastic — but influence to what end, influence for what client and what do they mean by ‘influence’: change, distort, pervert? If they are to be expert witnesses then why not a panel of judges and the title ‘How To Influence The Legal Agenda’ or politicians ‘How To Influence The Political Agenda’… Well we are already nearly there with a look at Echo’s ‘Global Directors’:

*Clay Brendish CBE, Non Executive Chairman: The former Deputy Chairman of CMG plc and founder and Executive Chairman of the International IT consultancy firm Admiral plc, Brendish is Non-Executive Director of British Telecommunications plc and Herald Investment Trust plc, Non Executive Chairman of Anite Group plc and Close Beacon Investment Fund. He is also External Chairman of the Meteorological Office Board, a trustee of Economist Newspapers Limited and Chair of City University’s IS Group.

*Roger Hayes, Non Executive Director: Hayes is Executive Director of the International Institute of Communications representing over 1,000 companies in seventy countries in the broadcasting, telecommunications, and new media industry. With a career that includes senior positions with the British Nuclear Industry Forum, Ford of Europe, Thorn EMI, PA Management Consultants and Burson-Marsteller, Hayes is recognised world-wide for his “leading-edge thinking on the changing role of the private sector.”

*Simon Summers, Non Executive Director: Senior Bursar St Catherine’s College, Cambridge. Previously Co-Head of the Global Technologies Group in Barclays Capital’s Investment Banking Division and Corporate Director for Barclays in North London.

*Michael Morley, Non Executive Chairman: International Chairman of Edelman Public Relations Worldwide. Morley started up the agency’s first overseas office in London in 1967. He went on to be named President International, and opened offices in Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America, supported by an affiliate network in key centers around the world. Morley has managed multi-national PR programs for companies that include United Parcel Service, AMADEUS Global Travel Distribution, NCR, VISA International, British Airways, Ernst & Young, Hoffman-La Roche, Schering Plough, Warner Lambert, S.C. Johnson and Hertz Corporation. Chairman of the jury of the IPR Golden World Awards, Morley is the author of the book “How to Manage your Global Reputation.”

*Susan Restler, Non Executive Director: Co-Founder with Diana Woolis and President of Knowledge in the Public Interest, has had a 25 year career in financial services with JP Morgan. She was a Managing Director and head of Marketing for JP Morgan Private Banking and JP Morgan Investment Management. Prior to joining Woolis in forming KPI, she developed the marketing strategy for an Internet-based personal financial management service. Susan has served on the Board of the Brooklyn Kindergarten Society, a network of five publicly funded day care centers and is now a trustee of the Connelly Center, a middle school for at risk girls. She also chaired the Board of Trustees of the Packer Collegiate Institute, an independent school in Brooklyn, New York.

*Sylvie Testard-Ramirez, Managing Director, Echo Research, France: Specialist in International External and Internal Communication, a member of the International Committee of the French Association for Internal Communication (Afci).

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