This story by Sharri Markson in the Weekend Australian has certainly raised eyebrows in the PR and spinning industries with its claims there was a “crisis of confidence in Dreamworld board” in the wake of last week’s tragedy.
“Dreamworld’s specialist crisis manager, Newgate Communications, threatened to dump its embattled client in the midst of the escalating disaster this week when Ardent Leisure chairman Neil Balnaves and chief executive Deborah Thomas made a series of of decisions contrary to its advice,” the story started.
“There was an extraordinary confrontation between Newgate, a communications firm specialising in guiding companies through reputational challenges, and the directors of Dreamworld’s parent company, Ardent Leisure, on Thursday afternoon at their board meeting.
“Directors sitting around the table at The Mint in Sydney were taken aback by the forthright position of Newgate’s crisis manager, partner Miche Paterson, who told them they could find a new adviser if they didn’t start following advice.
“It was a brutal statement recognising the fact that the reputation of Newgate had itself been thrown into crisis.”
Here is a well known PR firm trying to limit the damage from being associated with Ardent and the Dreamworld disaster. Markson’s story appeared to be well-sourced but it was very pro-Newgate, leading some cynical types to wonder why. Former News Corp spinner Greg Baxteris is a Newgate partner, and his other gigs have included spinning Nine’s side in the great Beirut kidnapping adventure, plus being head spinner for Goodman Fielder and for James Hardie.
Whomever thought it up, Sharri Markson’s story certainly pushed the Newgate line. So the big question now is, is Ardent still a client of Newgate after Markson’s story, or was her story effectively a goodbye note from the PR firm?