The curious case of the missing “Outside Organizer”: prince of spinners, Neil Wallis

Update 07/22/2011 10:58 PM PDT: My oh-so-lonely (re-posted at 07/15/2011 10:54 AM PDT) comment on the website of Neil Wallis’ former home (pls see below for details) is still in moderation <sigh> Perhaps my comment was not the right kind of “digital noise” from The Outside Organization’s perspective … not to mention that it might have called into question their “strategy” – on behalf of at least one of their clients – of “leaking out rumours to the press”.

Update 09/17/2011 10:17 PM PDT While my above noted comment at OO is still in moderation, I must apologize to readers for my error in attributing to “Music World” [if such an entity exists] that which I should have attributed to Music Week. I have amended this post accordingly.

If you’ve been following the Murdoch-land media frenzy over the past few weeks, you will be aware that one of the individuals arrested for his role in the News of the World (NOTW) dust-up is Neil Wallis. Wallis was deputy editor of NOTW at the time of the phone-hacking events. More recently, Wallis had been contracted by the U.K. Metropolitan Police Commission to provide “public relations” advice; this relationship has resulted in the resignation of the Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner:

Met’s Stephenson and Yates both resign
The Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson has resigned in the light of the ‘phone hacking scandal – and he took a swipe at the Prime Minister on the way.

His resignation was followed swiftly by that of Assistant Commissioner John Yates after a meeting with the Metropolitan Police Authority. Yates had originally been told he would be suspended pending an inquiry.

Stephenson – whose job will be taken on temporarily by deputy commissioner Tim Godwin – was being reported in the media as allegedly being too close to former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis who the Met appointed as a public relations consultant and who also worked as a public relations consultant for the health spa Champneys where Stephenson spent five weeks recuperating – free of charge. Yates was responsible for checking the credentials of Wallis before the Met took him on. [emphasis added-hro]

It subsequently came to light that Yates was responsible for securing a position with Scotland Yard for Wallis’s daughter. The first I saw of this was in an article in today’s edition of the U.K.’s Mail Online indicating that Seane Hoare has been found dead in his apartment. Hoare was a former NOTW journalist – and more recently a whistleblower regarding the activities of U.K. PM, David Cameron’s former chief of communications, Andy Coulson. Coulson was one of the first to be arrested in this scandal, and he was also Wallis’ boss at NOTW.

Hoare is reported to have made claims to the effect that phone-hacking was rampant in the U.K. press. This is certainly borne out by a 2006 Report from the U.K. Information Commissioner [see p. 9]. But I digress …

Wallis’ involvement with the Police Commission happened to overlap with an assignment he took on as “lead” consultant for a PR and ‘reputation management’ company called The Outside Organization (OO) when OO was called upon by the University of East Anglia, in the days following the November 2009 release of the Climategate emails. This association came to light in a post by Steve McIntyre at ClimateAudit on July 14. Andrew Montford, author of The Hockey Stick Illusion (a must read, that’s now available on Kindle!) has also highlighted the Wallis-Climategate connection on his Bishop Hill blog. In September 2010, Music World Week magazine paid tribute to OO founder and CEO Alan Edwards:

“We don’t advertise a lot of the things we do,” says Edwards, who was called in by the University of East Anglia when Climategate blew up. “That was really interesting. It’s very high level, and you’re very much in the background on that sort of thing.”

The university’s Climatic Research Unit wanted Outside to fire back some shots on the scientists’ behalf after leaked emails from the unit gave climate change skeptics ammunition and led to an avalanche of negative press [including a U.K. Daily Express front-page story "The Big Climate Change 'Fraud' -hro] about whether global warming was a real possibility.

“They came to us and said, ‘We have a huge problem – we are being completely knocked apart in the press,’” says (OO’s) Sam Bowen. “They needed someone with heavyweight contacts who could come in and sort things out, and next week there was a front-page story telling it from their side.”

Wallis was the designated hitter with “heavyweight contacts”. Again, from the Music World Week spread:

The role of Neil Wallis, formerly editor of The People, deputy editor of The Sun and, most recently, executive editor of the News Of The World, is to lend heavy-hitting tabloid expertise, leading some jobs, following Edwards on others.

“Most of my career has been spent working at the top end of tabloid newspapers, so I know how they work and how they think,” says Wallis. “This is not that different, actually. You have very creative people, you have fastmoving situations, you have to think on your feet.”

Wallis led on the University of East Anglia “climategate” job, when Outside was drafted in to help the university’s Climatic Research Unit defend itself against charges of scientific misconduct.

However, since news of his arrest, Wallis’s role with OO has undergone some rather startling evolutionary changes. On July 14, the U.K. Guardian (which has been providing “live-blogging” of developments) reported that “colleague Marina Hyde” had tweeted:

Outside Organisation website 9am Neil Wallis “Managing director”. Outside Organisation website 11.30am Neil Wallis “Freelance consultant”.

I know that when I last checked the OO website, a few days ago, Neil Wallis was still listed in their People section, as Hyde had reported, as a consultant. Yet a little over an hour ago, I had one of those now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t moments: Wallis has been “disappeared” from OO’s stellar stable.

No doubt this disappearing act will give OO’s future clients additional confidence in their purported “Digital PR” services:

The web has exploded, social media has erupted and the way a celebrity, band or brand is created and maintained has changed as a result. For us, digital is just another communications channel and with our experienced team, we are in prime position to help create and manage the right online buzz and reputation for our clients. We were there at the start of the digital PR revolution and have helped artists and brands over the years – from Sirens to Diddy – to make the right digital noise [emphasis added -hro]

But speaking of OO, its digital prowess and disappearing acts … last week, while I was perusing their site, I came across three case studies. One was of the group “Spandau Ballet”. In discussing their “Strategy” OO had noted:

“We started leaking out rumours to the press [...]“

I thought this was rather interesting. And since they had invited comments I posted the following:

Hilary Ostrov says:
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

14 July 2011 at 11:19pm
These case studies are interesting. I wonder if you would be kind enough to share similar details on the “climategate job” headed by Neil Wallis.

Thanks.

I wasn’t exactly holding my breath in anticipation of an honest answer. My lonely comment stayed in moderation for many hours. Yet when I refreshed the page at approximately 10:53 AM PDT on July 15 it had (wait for it!) disappeared! Readers may have noticed from my past efforts at retrieving information that I don’t give up easily (see, for example, here and here). So I decided to repost my comment:

Hilary Ostrov says:
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

15 July 2011 at 5:55pm
These case studies are interesting. I wonder if you would be kind enough to share similar details on the “climategate job” headed by Neil Wallis.

Thanks.

07/15/2011 10:54 AM PDT

My original comment, which had been in moderation for quite some time, seems to have disappeared. So I’m re-posting.

As of today, July 18, 09:35 PM PDT, this comment is still in moderation. But in case OO decides to do another clever disappearing act, I’ve taken a screen capture:

2nd comment attempt on The Outside Organization website

In one of the many congratulatory blurbs in Music World Week‘s tribute to OO’s CEO, Alan Edwards, who was dubbed “King of the Spinners”, one of Edwards’ fans is quoted as saying:

“I used to believe what I read in the newspapers, until I met you, Alan. From Big Country to Spice to David, we had some of the best times, some of which are not repeatable, and thank God YouTube didn’t exist at the time….

“You have helped me in my career, advised me when I didn’t know what to do (which has been quite often) and gone beyond the call of duty for me when asked.”

A rather telling observation, don’t you think?! It certainly would be helpful to know what advice Neil Wallis – a mere Prince of the Spinners rather than a King, no doubt – had provided to CRU/UEA during the course of his assignment on OO’s “climategate job”. Not to mention how he might have “gone beyond the call of duty when asked”.

One also wonder when the MSM will acknowledge Wallis’ Climategate connections. In the meantime, no doubt the bigwigs at CRU/UEA are desperately hoping that this connection will be buried in the Murdoch-land media frenzy. Then again, perhaps this time they’ve called in the King of Spinners to exercise another talent of which the Music World Week spread suggests OO’s Edwards is proud: that which aims to “kill the story”.

About these ads

3 thoughts on “The curious case of the missing “Outside Organizer”: prince of spinners, Neil Wallis

  1. If you need a company like OO to ‘manage your reputation’, it’s probably too late. To misquote Groucho Marx, I wouldn’t want to employ any PR company that would have me as a client.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s