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Weber Shandwick

Weber Shandwick is an American marketing communications company based in New York City, New York.

CDC $50 Million Covid Vaccine PR Contract

PR Week - Thomas Moore - October 26, 2020 Weber Shandwick wins potential $50m CDC flu vaccine comms account

Weber Shandwick has won a contract potentially worth nearly $50 million from the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases to promote vaccines for influenza and the work of the organization.

The agency’s earned media responsibilities include generating story ideas, distributing articles and conducting outreach to news, media and entertainment organizations. It also includes conducting satellite radio and TV tours, providing spokesperson training and reaching out to celebrities or entertainment media.

Weber is also expected to conduct target audience research, provide graphic design support, handle paid digital media placement and develop and implement a comms plan targeting healthcare providers. It will also create and execute a digital and social media strategy and provide web design and support.

“Weber Shandwick has a long history of supporting the CDC,” a Weber spokesperson said.

The campaign is similar to work Porter Novelli did for the NCIRD under a contract that ran from September 2015 until September 27, 2020, the day before Weber started working on its account. Porter earned approximately $61 million for that work.

Porter declined to comment on Weber’s account, saying the CDC is “an existing and very important client of ours.”

Last month, Weber’s fellow Interpublic Group firm, Golin, won a contract from the CDC to provide media and social media support for the Center for Global Health, the department that manages the CDC’s international efforts. 1)

CDC Funded International PR Contracts

ATLANTA: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has hired Golin to provide media and social media support for the Center for Global Health, the department that manages the CDC’s international efforts. The organization is looking to Golin to help it expand global health content and the reach of key messages to address public health emergencies around the world, according to the award document.

Golin will use its Bridge tool for media and social media surveillance and reporting, its Relevance Radar to track earned media metrics and media training for the center’s spokespeople and leadership. Without the firm’s media and social media strategy, implementation, measurement and analytics, the center’s communications team would be less able to support the organization’s mission, it said in award documents.

The Interpublic Group agency has been helping the CDC with digital campaigns since at least 2018, including the Tips from Former Smokers Campaign and the U.S. Surgeon General’s report on e-cigarettes and youth, according to the documents.

Golin declined to comment on the contract. A CDC representative could not be reached for comment.

The CDC has been in the national media spotlight over questions about political interference into its communications with scientists, doctors and the general public and its messages on the safety of reopening schools.

Johnson & Johnson also recently hired Golin to handle PR for its North America Skin Health business.

Golin’s revenue grew 3% in 2019 to $223.5 million, according to the PRWeek Agency Business Report 2020. 2)

Conflict of Interest

Weber Shandwick Provides PR for Moderna and Pfizer, While Staffing the CDC’s Vaccine Office

Substack - The DisInformation Chronicle - Paul Thacker October 11, 2022

A potential $50 million contract allows PR firm to be “embedded at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta as part of the Division of Viral Diseases team.”

In an odd case of synchronicity—and let’s be honest, a whiff of undue influence—Weber Shandwick employees are also embedded at the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), the CDC group that implements vaccine programs and oversees the work of ACIP.

“So excited to be starting a new role today,” wrote a Weber Shandwick employee 11 months ago on her LinkedIn account. “I’m joining Weber Shandwick as an Account Director supporting a contract I know well, at CDC’s NCIRD!”

“Welcome back to the team!” responded another Weber Shandwick employee.

“This is irresponsible of CDC to issue a PR contract to Weber Shandwick, knowing that the firm also works for Moderna and Pfizer,” emailed Public Citizen’s Craig Holman. “It raises legitimate questions of whose interests Weber Shandwick will put first – their private sector clients or the public’s interest at NCIRD.”

“This new reporting that CDC had a contract with the same PR firm representing the manufacturers of the COVID-19 vaccine raises serious concerns,” wrote a spokesperson for Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)

A few weeks after Weber Shandwick won the CDC contract, a senior vice president at the firm posted a company blog laying out the realities and dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the blog’s bottom, she disclosed, that an asterisk indicated Weber Shandwick clients working on COVID-19 vaccines: GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi, and Pfizer. 3)

Fireball Crisis Simulation Software

Firebell is Weber Shandwick's proprietary, award-winning crisis simulation software and training session. Through firebell, participants actively engage in a real-time online attack of their brand or organization — all in a secure, controlled environment.

Each training is founded on research and tailored to your industry and media environment by our digital and crisis professionals. Firebell insists that participants do just that: participate―you will be expected to craft and post content in real-time amidst the imposing parade of comments that organizations typically face during a crisis. Post-drill, we then deliver an assessment that identifies the gaps in your performance, working with you to bolster your strengths in preparation of a real crisis or issue.

The firebell team itself brings together two areas of Weber Shandwick expertise for each drill: crisis communications and social media. Weber Shandwick believes that social crisis communications is the marriage between traditional crisis expertise and the understanding of social behaviors driven by current technology. Weber Shandwick brings both to bear in each customized firebell experience. 4)



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