Sutton camp took over press conference.

Public relations is back in the news, with controversy over Iain Rennie and the State Services Commission's "loose" handling of the press conference for departing Cera boss Roger Sutton.

The commission is the employer of public servants, and in talking to media it is generally cautious. So it was odd how Rennie announced the decision on the harassment complaint against Sutton, effectively implying support for Sutton's position and leading some people to conclude that his actions had not been too bad, and he was the victim of political correctness gone mad, as some call it.

Through what, in my opinion, was slack media oversight the commission allowed the process of announcing the decision to be taken over by the Sutton camp.

It concluded with Sutton's wife - former journalist, PR person and current Canterbury University journalism lecturer Jo Malcolm - front and centre holding her own press conference with journalists as Sutton waited in the wings.


As a result the unnamed complainant - who had abided by confidentiality agreements - appeared unreasonable. The downside for Sutton is that the commission's mishandling of the press conference has come back to haunt him.

PR consultants who asked to not be named said it should all have been carefully managed.

In such a case, said one PR person, if you decided to have a press conference, it had to be buttoned down and heavily rehearsed, with no surprises about what was said or done. "This was just loose.

"It was Rennie's show. Sutton might be there, but he would normally only be called for a brief comment, and one that did not breach confidentiality," the PR person said.

In my view, press conference organisers should have told Malcolm she would not be taking part.

The commission is refusing to comment on its handling of the event. Its media director, Lisa-Marie Richan, was on sick leave yesterday, and due to be away again today.

Malcolm declined to discuss whether she had any role in organising the press conference, but said she did not work in PR.

Limited future


Fairfax Media has pulled the plug on its Unlimited magazine, ending a creditable place in business journalism that goes back 15 years.

The magazine focused on promoting New Zealand business was set up in 1999 by Barry Colman's NBR and the United States company IDG.

When IDG left in 2008, the title was bought by Julie Gill, who maintained sales, until Fairfax bought the title.

Fairfax group executive editor Sinead Boucher said Unlimited had been a digital-only magazine since April last year.

"It was originally designed in a print format, and the online version didn't seem to deliver a genuine web experience for our digital users," she said. "This change is part of our long-term digital strategy, focusing on reaching our audience within the Stuff environment."

The final digital edition of Unlimited will be posted on December 8. Editor Maria Slade has been appointed Auckland political editor for Fairfax. Figures from ABC show average net paid sales had fallen from 3667 in December 2008 to 1379 in December 2012, before it went online.

Creativity is king

The inaugural ad:tech conference, held in Auckland this week, had a good shot at advancing debate about the changing way in which technology is working in advertising and marketing. One comment from the audience touched a nerve with me, though, when an industry player noted there was a lot of talk about "content" but not much comment about creativity.

Of course this was a tech conference but you do wonder about an industry that focuses on attaching itself to content, but is not focused on what that means.

One company at ad:tech was AdRoll, a US business partly owned by tech billionaire Peter Thiel which specialises in using proprietary algorithms to track website visitors - and hopefully bring them back.

Music, music, music

Music clips platform Vevo has appointed a New Zealand representative, aiming to pick up additional sponsorship revenue. The platform is one of a growing number of international organisations setting up here.

International vice-president Nic Jones noted that Vevo users here listen to 10-12 per cent NZ content.