Food behemoth Nestle intensifies search for heavyweight comms head

Nestle is stepping up a long-running hunt for a heavyweight comms operator to oversee its global public and corporate affairs, following recent negative publicity.

Bolstering comms: Nestle's headquarters
Bolstering comms: Nestle's headquarters

The food and drink firm previously called in the headhunters to find a replacement for vice-president of public affairs Niels Christiansen, who will retire in January 2011. But PRWeek understands the trawl was put on hold as Nestle considered the fallout from its latest PR disaster.

Nestle was recently taken to task by Greenpeace, which claimed it was continuing to source palm oil from Sinar Mas, an Indonesian company accused of illegal deforestation of rainforests.

Digital PR experts said the situation was quickly becoming a social media crisis.

An insider with close links to Nestle said the firm was now determined to achieve better global comms oversight in terms of dealing with social media and the NGOs.

The source added: 'Nestle may be a blue chip firm but it doesn't want a traditional blue chip comms operator. It is looking for a rough diamond who will bring in some lateral thinking.'

The trawl is expected eventually to lead to a wide-ranging review of Nestle's communications, once the post-holder is in place. Such a review could be bad news for Fishburn Hedges, which holds the bulk of Nestle's PR and public affairs business in the UK, along with Nestle's US monitoring company, Nielsen BuzzMetrics.

Christiansen is believed to have announced his resignation last year, but Nestle has held back from rushing in a replacement. However, the news that an appointment could still be some way off will raise eyebrows.

The source close to Nestle said: 'It wants someone who can deal with serious, stuffy types in the corridors of power, but who is equally at home dealing with the media and NGOs. That type of person is quite rare.'

IN THE NEWS

March 2010: Nestle accused by Greenpeace of continuing to source palm oil from Sinar Mas. Nestle said a review of its supply chain would take until the end of April 2010.

December 2009: Nestle says its most popular chocolate bar, KitKat, will be Fairtrade from 2010.

September 2008: Nestle forced to mount rearguard PR operation after being embroiled in the Chinese baby milk powder scandal.

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