Fonterra appoints new media man

ELLEN READ
Last updated 13:30 27/03/2014

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Fonterra is beefing up its inhouse communications with the appointment of a new media man.

The dairy giant has created a new role - general manager external communications - that will be filled next month by Gordon Jon Thompson.

Thompson resigned from his role Sky City's corporate communications boss last week. He has a strong political background, including time in then-Prime Minister Helen Clark's office, acting as chief of staff for then-Labour leader Phil Goff and with market research firm UMR.

His brother, Paul Thompson, is the chief executive and editor of Radio New Zealand and was previously group editor of Fairfax NZ.

Traditionally the dairy co-operative has relied heavily on PR consultancy Baldwin Boyle Group and it is understood they will still be involved.

Last August Fonterra sparked a worldwide product recall and global food-safety scare, when it admitted there could be a bacteria in one of its products which could cause botulism, a severe form of food poisoning.

The product suspected of containing the bacteria was commonly used in infant formula.

Several countries began blocking dairy products from New Zealand in the wake of the scare, which turned out to be a false alarm.

This month, the dairy co-operative indicated it would plead guilty to four Ministry of Primary Industries charges including two over who it communicated risks in the lead up to the crisis.
Kerry Underhill was appointed Fonterra communications chief last August on the day the botulism scare broke.

Underhill said he had spent the first six months in the role learning about the business and making plans.
''I planned how I would structure things and obviously key roles were internal and external communications.''

A review had been done in 2012 and had picked up on the company needing more inhouse communications capability.
Underhill has already appointed Helen Keir from Vector to lead internal communications and Thompson's appointment to external communications complements that role.

''[Thompson] will be responsible for developing and implementing a global media strategy and for managing and enhancing Fonterra's reputation through engagement with key stakeholders,'' Underhill said.

Thompson starts with Fonterra on April 22. No announcement has been made regarding his replacement at Sky City.

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