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Tuanz boss Paul Brislen quits for PR role

LATEST: Chorus man to replace Brislen at Tuanz

UPDATED:  Jane Sweeney has confirmed Paul Brislen will join her new agency as an executive director and starts in June.  

She says her agency now has ten clients but will not name them, although some have come from her and general manager Carolyn Kerr’s former agency Porter Novelli. NBR understands IAG and Auckland International Airport have come on board.

Ms Sweeney says she can’t reveal the agency's name yet  - because she is still putting IP in place. However a quick search of the intellectual property register reveals her company JASA has applied for the registration of the mark Anthem.

Former Y&R managing director James Hurman has been working with Ms Sweeney on her company name and some client pitches but is not joining the business, she says.

Mr Hurman who has not yet revealed what his new business is, but he will share an office with Ms Sweeney down in the Wynyard Quarter innovation precinct. 

EARLIER: 

The Telecommunications Users Assocation has lost its high-profile CEO.

The organisation – which has just kicked off its annual subscriber drive - Paul Brislen's resignation this morning.

NBR understands Mr Brislen has accepted a position with Jane Sweeney's as-yet unnamed PR startup [UPDATE: Mr Brislen has now confirmed the move].

Tuanz begins its search for a new CEO today. Mr Brislen finishes up at the end of June.

"Jane was looking for someone with social media, digital and corporate PR experience," Mr Brislen told NBR this morning.

"I want to help promote great New Zealand businesses and given how exciting the digital space is for New Zealand companies at the moment it all comes together quite nicely."

He says his corporate and social media skills complement those of another recent Sweeney signing, the more consumer-leaning Carolyn Kerr.

Ms Sweeney - until recently managing director of Clemenger-owned Porter Novelli – is in the process of setting up her own full-service agency, due to launch later this month.

She has recently made several high-profile hires, including ex-Portner Novelli executive director Carolyn Kerr and Nick Palfrey.

Mr Brislen's previous roles include head of corporate communications for Vodafone NZ, editor of Computerworld and acting editor of the NZ Herald's IT section.

Tuanz represents large customers of telecommunications services – its members include Transpower, The Rank Group and the AA – but it also lobbies for general consumers' interests.

"Under Paul’s leadership, Tuanz has fought against the introduction of a ten year regulatory holiday and the copper tax and has championed the needs of the user at every turn," Tuanz chairman Pat O'Connell said in a statement.

“We are sad to see Paul depart but are proud of what TUANZ has achieved under Paul’s leadership over recent years. We part as good friends and wish him well in his new endeavour."

In June 2012, Mr Brislen warned Tuanz members that the lobby group faced extinction if it failed to renew all its subs (which at the time included 300 corporate members and 70 individual subs).

An earlier cut in operational funding from $1 million to $400,000 had already seen Mr Brislen lay off Tuanz' events coordinator, events manager and business development manger earlier that year – leaving himself as the sole full-time employee.

Mr Brislen and the Tuanz board blamed a tough sponsorship and events market for the cutbacks.

InternetNZ's move into the events market had made life tougher for Tuanz Mr Brislen said. The non-profit, which administers the .nz domain, had more wriggle room to offer cheaper tickets, the Tuanz boss said, by dint of Internet NZ drawing around $7 million revenue a year from wholesing local domain domain names. He could not compete when Tuanz had to charge $800 a ticket to break even on an event, while InternetNZ charged $30.

This year's Tuanz membership drive kicked off on Monday.

This morning, Mr Brislen said this year's drive is "Going very well, better than this time last year.  Companies who want to support Tuanz have seen the benefits we brought last year especially the copper tax debate."

Going into the renewal period, Tuanz has 250 business members and 50-60 individual members, chairman Pat O'Connell tells NBR.

During the 2012 dip, Tuanz approached InternetNZ about a possible merger, which was rejected by InternetNZ on the grounds it was a non-profit, while Tuanz' members have commercial interests.

Mr O'Connell said there were no plans to re-animate the concept.

"We work closely, are aligned on many things, but differ in focus and objectives," the chairman said.

InternetNZ and Tuanz are now sharing an Auckland office, Mr Brislen says, but the two organisations continue to advocate from different perpectives.

More by Chris Keall and Victoria Young

Comments and questions
2

Giant loss for TUANZ. Paul artfully navigated the necessary reduction in size of TUANZ while spearheading a number of successful and meaningful campaigns.

Paul will be missed but the need for Tuanz continues at a pace