Our ears are burning

Posted on March 1, 2010 by 3 Comments

Jack O’Dwyer, publisher of O’Dwyer’s annual list of PR agencies, recently made it clear that he will begin charging participants a fee to be included. We at Waggener Edstrom have decided that this arrangement does not support our business objectives. While we have participated in prior years, O’Dwyer’s list has not had a measurable impact on our business efforts for some time. 

We are, however, taking part in other industry rankings that do not require payment, and which have proven to deliver as good, or better, results for our business. But because of our decision, O’Dwyer has singled us out for declining to advertise. 

In his blog, O’Dwyer regularly calls on agencies to support trade media. The reality is that we do support the industry. 

We have advertised with other publications such as PR Week, and we will continue to sponsor events that offer a thoughtful dialogue on emerging industry topics. We are also a member of the Council of PR Firms — another organization that O’Dwyer has taken to task for not financially supporting his business to the extent he deems sufficient.  

Our decision is based on the same set of expectations that our clients set for us each day — demonstrate great value, deliver great results and you will earn our business. 

In this case, our view on what’s best for our business simply differs from what O’Dwyer believes is best for his.

As a side note, you can see Gawker’s unique take on the situation here.

Kent Hollenbeck is Sr. Vice President of Marketing & Corporate Communications for Waggener Edstrom Worldwide and can be found @kent_h on Twitter.

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3 Comments

Jimbo the NYBird on March 4, 2010

You’re right, Kent. W-E is right to stand its ground. It’s not crushing the little guy if the value of a service just isn’t there.

While O’Dwyer’s editorial content has great relevance, the list doesn’t. Jack can’t change that with “Pay for play” or playing the Don Quixote role with the big holding companies.

Jack O'Dwyer on March 7, 2010

Hi Kent:

Here’s my blog on this:
Editor Jack O’Dwyer Blogs:
Wagged Exec Attacks Us, Praises PR Week. Are we “on crack, ethically speaking”?
Mon., March 8

Wagged (one sub) Attacks Us, Likes PR Week
We finally smoked someone out at Waggener Edstrom.
I guess calling them “cheapskates” got under the skin of VP/marketing and CC Kent Hollenbeck.
http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=66108751387 (pix of Hollenbeck)
What else would you call a “PR” firm that had revenues of $119 million in 2008 and 843 employees but could afford only one $249 subscription to us?
Hollenbeck’s March 1 blog linked to gawker.com where a former PR Week reporter huffed that we were “on crack, ethically speaking.”
http://blogs.waggeneredstrom.com/panorama/2010/03/our-ears-are-burning/
That pleased Hollenbeck no end.
We asked Wagged for an odwyerpr.com website license for $10K so all its employees can legally access the site.
This is a pitiful sum compared to the $40K Wagged pays to the Council of PR Firms each year not to mention tens of thousands of dollars for the PR Week awards banquet for sponsorships and tables.
Wagged is one of the $15K sponsors of the PRW banquet this Thursday.
What the firm does is give lots of money to the competition and the publicity to us.
That sort of thing helped to kill our old newspaper, the New York Journal American. It got the publicity while TV got the ads.
We had been giving Wagged No. 2 ranking on our list of PR firms but it doesn’t act like a PR firm so we’re removing it.
Unlike Wagged execs, ranked PR firm principals talk to us and let all their employees access our website. They’re not afraid of knowledge. They don’t regard us as the “underground press,” as some PR people describe us.
We regard Wagged’s harsh attitude to reporters (PRW excepted) to be the antithesis of PR.
Seattle Times columnist Jonathan Martin was ordered by a Wagged employee last October not to use her name or suffer being called “inaccurate.” http://www.odwyerpr.com/members/archived_stories_2009/october/1016unspokesman_blasted_by_paper.html

Hollenbeck Likes PRW Ranking
What got under our skin is Hollenbeck saying that it is “taking part in other industry rankings that do not require payment…”
There is only one other such ranking and that is PRW’s which requires no tax documents, no account lists and which allows corporate issue ad commissions up to 10% of total firm revenues.
PRW does not collect any revenue totals for specialties such as healthcare, tech, financial, beauty/fashion, food, etc., which is where the PR counseling industry has been headed for at least a decade. The O’Dwyer specialty PR rankings are the only such rankings on Google.
Our rankings require top pages of corp. income tax returns, W-3s showing total payroll, account lists and other substantiation.

PRW “Contact” Directory Has No Price on It
Since Hollenbeck is so effusive in his support of PRW, saying Wagged has advertised in it and “will continue to sponsor events that offer a thoughtful dialogue on emerging industry topics,” we will point out that PRW’s annual Contact directory of data on PR firms, corporations and assns. no longer has any price on it. That used to be $249.
For years PRW gave away this directory as part of the $198 subscription to PRW in violation of USPS periodicals mailing rules that say a premium may be no more than 60% of the cover price of the publication.
Subscribers are not supposed to be “bribed” into subscribing to a periodicals rate publication. http://www.odwyerpr.com/members/archived_stories_2009/april/0416prw_usps.html
We took the PRW directory and its subscription offers to the USPS a couple of years ago and they took up this issue, resulting in Contact only being sold as part of a PRW subscription with no price at all on it.
Wagged “Supports” the PR Trade Media?!
Also getting under our skin is Hollenbeck’s statement that “O’Dwyer regularly calls on agencies to support trade media. The reality is that we do support the industry.”
If Wagged is so supportive of the trade media then why have seven PR publications disappeared since 1998, the year that the Council of PR Firms and PRW were born?
PR Reporter and PR Quarterly both died in their 50th years. Also no longer published are Reputation Management mag and Inside PR NL of Paul Holmes (Inside PR continues as a website), and PR Intelligencer Report and PR Journal of Ragan Communications and the weekly Ragan Report (which continues online).
The weekly PR Reporter carried lots of research reports, many of them written by Boston University grad students. We always read it and got good stuff out of it.
PRQ carried thoughtful pieces by PR professors and PR pros. Its articles were the second most copied by NANA (PR Society) for its information packet business (after O’Dwyer articles). http://www.odwyerpr.com/members/archived_stories_2009/april/0416prw_usps.html
Where were Wagged and all the other big PR firms when these publications were dying?
The ad rep for PRQ told us he pounded on the doors of all the big shops for years to no avail. The only ad PRQ ever got was from North American Precis Syndicate. PRQ’s circulation was a pitiful 900.
What happened in 1998 was that a bunch of big firms got together and decided there was only going to be one dominant PR publication in the U.S.—PRW. Many millions were thrown into it and other publications put on a starvation diet.
However, after ten years here, PRW’s average paid and requested circulation to Oct. 1, 2009 was 6,155, said its USPS statement in its November 2009 issue. There are at least 250,000 PR people in the U.S. according to the U.S. government statistics.
Total average press run was 9,659 with an average of 1,814 being distributed free and an average of 1,670 copies not distributed at all.
What a waste of paper!
It reminds of us another waste—the 20,000 printed copies of NANA’s Tactics and Strategist still being distributed when they should be PDFs. NANA, contradictorily, killed the infinitely more useful annual directory of members, saying it wasted too much paper and postage.
NANA’s two print publications make it almost impossible for any other PR print publication to thrive since NANA’s 20,000 members are not going to subscribe to anything else.
PRW publisher Haymarket, which worked closely with NANA when it brought PRW here (using NANA’s membership list for initial circulation), should not have agreed to come unless NANA agreed to stop publishing Tactics and Strategist.
O’Dwyer Ranking Loaded with Minus Signs
The O’Dwyer ranking of PR firms, published today on our website, is loaded with minus signs.
We salute the firms that reported no matter what their results were. This increases the credibility of the PR counseling industry.
Not on the list are nine members of the Council of PR Firms who think they can cheap out on us and still be in our rankings.
They’re not going to get away with giving huge amounts of money to the Council of PR Firms and PR Week and the publicity to us.
The nine, topped off by Wagged, paid about $112,000 in CPRF dues last year for their $223 million in U.S. revenues (.65% of revenues to max dues of $40K).
For their total of 1,486 employees they took exactly 11 O’Dwyer subscriptions at $295 each. They accuse us of “selling” the rankings when we use the rankings as a club to get these tightwads to cough up their fair share of compiling the rankings and hosting them all year long on this website.
None of the nine will meet with us or talk to us on the phone although a few trade e-mails with us.
The Wagged New York office is a few blocks from us but we have never met anyone from Wagged.
Some PR firm CEOs ask why should they get an O’Dwyer site license when only one person in the firm (them) sees the website?
Such stinginess with information as well as money disqualifies them as “PR” firms.

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