Agency rankings: O’Dwyer takes agency rankings from meaningless to unethical

February 28, 2010 at 2:00 pm 1 comment

One of my favorite blogs is Ann Subervi’s The Ethical Optimist.  She just posted a great entry about publications that offer listings of public relations agencies ( These lists, she says, are useless because there’s nothing standardized about them, they’re not verified and agencies can send whatever information in that they want.

She also chastises Jack O’Dwyer, who publishes an industry newsletter and goes out of his way to antagonize members the Public Relations Society of America (of which I’m a member). Mr. O’Dwyer provides a listing of agencies, but now charges agencies to be on it.  If that doesn’t skew results that are already skewed by a lot of other factors, I can’t imagine what would.

By way of full disclosure, I have my own personal list of PR agencies and Utopia Communications is right at the top. Ann and her folks have supported my work at K. Hovnanian for many years, helping with media relations, events, crises and just keeping me cheered up when the weight of the real estate market got to be too heavy. We are talking about doing some social media work together.

But Utopia isn’t the only agency that I’ve used (sorry, Ann). And I do not use the listings from O’Dwyers, PRWeek or any other publication. It’s an interesting place to look and see where my friends’ agencies land (if they’re on there), but that’s not how I make a decision. Instead, I look at who’s writing articles or teaching seminars conducted by PRSA or International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) or other groups I respect. I talk with others and ask who they use or would recommend. I use my network to find names and check them out.

When you’re looking for an agency to work with, you’re looking for a business partner. Not only do they need the technical skills to do the job, they have to match you in size, ethical position and temperament.  You have to keep in mind that huge agencies usually require huge retainers. Is it worth burning your budget on a name? If your budget is as meager as mine (read: $0), you have to find someone who’s really good and better fits your budget (read: $0…ok, just read: reasonable).

Are they willing to adhere to your strict ethical standards? Any agency that works with me must adhere to the PRSA Code of Ethics and sign an agreement to do so.  Our company also has a code of ethics that it requires trade partners to agree to.

And because I’m a one-person department working at about a million miles per hour, anybody I hire better be able to follow my instructions and hit my high standards with a minimum of supervision. And the reality is that the most successful people with whom I’ve partnered learn to read my mind.  They understand what K. Hovnanian PR needs and don’t need me to sit in long conferences to get jobs done.

The last place to get that information is a list, especially one where one of the qualifying factors is ponying up an inclusion fee.


Entry filed under: Ethics in Public Relations, PRSA, stuff & rants. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Everybody’s Gotta Get the Message He did it!

1 Comment

  • 1. He did it! « In-House PR  |  March 9, 2010 at 10:42 am

    […] 9, 2010 As discussed here and in several other places, including the Ethical Optimist, Jack O’Dwyer, publisher […]



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