Peppercom was one of the founding members of the Council of PR Firms (www.prfirms.org). In those early days, the Council was often criticized as being a "big agency" mouthpiece. I never felt that way, but I did understand the sentiment.
The Council retrofitted its structure, created tiered sections and now reflects the interests of small, medium and large sized agencies. Critically, the Council also tiered its membership fee structure. So, for example, Weber Shandwick pays a significantly higher fee then, say, a firm that only bills $5 million on an annualized basis.
So, why don’t PR Week, The Holmes Report, PR News and the various and sundry other industry trade media follow the same approach with their awards programs?
PR Week, for example, just announced its 2009 awards competition and lauded the fact that "…a record-setting 957 entries…" were received last year. What they fail to mention, though, is that a disproportionate percentage of those entries came from the largest agencies. Nor do they mention that large agencies almost always receive the most nominations and the most awards.
This is simply unfair. Large agencies have the wherewithal to devote the time and resources to compete for the awards. Indeed, quite a few have dedicated resources just to manage their array of submissions.
How level a playing field do we have when a Burson or Fleishman can submit 50, 60 or more entries while a small or mid-sized firm can only afford one or two? The answer is simple: the media should adopt the Council’s tiered pricing program. Large agencies should pay considerably more per submission tha
n do medium or smaller sized firms. Fair market pricing would dramatically level the playing field and make the awards programs less of a big agency feast and more of a true industry competition.