I'd like to congratulate Ketchum, Weber and Edelman for each receiving more than 20 Sabre nominations this year. They're superb agencies who do terrific work for some of the country's best organizations.
But, as is the case with ALL large agencies, Ketchum, Weber and Edelman have the financial wherewithal to positively flood these one-price-fits-all awards shows. As a result, the large agencies have an exponentially greater chance of having one of their entries selected as a finalist; they also tend to dominate entire categories. At the recent PR Week awards ceremony, for example, the finalists for one category read as follows:
– 'Ketchum, Fleishman, Ketchum, Fleishman and Ketchum. And, the winner is: Ketchum!'
That's not just embarrassing. It's wrong.
The powers-that-be insist an independent panel of judges assures only the best program wins in each category. And, they're right, to a degree. In reality, the judges are reviewing the best programs MONEY can buy.
The vast majority of the 3,000-plus public relations firms in the United States are small and midsized. Most have neither the time nor the financial wherewithal to submit entries that come with a hefty price tag of $900 per. Yet, many of these little guys are doing extraordinary work that deserves to be recognized.
Since PRWeek, The Holmes Report, PRNews, Bulldog Reporter and others depend on the awards programs for much-needed revenue, they refuse to even entertain the thought of a tiered pricing program that would enable more small and midsized firms to compete.
I also think the awards programs publish the total number of entries per firm so that we know how successful the big firms really are. It would be interesting to know if Weber's 20 finalists were among, say, 80, 120 or 200 in total submitted by the behemoth.
In its advertising, Ketchum proudly boasts it's won more than 100 Silver Anvils. That's amazing. But, 100 out of how many total entries? One thousand? Five thousand? Twenty thousand?
It's ironic that the very editors who advocate for transparency refuse to be more transparent about their own awards programs.
And, it's a sad fact that, due to high pricing and limitless big agency resources, the PR industry really isn't recognizing the very best programs of the year. They're merely recognizing the very best programs of the year that money can buy.