Mar 10

And the finalists for best corporate campaign of the year are Golin Harris, Golin Harris and Golin Harris. And, the winner is…

PR industry awards programs are a total joke. Aside from awards-submission savvy midsized firms likeAward
CLS and Cone, a few large firms totally dominate every awards category of every awards competition every year.

It’s embarrassing and absurd at the same time. Big firms have the resources, time and wherewithal to submit 70, 80 or more programs to every competition. How difficult is it to be a finalist in a given category when 60 percent of the submissions come from the same agency?

One would think the cash-strapped publications sponsoring these industry love-ins would figure out how innately unfair they are and, dare I suggest it, hold two awards competitions: one for the T Rex’s of the industry, and another for the rest of us.

The big guys would still rake in their usual quota of 15 or more trophies per show. The independent firms would finally be competing on a level playing field. And, the media properties would pocket more cash. So, what’s the delay? Oh, and the winner of that particular award was, believe it or not, Golin Harris.

Jan 14

Looking for love in all the wrong places

Surveys about client-agency relationships are a dime a dozen and tell you what you already know. To wit,Reardon
clients are unhappy with their firm’s strategy, creativity, execution and responsiveness. Probe a little deeper and you’ll find concern about agencies simply not understanding the business of their client’s business.

So, as I reviewed yet another one of these surveys from a Cincinnati-based group called Reardon Smith Whittaker, I was taken aback by one ‘new’ finding: forty percent of client respondents said they ‘look forward to’ or find it exciting’ to search for a new agency. Can you believe that? Do they have no idea how tortuous new business pitches are for agencies? These respondents would be right at home in Gitmo or most any concentration camp of the 20th century.

‘…Enjoying and looking forward to…’ agency reviews is a clueless remark for many reasons, including:

– The inordinate amount of time and resources an agency has to devote to a new business pitch
– The business disruption caused by agency searches to both client and agency organizations
– The fact that an agency search means the prior firm, and the client conducting the search, failed to achieve the business communications goals.

For me, this last point is what rankles most. Enlightened corporate communications departments realize that success (and failure) should be shared. Sadly, there are still too many client-side personnel who will claim credit for success, but point the finger at the agency when things go south.

Obviously, there are some bad firms, but most provide a similar level of service. So, what’s the real issue? Usually, it comes down to staff turnover on the agency side (a big agency problem) and a corporate communications department that is either too far removed from the organization’s strategic decision making to connect it to PR, or simply too lazy to do much more than enact a purely tactical, media-by-the-pound campaign. Either way, senior management gets antsy at some point and demands a new PR firm. And, the communications department readily accedes because, ‘hey, it’s fun and exciting’ to do an agency search.’

Don’t get me wrong. Agency searches are critical when a client is looking to re-position itself, take the business in a new, more strategic direction or, if the PR firm really has failed to live up to its end of the bargain. Sadly though, most are fishing expeditions that may be fun for the ‘angler,’ but pure torture for us ‘fish.’