This is the time of year when PR firms have to decide if they’re going to give up their statistics and join the O’Dwyer rankings.

As many as 200 firms have done so, although that figure has dropped to less than 150 in the past two years because of the economic meltdown.

Deadline for submitting fee income and employee counts, supported by tax documents, is Monday, Feb. 21. Here is the link to the ranking form.

Rankings are published on this website in the first week in March and are final.

There is no better way to win attention in Google searches than being in the main and specialty O’Dwyer rankings, the only ones supported by tax documents. A Google search of PR rankings in general or by specific product category such as healthcare, tech, food, financial, travel, etc., brings up the O’Dwyer rankings at or near the top. We’re the only PR publisher doing rankings by specialties.

Above the O’Dwyer mentions are the paid Google AdWords that can easily cost thousands a month. Some firms are paying those prices for the visibility.

According to Google Analytics, ranking pages get more than 10,000 unique page views monthly with 8,000 of them coming from companies shopping for PR counsel via search engines.

Most of the firms in the O’Dwyer rankings do business with us in one way or another. Starting last year, we made this a requirement for all ranked firms because the rankings are no longer something on a sheet of paper or in a directory, but exist as an interactive electronic billboard on an expensive, highly active, news-oriented website that attracts 30,000 visits monthly.

Ranked firms that enjoy the visibility of their rankings have to support the website where they reside.

One-Third of Financial Writers Unemployed

The New York Financial Writers’ Assn. , which puts on the annual “Financial Follies,” last week reported cash/savings of $589,120, up $50,000 from a year earlier.

Membership rose 20 to 397 including 276 “active” (i.e., employable) members.

What was left out says a lot about today’s journalism picture -- 90 of the 276, or about one-third, are listed as “freelance,” i.e., unemployed or self-employed, in the members’ directory.

There was no such category a couple of decades ago.

What is NYFWA doing about this? Nothing, as far as we can see.

It gives $30,000 a year (about 5% of its assets) to ten students who might go into financial journalism (what, as freelancers?).

Each student gets $3,000 which would pay for about two or three weeks of tuition/board at a mid-level college.

What NYFWA should be doing with the more than half million left over is bankroll a study (by some of its freelancers) of journalism’s failure to warn about the economic debacle of 2008-09 that brought the country to its knees.

Where was financial reporting at the local level where banks were giving home mortgages to anyone with a pulse?

What local press would go up against real estate brokers and banks that were probably among its biggest advertisers?

We didn’t see much investigative reporting about the real estate bubble in our hometown of Greenwich, Conn., where former $45,000 split ranches ballooned to as high as $1.8M.

The Greenwich Time and other papers in Fairfield County are owned by Hearst.

NYFWA members should begin their research with the 576-page tome of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission that was published last week.

It lambasted banks, Wall St., regulators including the SEC, former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, rating services such as Fitch, Moody’s and S&P -- just about everyone except financial reporters who deserve some of the blame.

A 2009 panel hosted by NYFWA found that few of the writers in the audience knew the meaning of credit default swaps (nothing was ‘swapped’), collateralized debt obligations, or the many forms of derivatives.

Leader of ‘Flash Mob’ Attack Keeps Defending It

Derek DeVries, self-confessed leader of the "Flash Mob" attack on this reporter at the 2010 PRSA Assembly, keeps defending it, calling it "a combination of an experiment with social media and a prank."

What smoked DeVries out into the open and also PRSA VP-PR Art Yann was an editorial on PR Watch Jan. 13 headlined "Awful PR for PR Society of America."

The editorial by PRW managing editor Anne Landman said this reporter was “besieged by a Flash Mob while in the middle of an interview.”

DeVries, in a posting on PRW Jan. 27, says the 20 “mobsters” were set to attack at precisely 2:45 p.m. on Oct. 16 and it was “simply a coincidence” that I was also interviewing delegate Art Stevens at that time.

Stevens had just seen six-months of work go down the drain as the Assembly overwhelmingly defeated the bid to allow non-APRs as national candidates for the first time 35 years.

Stevens called the blockage of 81% of members from national posts “the Berlin Wall” of the Society that “had to come down.”

The 2010 Assembly was an awful moment for supporters of democracy.

DeVries says there was no “deliberate attempt” to disrupt this interview.
Whether deliberate or not, it disrupted it. The polite thing for DeVries and his mob to have done was wait until the interview was over.

Yann Posting on PR Watch Is a Mess

Yann also made some lengthy postings on PR Watch in reply to the “Awful PR” headline and we wonder how he can get paid $137K (his salary in 2009 which was fourth highest at PRSA).

His Jan. 21 posting said “Every day, companies large and small choose the media with which they will interact, whether via invitations to press events, exclusive rights to news announcements, embargoes or, in extreme circumstances, denial of access to information.”

This shows lack of understanding of what journalism is -- the coverage of institutions and people whether they like it or not. Misbehaving organizations don’t have the option of escaping coverage -- not in America, anyway.

There are other flaws in the posting including the statement that the Society gives this reporter credentials to cover the Assembly but not to cover the annual conference.

How can we be credentialed for one and not the other?

The statement was also made that “the Assembly is open to any member who would like to attend.” What, 21,000 members can attend?
Of course they can attend if they were able to listen to the Assembly via an audiocast or read a transcript of the Assembly (which they had until 2005).

The board of the Society should take a close look at the statements of Yann and DeVries that were posted on PR Watch.

Salary Data Not Available

Most Society members don’t know that Yann, who joined less than three years ago (August 2008) became the fourth highest paid staffer in 2009, topping the $135K paid to VP-special events Karla Voth, a staffer since at least 1991. COO Bill Murray is highest paid at $323K plus $32K in retirement benefits and $18K in non-taxable benefits.

Why aren’t these two out preaching the “Business Case for PR” which is about two years old?

Salaries of the six highest paid staffers are on IRS Form 990 for 2009 but this is not posted on the Society website nor is it easily available. It can be found on GuideStar but that requires a user name and password. It is not available on the free Foundation Center 990 Finder.

A similar roadblock to financial information is in the Society “newsroom” where there are no press releases on PRSA financials.

There is a link to “financials” but it turns out they can only be accessed by “members.”