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April 24, 2001


PR Intelligence Report
is published twice a month by Lawrence Ragan Communications, Chicago.

Jack Bergen, president of the Council of PR Firms, which represents 125 PR firms including all of the big ad agency-owned firms, and Jack O'Dwyer, editor of Jack O'Dwyer's Newsletter, battle in the April 23 PR Intelligence over who has the right to rank PR firms.

Bergen argues that the PR industry "makes money in ways that O'Dwyer doesn't recognize. He should not be the one to define our business, and we shouldn't be beholden to him."

Bergen says the CPRF requires a signed application from the CFO and CEO of a firm and that a CPA letter is "optional."

Bergen said payroll is not a good measure of PR firms' income.

About 5% of the firms that don't provide a CPA letter are reviewed by an independent CPA hired by the Council, he says.

O'Dwyer says the CPRF is a "rogue organization" that has "no business mucking around in the editorial arena."

"I have seen too many cases of PR firms putting out bloated figures only to fold when documentation is sought," said O'Dwyer.

"The CPRF is failing to collect documents that are readily available such as W-3s showing payroll and top pages of the latest income tax return," he said.

"By lumping together various PR firm acquisitions to get box-car figures for one `firm,' and by not identifying their clients, the ad agency-owned firms have made a travesty of the rankings," he added.

O'Dwyer says the CPRF is a "rogue organization" that has "no business mucking around in the editorial arena."

"Symptomatically, the firms of the CPRF show their disdain for third-party endorsement, the traditional measure of PR, by putting out their own, self-certified figures," he said. Bergen said payroll is not a good measure of PR firms' income because payroll can vary from 40% to 60% of revenue.

"We're not trying to control the rankings, but standardize them," he said. "There wasn't a consistent source for industry revenue. Our listing eliminates confusion."
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Let's face it - our industry needs all the transparency it can get. And transparency has to start with disclosure which is capable of being verified objectively.

Jack O'Dwyer's demonstrated to my satisfaction in the past that the multinationals are capable of fudging the figures should they feel a tinge of embarrassment around their annual results or competitive ranking.

That does nothing except harm the industry's reputation. Jack O'Dwyer does his best to dig up the hard numbers - and that approach will do me every time.
--Keith Jackson, Jackson Wells Morris, Sydney, Australia (4/30)

The issue is not WHO does the rankings, but how they are done.

Audited financials, at least, are neutral. I see no reason why the CPRF shouldn't require them.

It was inevitable that someone would come along to challenge O'Dwyer's as the sole arbiter of rankings. That's competition - but any challenger only has credibility when their system is equally objective. So far, the CPRF has not made a good case that their rankings meet this standard.
--No name - just someone who believes in the above (4/27)


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