Ketchum’s 170 PRSA Silver Anvils and Ogilvy’s win of the “Best of Anvils” in 2013, when Ogilvy’s Mickey Nall was chair, raise ethical questions.

Should executives who are prominent in PRSA take home so many awards?

Mickey NallMickey Nall

Ray KotcherRay Kotcher

The bio of Kotcher, notes he is the holder of numerous PR awards and titles, and says that “Perhaps most importantly (he) believes in the importance of character and integrity in our lives and in our work.”

It further notes that as chair of the PR Council “he worked to promulgate the highest standards of ethical practice,” and to ensure those standards, he asked, “every member to sign the Council’s Statement of Principles, which all did—an industry first.” He is professor of the practice of PR at Boston University.

Ketchum: “Most Decorated Agency”

His bio states: “As non-executive chair of one of the world’s largest public relations agencies, Kotcher assiduously works to advance the industry. He is equally passionate about furthering public relations as a career destination of choice and supporting those just starting out. To that end, he serves on the faculty of Boston University’s College of Communication as professor of the practice of public relations.

“During his 12 years as the global CEO of Ketchum, the firm tripled in size and was twice named PRWeek’s Agency of the Year. Ketchum is now ranked as the fourth-largest PR firm in the world, according to PRWeek and the Holmes Report. With 170 PRSA Silver Anvils, 59 PRWeek Awards, 19 Cannes Lions, and 164 Holmes Report SABREs, Ketchum is the most decorated agency in the business.”

The 170 total of Silver Anvils is far greater than that of any other PR firm or corporate member of PRSA. Technically, the Anvils go to the client.

DuPont, a client of Ogilvy, in June 2013 won the “Best of Silver Anvil Award,” topping an original field of 847 entrants and 144 finalists. Anthony Farina is head of global PA and director of corporate communications of DuPont.

Ogilvy Should Not Have Competed

The O’Dwyer website editorialized that Ogilvy should not have entered anything in the Anvils contest. There should not have been any chance that the judges would pick one of its entries.

“Having the client of the elected chair of the Society win the grand prize among 847 entries raises charges of cronyism and insider favoritism,” we said, adding, “Such behavior is covered by the Society’s Code which advises members to avoid "real, potential or perceived conflicts of interest." The following is from the Code:


Core Principle: Avoiding real, potential or perceived conflicts of interest builds the trust of clients, employers, and the publics.

Intent: To earn trust and mutual respect with clients or employers. To build trust with the public by avoiding or ending situations that put one's personal or professional interests in conflict with society's interests.

Is This Contest Fixed in Any Way?

PR Firms thinking of entering the Anvils in the future will wonder if the grand prize and perhaps many of the smaller prizes are locked up by insiders. They can certainly wonder if insiders have an edge.

"Global Food Security" concerns forecasts that the world's population will grow from seven billion currently to nine billion by 2050. “Unless influencers and policymakers find sustainable and affordable solutions to food security, a global fight to feed the world’s populace is expected," says the Society release on the award.

There are definitely a lot of starving people in the world and people who do not have access to clean water. What DuPont and others may do about this is not spelled out.

The release on the award says the campaign "helped DuPont shed its image as a chemical company, and recast itself as a leader in food security."

A more meaningful term that would be immediately understood is "food supply." That is really the issue. Food security sounds like DuPont is in favor of clean food and water and who wouldn't be in favor of that? The company is a major producer of fertilizers and other aids to cultivation of crops,

DuPont, with revenues of $35 billion and 70,000 employees, is the world’s third largest chemical company, according to Wikipedia.

It faces issues in air and water pollution and genetically-modified food. Mother Jones in 2010 made it No. 4 on its list of the top 20 polluters.

DuPont a “Model Citizen”

The O’Dwyer website further said, “There's no doubt that the company is in most respects a model corporate citizen. We wonder if it would allow its name to be used by the PR Society if it knew of the many abusive practices that beset it including blocking its membership from knowing who is in the Assembly, how the delegates vote, or what they say, and blocking press coverage of the Assembly for the past two years.”