Posted by an Honored Guest
Want a good overview of what’s going on in PR and why the large agency business is so quiet? Got one, and a BIG one, too! Today, I am proud to introduce an Op-Ed by industry sage Jack O'Dwyer, editor-in-chief for O'Dwyer Publications. O'Dwyer's Newsletter has been one of the most authoritative sources for news and opinion in the PR industry for more than 30 years.
The timing couldn't be better. I confess: We've been a little guilty here of generalizing about the state of PR. Here we are dead serious.
This editorial reveals some of the real pressures operating on Agency PR. Apparently, a major by-product of globalization has been the import of behavioral patterns and “standards” that are not up to U.S. standards. We don’t have religious fanaticism in the U.S. (relatively speaking); we don’t have a class system; we don’t sell our children to sex slavery. Most of all, we have far tighter financial reporting standards than exist in the U.K., France, etc.
But the biggest influence on the industry has come indirectly from Uncle Sam. The U.S. balance of payments has put a tidal wave of dollars in foreign hands. Fact is, the U.S is for sale and the Europeans have been buying out entire industries... one namely PR.
According to O'Dwyer, the Council of PR Firms has been a key bellwether for this trend.
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After reading this three times, I'm still stumped. What's the argument here?
Europeans are secretive (check); left to their own devices, conglomerates grow slowly (check). . . and, er. . . and, er. . .
Confused of London
PS: Just for sport, can we go a couple of rounds at some point on that suggestion that the US is devoid of "religious fundamentalism per se"? (Not sure what the "per se" signifies. . .)
I really wonder about the US-London comparison in terms of financial reporting, too. I'll leave others to comment on France...
First, I don't think Jack's piece was argumentative. It was more a statement of fact. Facts, of course, can be clarified. I was hoping you'd add your perspective.
You're absolutely right re: "per se." I've edited the article to read "relatively speaking." Sorry if I implied "devoid."
Lastly, as to the comparison of stringency of financial reporting, I am going to invite a few experts to comment.
The US doesn't have stricter financial controls per se. It has a different, sledgehammer-to-crack-a-nut system.
Sarbanes-Oxley is a tax on companies they're not prepared to pay. Regardless of the alleged benefits, the only ones to win were the Big Four auditors. Their fees went up 10-20% aqnd they reckon theey're enjoying record billing.
There is MORE reporting of financial cock ups than at any time in the past.
It's the US rules based reporting system that doesn't work (when there are rules then folk will break them) combined with the US being the home of now demonised tax havens. Think Delaware corporations, think KPMG forking over $456 million in penalties for selling fraudulent tax schemes, think Bearing Point getting slapped for padding expenses. And let's not forget Enron, Tyco plus the 16 ex KPMG partners on trial for tax fraud etc etc.
The fact is, the US is a crap place to do business fiscally compared to the UK/Eire.
I'm not in any position to comment on the relative tightness of US vs EU financial reporting structures.
But one of the things that both Amanda's intro and O'Dwyer's essay point out is the absolute vacuum of champions for our profession in the public sphere.
We do a far better job for our clients than we do for ourselves. And our associations, whether we're talking PRSA, IABC, or COPR do a crappy job of representing the profession to the world.
Think about the accounting scandals in corporate America in recent years. Do you think accountants have suffered reputationally? Do you think they're at the same level of esteem as we flacks?
The public trusts accountants, and still does, for the most part. It doesn't trust us, and it should be cold comfort that it doesn't trust journalists much either.
And what's PRSA's response? To bar hacks from attending sessions on ethics in PR.
IM(very)HO, no-one should expect too much of professional organisations. Once they move beyond their basic purpose (rightly defined by Adam Smith as a collaborative effort to raise margins), they reach the limits of their powers very rapidly.
But I sense that I'm intruding on a US-specific dispute -- so I really should defer to US expertise.
Out of curiosity, though, here's a coda. In the UK, we've currently got the European head of Edelman publicly criticising the head of the CIPR, the consultancies' organisation, for talking down the prospects of social media.
It's an odd exchange. . .
Follow this link for more: http://www.nevillehobson.com/2006/08/25/the-cipr-ostrich/
The US most certainly has a class system - any country in which access to education and health is so affected by wealth must do so. Moreover the point about religious fantacism is debateable - granted the US doesn't mollify political and religious extremists but many European countries (the UK in particular) are largely secular societies and view the influence of religion on US poiitics as somewhat fanatical.
I guess I'm saying that I don't think it gets anyone very far by ascribing the downfall of PR to europeanisation (I don't know if US trade magazines "cover" industries in a totally equitable manner, but I know that the use of that verb when applied to US investment banks' analyses of company prospects did not automatically connote neutral assessment). Far better surely, just to say this is where we are, this is what's wrong, let's do something about it. Maybe the industry needs champions, but naively I think of the best champions of any industry to be the practitioners who ply their trade in a praiseworthy manner.
Downright embarrassing for all. This is so obviously flawed that it PROVES the U.S. PR system is in the hands of misinformed and self-aggrandized citizens who are surely gutting it much faster than super-chic European cartels. Any American who can honestly say religion and policy aren't strongly linked needs to leave NYC, and any American who says we don't have a class system needs to leave Madison Avenue. Read a paper, PR man.
To suggest that America a) does not have religious fanatacism (hello, fundamental Christianity??); b) does not have a class system (it's called rich vs. poor) or c) does not sell its children into slavery (what would you call the rampant child abuse and child pornography in the U.S.) is, well, patently untrue. Sorry, I stopped reading this one right there.