Thursday, March 4

Being Entitled: O'Dwyer's Directory

There is one word that ought to be avoided in any position, profession, or personal activity. The word is entitlement.

If you want to know what it looks like, take a peek at the post penned by Jack O'Dwyer, publisher of O'Dwyer's Directory of PR Firms. Entitlement, not ethics as Ann Subervi suggests, is the word that comes to mind with a capital E in this case.

O'Dwyer has made the decision to change his business model. Because compiling the rankings and posting them for a year is expensive, he believes revenue fat public relations firms ought to pony up more and support his publication. Associations too, for that matter. And if the firms don't pony up, then they will no longer be listed.

They all owe him because he paid his dues, did the work, and built a ranking system described as "epidemic" on Google. Many of them owe him because the rankings were once responsible for doubling public relations firms leads any time they popped up on the top ten. Others benefited when conglomerates bought them up.

Everybody, it seems, has benefited. Everyone, that is, except the publisher. His reward for a strict ranking system was increased competition from lax ranking publishers, being snubbed by associations, and being shut out by advertising agencies because they don't need to be ranked anymore. It's tough love when you produce a better product and take on the role of being a outspoken contrarian.

Entitlement Is The Worst Enemy To Innovation, Success, And Happiness.

Entitlement doesn't only afflict O'Dwyer. It afflicts companies that build better mousetraps that no one ever heard of. It afflicts dailies, lamenting the loss of revenue. It afflicts nonprofits, with proven track records but faced with budget cuts. It afflicts bloggers, droning on about how they write better content but can't break the popularity barrier. It afflicts professional associations, with volunteer board members considering past contributions as the measure of their righteousness within an organization. It afflicts spouses who forget relationships require daily refreshers over years together. And so on and so forth.

But entitlement, beyond its formal meaning associated with benefits because of rights or by agreement through law, is a killer. No one is deserving of some particular reward or benefit or authority or payment for simply doing what they chose to do. It's the individual's responsibility to demonstrate a tangible value proposition that sells itself or accept that few will buy in.

The Communication Surrounding The O'Dwyer Brush Up Is Silly.

For a group of communicators, journalists and public relations practitioners alike, the whole of the communication is rank with non-communication. Gawker calls it extortion. Waggener Edstrom Worldwide is irritated because they were singled out. I already included a link to Subervi's take.

None of it has much value, but it is interesting to note that the so-called controversy has given O'Dwyer's Directory of PR Firms more attention than it has received in a very, very long time. That in itself can be an indicator that the age of the publication isn't holding up as a relevant source of information, regardless of how objective or valuable it may or may not be.

After all, that is the real question isn't it? The public relations industry has to decide if the ranking has value. If it does, they will fund it at the new rates. If it doesn't, then they won't. And O'Dwyer has to accept the outcome or prove a value beyond the measure of years in business.

And if he doesn't accept the outcome? Well, it seems pretty pointless to continue firing off public commentary that isn't much different than the one we picked up yesterday. Because if that were to continue, then the Gawker, Subervi, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, et al, would be right. Attacking non-advertisers (listed or not) breaks well away from the business of journalism that O'Dwyer had previously held in high regard. It would go well beyond pay for play. It would be pay for protection from the ranking system.

Of course, I could always be wrong. But if I am wrong, I need to know where to send the invoice for contributing a link to O'Dwyer's Directory of PR Firms. If Google juice has that much value, then I certainly am, gasp ... well, you know.

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