Ketchum

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Ketchum is one of the largest public relations agencies employing over 1100 people across 21 offices and with 35 affiliates around the world. [1][2]

History

In 1923 George Ketchum and his brother Carlton G. Ketchum formed Ketchum Communications as a Pittsburgh-based advertising company which later evolved to include a public relations practice.[3]

In 1996 it became a subsidiary of the Omnicom Group with its work consolidated into five practice areas Brand Marketing, Corporate, Food & Nutrition, Healthcare and Technology.[4]

In 1991 a leaked memo from Ketchum, hired by the Clorox Corporation to develop a crisis management plan, detailed proposed responses to a number of hypothetical scenarios, including a peaceful protest by Greenpeace at a Clorox factory. Among the recommended tactics was the launch of a "Stop Environmental Terrorism" public relations campaign.[5] [6][7]

Ketchum and the Armstrong Williams scandal

In 2003, the U.S. Department of Education signed a $700,000 contract with Ketchum to do "rankings of newspaper coverage of the No Child Left Behind law" and to produce a video news release (VNR) touting the law, which featured Education Secretary Rod Paige and promoted a tutoring program offered under the new law. The VNR, narrated by faux reporter Karen Ryan (actually a PR pro), generated controversy since it "comes across as a news story but fails to make clear the reporter involved was paid with taxpayer money." A similar VNR promoting the Bush Medicare law was found by the Government Accountability Office to be covert propaganda in violation of federal law. [1]

Download Ketchum's contract with the U.S. Department of Education, to promote the No Child Left Behind Act (1.6 MB PDF file).

Download Ketchum's request for increased funding for their "Minority Outreach Campaign," featuring Armstrong Williams (132 kb PDF file).

Documents obtained on Ketchum contracts with the U.S. Department of Education through a FOIA request from the People for the American Way are available for download here.

Ketchum Down Under

In text submitted for its listing in the February 1994 edition of O'Dwyer's PR Services Report, Ketchum boasted of its crisis management prowess in defeating a campaign by an unnamed Australian environmental group over a "toxic contamination" site. "When an environmental group launched an attack on an Australian pesticide manufacturer, the government shut the plant down amid fears of widespread pollution. KPR helped organize a response that led to the plant's reopening within a deadline set by the company. As a result, the environmental group received significant criticism for distorting the facts and alarming the public." [8]

U.S. Government PR Contracts

According to the U.S. House Committee on Government Reform Minority Office, Ketchum received the following amounts per year, for federal PR contracts: [2]

  • $1,692,000 in 1999
  • $2,552,000 in 2000
  • $3,657,000 in 2001
  • $2,563,000 in 2002
  • $31,163,457 in 2003
  • $58,895,846 in 2004

The firm's website and the Public Relations Society of America's database of Silver Anvil Award Winners indicate that Ketchum has worked for the following federal agencies, in addition to its Education Department work:

  • Internal Revenue Service, to promote “Ten Minute Taxes” with Telefile;
  • Department of Health and Human Services, to “change the face of Medicare,” promote long-term health care planning, encourage preventative care, and raise awareness of home health care information; and
  • U.S. Army, to “reconnect the Army with the American people” and boost recruiting around its 225th birthday, in 2001.

In May 2005, a PR Week story on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services request for proposals on its outreach work over the next five years reported that, "Under the last umbrella contract ... Ketchum led a $25 million integrated marketing campaign to drive people to the Medicare (800) number and website." [3]

Despite the controversy over the Armstrong Williams contract, Ketchum won a a $25 million contract, including $2 million in fees, to manage the advertising campaign as part of a $300 million, three-year U.S. government effort encouraging seniors to sign up for the new Medicare prescription drug program.

Ketchum "produced a controversial series of prepackaged news stories," or video news releases (VNRs), for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). VNRs that Ketchum produced for the Department of Education were also recently found to be "covert propaganda."

The Washington Post reported, "HHS officials say Ketchum got the new work because it already had a multiyear contract to provide public relations services for the department. The firm promised the new ads will not cross the legal line." HHS's Kathleen Harrington said that seniors trust Medicare information more when it comes from the government, so "it's in the interest of our success ... to label everything appropriately." [4]

Clients

Ketchum's client list (most listings from O'Dwyers PR Daily) includes:

Personnel

Senior executives

Other staff

Contact information

711 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Phone: 646/935-3900
Fax: 646/935-4499
Web: http://www.ketchum.com

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. Ketchum Public Relations Quick Facts About Ketchum, corporate website, accessed November 30, 2011
  2. Ketchum, Inc. Corporate homepage, organizational website, accessed November 30, 2011
  3. Ketchum, Inc. Meet George Ketchum, corporate website, accessed November 30, 2011
  4. Stuart Elliott THE MEDIA BUSINESS: Advertising;Omnicom Agrees to Buy Ketchum Communications, New York Times, January 11, 1996
  5. Jonathan Nack Chlorine company targets Greenpeace, published article, Green Left Weekly, September 4, 1991
  6. Sheldon Rampton Terrorism as Pretext, PRWatch.org, Fourth Quarter 2001, Volume 8, No. 4
  7. Ketchum Communications Crisis Scenario #2, facsimile/internal notes, estimated date 1991, Downloaded pdf extract from Ketchum's plan for Clorox, accessed November 30, 2011
  8. "Ketchum PR", O'Dwyer's PR Services Report, February 1994. (pdf)
  9. "Ketchum to Represent KFC in U.K. and Ireland," The Holmes Report (sub req'd), October 12, 2008.

External resources

External articles