This is a large, but fairly hidden, public relations firm which is part of a larger group offering global marketing, branding, and corporate communications services. It was founded in 1923 in Pittsburgh by George Ketchum -- originally as an advertising company which later evolved to include a public relations practice. It is now headquartered New York City.
- 1 Conglomeration
- 2 History
- 3 Ketchum and the Clorox factory
- 4 Ketchum and the Armstrong Williams scandal
- 5 Cellphone Industry Scandal
- 6 Ketchum Down Under
- 7 U.S. Government PR Contracts
- 8 Clients
- 9 Personnel
- 10 Other staff
- 11 Contact information
- 12 Articles and resources
In the late 1990s there was a global buy-up spree of all of the major advertising, public relations, polling, fundraising and campaign managing firms. This resulted eventually in them all being incorporated into three gigantic worldwide 'communications' multinational umbrella conglomerates (four if you limit it to advertising).
Each company in these conglomerates keeps their own management and identity, and they regularly buy smaller firms as subsidiaries. So the effects of the concentration of power and control in these umbrella organisations is rarely obvious -- and it is rarely exercised except to service the largest of corporate interests. Ketchum has been owned by Omnicom Group since 1996 -- this group has a market capitalisation over over $20 billion (and they hardly own anything tangible). They are less than half the size of the WPP group.
The other two are WPP and Publicis Groupe -- or three if you include IPG (Interpublic) which mainly has an advertising focus)
Like all of these large public relations firms, while servicing wealthy corporations and industries -- often over a national or international territory -- they often walk the borderline of illegality, and almost always overstep the boundaries of immorality. Deception is their stock-in-trade, and conspiracy is often intrinsic in client discussions.
Ketchum and the Clorox factory
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. 
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. 
Cellphone Industry Scandal
In 1993 a series of reports and books on the potential for the new analog cellular mobile phones to produce brain cancer and the proliferation of ugly base-station transmission towers in suburban settings, created a health scare in many cities in the developed world.
The Cellular Telephone Industry Association (CTIA) initially reacted to this threat to their business by offering $1 million for research, and demanding that the US Federal Government appoint a 'blue-ribbon panel' of scientists to oversee research to prove that cellphones were safe. This trivial reaction to what was perceived as a real threat, caused a storm in Congress.
The CTIA president Thomas Wheeler held immediate fire-fighting meetings with his advisors, and especially with Motorola, the company which dominated the industry, and, as a result, they put up $25 million (initially) to fund a major research program through a new entity which was established by their public relations firm Ketchum. They also enlisted John D. Graham, the director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis
Lorraine Thelian, the director of the Washington DC offices of Ketchum, found for them the ideal science-for-sale entrepreneur to run the research organization. George L. Carlo was an experienced science lobbyist for Philip Morris and the tobacco industry, who had built his pro-corporate reputation in fighting the battles over Agent Orange and dioxins for the Dow Chemical Company, before establishing his own service firm Health and Environmental Services (along with a number of other pseudo-think-tanks, and societies).
Carlo set up for the cellphone industry, the Wireless Technology Research as a limited liability company, totally controlled by himself and his wife. Over the next few years it spent $27.8 million of the CTIA's money on research guaranteed not to find anything of health significance.
Unfortunately, Carlo eventually split with the CTIA acrimoniously, and he set up a number of rival operations promoting the cellphone health scare, and selling protective devices to stop users getting brain cancer. Overall, Carlo proved to be more of a liability than anyone could imagine. []
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." 
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: 
- $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." 
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." 
Ketchum's client list (most listings from O'Dwyers PR Daily) includes:
- Alberto Culver
- Almond Board of California
- American Iron & Steel Institute
- American Red Cross
- Bank One/First USA
- Bristol-Myers Squibb
- British Tourism Authority
- CMA German Agricultural Industries
- California Dried Plum Board
- Cardinal Health
- CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
- Cingular Wireless
- Combe Inc.
- Dixie International Brands
- Dow Chemical Company
- Duckling Council
- Elan Pharmaceutical
- Estee Lauder
- Federated Dept. Stores
- Fireman's Fund
- Florida State Board of Administration
- Hampton Inn
- HUGO (Human Genome Organization)
- Hyundai Motor America
- International Carwash Assn.
- International Truck & Engine (Navistar)
- Johnson & Johnson
- KFC - contract awarded in 2008, "to strengthen its reputation in the U.K. and Ireland," using the firm's "experts in reputation management, CSR, brand communications, public affairs and employee engagement." 
- Kikkoman International
- Levi Strauss & Co.
- Liberty Alliance
- Lions Club International
- Master Foods
- Montefiore Medical Center
- National Cattlemen's Beef Association
- New York Stock Exchange
- Newport News
- OrthoMcNeil Pharmaceuticals
- Pabst Blue Ribbon
- Panamanian Tourist Board
- Pitney Bowes
- Potato Board
- Procter & Gamble
- Quaker Oats
- State of South Carolina
- The Clorox Co.
- The Home Depot
- The Walt Disney Company
- U.S. Department of Education
- U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services
- U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance
- UCB Pharma
- Universal Health Services
- Warner Home Video
- Water Pik Technologies Inc.
- Wendy's International
- Yahoo! en espanol
- Zapf Creation 
- David R. Drobis Chairman Emeritus
- Raymond L. Kotcher, Senior Partner/CEO
- Rob Flaherty Senior Partner/Global Practices Managing Director/New York
- Daniel R. Madia Senior Partner/Global Chief Administrative Officer
- Jerry Olszewski Senior Partner/International
- Lorraine Thelian Senior Partner/North America
- Dale Bornstein Partner/Director New York
- David Catlett Partner/Director Global Healthcare
- Barri Rafferty Partner/Director Atlanta
- Rob Lorfink Chief Financial Officer
- Chris Atkins Partner/Director of global corporate practice;
- Kim Sample Partner Associate Director
- Scott Proper Associate Director
- Gary Stromberg principal, Stromberg Consulting
- Charlotte Forbes principal, Stromberg Consulting
- Mindy Rubinstein Partner Director of Corporate Communications and Business development
711 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Articles and resources
Related SourceWatch articles
- Ketchum Public Relations Quick Facts About Ketchum, corporate website, accessed November 30, 2011
- Ketchum, Inc. Corporate homepage, organizational website, accessed November 30, 2011
- Ketchum, Inc. Meet George Ketchum, corporate website, accessed November 30, 2011
- Stuart Elliott THE MEDIA BUSINESS: Advertising;Omnicom Agrees to Buy Ketchum Communications, New York Times, January 11, 1996
- Jonathan Nack Chlorine company targets Greenpeace, published article, Green Left Weekly, September 4, 1991
- Sheldon Rampton Terrorism as Pretext, PRWatch.org, Fourth Quarter 2001, Volume 8, No. 4
- Ketchum Communications Crisis Scenario #2, facsimile/internal notes, estimated date 1991, Downloaded pdf extract from Ketchum's plan for Clorox, accessed November 30, 2011
- "Ketchum PR", O'Dwyer's PR Services Report, February 1994. (pdf)
- "Ketchum to Represent KFC in U.K. and Ireland," The Holmes Report (sub req'd), October 12, 2008.
- Copy of Kethcum's Leaked Draft Clorox Crisis Management Plan (4.6MB Pdf file)
- Greenpeace USA Media Release on Copy of Kethcum's Leaked Draft Clorox Crisis Management Plan
- Jonathan Nack, "Chlorine company targets Greenpeace", Green Left Weekly, 1991. (Originally published in the Guardian (US).
- "The Chlorine Industry's Secrets Exposed! #2, PR Watch, Volume 3, No. 2, 2nd Quarter 1996.
- "Flying the Koop: A Surgeon General's Reputation On the Line", PR Watch, Volume 5, No. 4, 4th Quarter 1998.
- Sheldon Rampton, "Terrorism as Pretext", PR Watch, Fourth Quarter 2001, Volume 8, No. 4.
- Sheldon Rampton, "Ketchum (the UN's PR Firm) Tackles Corporate Responsibility", PR Watch, Volume 9, No. 3, 3rd quarter 2002.
- Sheldon Rampton, "Corporate Social Responsibility and the Crisis of Globalization", PR Watch, Volume 9, No. 3, 3rd quarter 2002.
- Ravi Chandiramani, "Ketchum appoints director for its UK corporate practice", PR Week, February 23, 2004.
- Ketchum, The Building of a Top Ten Global Public Relations Agency, undated, accessed July 2004.
- Douglas Quenqua, "Ketchum faces inquiry of contract with Puerto Rico", PR Week, September 20, 2004.
- Ben Feller, "Bush ad appears to be news story," Associated Press, October 11, 2004.
- Fraser P. Seitel, "Ketchum Calamity Post Mortem", O'Dwyers PR Daily (sub. req'd.), January 24, 2005.
- Jack O'Dwyer, "PR Opinion", Jack O'Dwyers Newsletter (sub. req'd.), Internet Edition, January 26, 2005.
- Erica Iacono, "Spellings halts Ketchum work as Council polishes industry image", PR Week, February 07 2005. (Sub req'd).
- "Review of Formation Issues Regarding the Department of Education's Fiscal Year 2003 Contract with Ketchum, Inc. for Media Relations Services", Department of Education, April 15, 2005.
- "White House Is Impeding Armstrong Williams Probe, Dem. Lawmaker Says", Editor & Publisher, April 15, 2005.
- Brian Faler, "Hiring of Commentator Is Called Poor Judgment: Report: Education Dept. Broke No Law", Washington Post, April 16, 2005.
- Anne E. Kornblut, "Inquiry Finds Radio Host's Arrangement Raised Flags", April 16, 2005.
- "Warnings on Armstrong Williams ignored, report says", Seattle Times, April 16, 2005.
- Erica Iacono, "ANALYSIS Government Contracts: DoE contract report takes some heat off of Ketchum", PR Week, April 25, 2005. (Sub Req'd.)
- Erica Iacono, "DoE report cites a lack of ROI, not ethics", PR Week, April 25, 2005. (Sub req'd).
- Beth Herskovits, "Medicare/Medicaid throws majority of work up for bid," PR Week (sub. req'd.), May 23, 2005.
- Beth Herskovits, "Novartis and Arthur Frommer publish restroom guide for OAB sufferers", PR Week, June 15, 2005. (Sub req'd). (A brief report on a campaign for Novartis by Ketchum).
- Christopher Lee, "Medicare Drug Benefit Outlined in Campaign: As Enrollment Is Set to Begin, Ads and Other Outreach Seek to Educate Eligible Citizens", Washington Post, October 10, 2005.
- Neil Buckley, "Kremlin hires PR group to improve G8 image", Financial Times, April 30, 2006.
- Keith O'Brien, "Ketchum's London office to lead multi-agency Kremlin account", PR Week"", May 1, 2006.