Makovsky + Company, Cutting Edge Digital Communication, Almost

Today we continue our analysis of top PR companies with an online presence with Makovsky + Company, the 25th most profitable firm in the US according to O’Dwyer’s latest list. The firm, founded in 1979, bills itself as “one of the nation’s leading independent global public relations, investor relations, and branding consultancies. “ As an initial note, we found Makovsky’s site to be one of the very best with regard to aesthetics and the caliber of authoritative information published there. However, an unsuspected issue arose in determining just how engaging and appropriate the site’s content and company transparency is.

The Digital “How To” of “Who Are We”

Ken Makovsky, President and CEO of the firm, is truly one of the PR world’s “heavy hitters”, but like so many top PR leaders, his company’s engagement of the digital world, though significant, has significant hurdles to overcome to be considered one of the top digital brands. Once again, this writer is forced to be more critical than positive when relating to our readers the “actual” online representation of a hugely successful company. Given that Makovsky himself has branded himself via authoritative PDF with buzz like: “Ken Makovsky knows digital media”, all readers should expect that his company’s digital presence might be flawless in every regard. In some ways, it actually is, but in others it is sadly flawed.

Makovsky tech pages Makovsky + Company, Cutting Edge Digital Communication, Almost

This site is well tailored in both appearance and function, but certainly nothing to submit to the Web 2.0 Expo in as far as innovation is concerned. Much like Makovsky’s expensive, if not so well tailored or stylish suits, neither the landing, nor the interior pages have much to say about the firm in terms of “digital awareness”, except that most of the experts there are finely tuned into digital communication. This in itself would be enough to catapult Makovsky’s online brand past many of the higher rated firms in our discussions, except for one dramatic detail, some of the articles are duplicate content, obviously “copy pasted” from other, more notable publications. First, let’s deal with the blogosphere, and this firm’s interaction with the digital community.

Ken Makovsky google Makovsky + Company, Cutting Edge Digital Communication, Almost

Ken Makovsky at Google, he may need a longer visit

Image Through Digital Transparency

While Robbin S. Goodman, and David Rosen are obviously skilled writers, and experts in their fields, their associated blogs barely exist traffic wise, and have no comments to speak of. One aspect I do like, which can be seen on the site’s tech section, is the Industry issues tab. This section is however a little misleading. What appear to be industry news articles from external sources, are in fact still more articles by Goodman and other company professionals or collaborators. This is not altogether a bad thing, but it could be a little more transparent.

Another transparency issue appears in Makovsky’s “news section”, in that the firm appears to be scraping, or at least republishing duplicate content gleaned from PR Week and other publications. We doubt that either PR Week or Makovsky likely know that Google indexes these articles in full, they are not SEO experts after all. But, on the face of it, the original author of one referenced text (Kimberly Maul), or PR Week should have had to agreed to this republishing under this firms “news” heading .

Makovsky text Makovsky + Company, Cutting Edge Digital Communication, Almost

The text from the Makovsky site

Makovsky PR Week Makovsky + Company, Cutting Edge Digital Communication, Almost

Exact text from PR Week

Regardless of how this and other instances of duplicate content were gleaned, publishing them on one of the site of one of the world’s leading PR firms, without even mentioning the author, makes the firm a candidate for Everything’s PR Goofy Award. This is a major breach if digital media etiquette. I hope the firm can explain this issue to us, because honestly, we discovered this by accident. The MSNBC example of this “anomaly” seems to be by far the most onerous in implication.

To be honest, this diversion into SEO, transparency, and to be frank, copyright issues, pretty much diverted our attention away from the fact that the Makovsky + Company site has low digital branding implications, regardless of the site’s aesthetics and authoritative experts. It seems obvious that most of the news articles on the site were somehow either written for PR Week by Makovsky professionals (including the founder himself), many of which correctly reveal the authors.

However, using the whole articles is not something in keeping with what a cutting edge media firm would even consider, especially since the PR Week versions are within their premium paid subscription services. A better news solution surely could have been arrived at.

Conclusion

Makovsky + Company, like all the other entries into the “Digital PR Sweepstakes”, has the resources smaller entities like ours and other firms do not. It is fairly obvious that the company has hired top professionals to fulfill the “digital conversation” aspect of a true digital media company, but somewhere in the busy New York lifestyle, one or more people beneath Makovsky himself, dropped the ball big time.

If anyone walking down 34th Street in New York notices an uncomfortable fellow on the curb, with a cow directly behind him, rest assured it is none other than Ken Makovsky, having just had it after reading what someone did on his site. Copying content is something we all deplore, a common ailment of having had all ours pilfered from the pages of the Web, it is not however something one comes to expect from the top of the food chain. We sincerely hope at least a disclosure relating to this appears on the site, or at least that we are categorically wrong in our observations.

Editor’s Note: Any republication of this or other articles resident on Everything PR or its subsidiary publications, is strictly prohibited without written authorization from Pamil Visions PR’s appropriate representatives.

Comments

  1. says

    Hi Phil,

    Thanks for reviewing our website. We launched it a few months ago and have gotten some great responses.

    I found it unusual to see a review by a potential competitor, though I was glad that it was more enthusiastic than the others you’ve written. That said, we wanted to express our appreciation for the criticism and tell you we’ve taken some actions in response. First, we hear you loud and clear. Though we’re confident we’re within our fair use rights, we’ll take a more conservative approach to remove even the chance such questions would come up. Within 24 hours of seeing your blog post, we removed the full copies of clips and are replacing them with the article’s title, link, and possibly a summary or excerpt.

    Second, we saw you were confused by the navigation header titled “Industry Issues.” That’s where we put our “Strategies” white papers which our executives write throughout the year. We’ve updated the sub-menu on each page to say “Makovsky on Industry Issues” so there’s no doubt who wrote them. Indeed, we really, really want people to know we wrote them, so thanks for that tip.

    On behalf of me and my boss, Robbin Goodman, we thank you for referring to us as “skilled writers” and “experts” but have to object to your critique that our blogs “barely exist traffic wise.” You may not be aware, but in B-B social media – that’s the area that we specialize in – the goal isn’t to get thousands of readers. Our target audience is usually just a few hundred people who are in specialized sectors. In that vein, our blogs are doing what we want traffic-wise. And people do make comments – they’re just taking the form of private emails and phone calls given the sensitivity of the information involved.

    Regarding how we express our digital cred on our new site, we’re in the process of rolling out some exciting things (thank you for calling it “one of the very best with regard to aesthetics”), but for the moment, I’m going to have to let our blogs, Twitter feed, Flickr channel, groups on LinkedIn and Facebook – not to mention the numerous campaigns we’ve conducted for clients – speak for themselves. I was surprised that you didn’t mention any of these, especially our Flickr feed since that was the source of the photo you used of our CEO’s visit to Google.

    Just a couple other clarifications. Your opening paragraph says we’re the 25th “most profitable firm.” The O’Dwyer’s ranking is actually based on revenues, not profits. Also, our CEO did not brand himself as “Ken Makovsky knows digital media.” That was an article written and published on the PRSA-NY site, as one can tell by looking at the PDF you linked to.

    Kind regards,

    David Rosen
    drosen@makovsky.com

    • Phil Butler says

      Hi David,

      Thank you for stopping by to clarify some of these things. I must say, I see now why your firm is one of the largest and most successful ones even more clearly. This appears to be a thorough and calculated response. Just to be perfectly clear here, I have written any number of reviews of these websites, and as you “suggest”, have been primarily astounded by how little apparent efforts the larger PR firms have made toward an online presence. It was for this reason actually, that I initially chose your website for this article – it looked just that good. Then I ran across those instances where what you might call “a journalists worst nightmare” occurred, and obviously that led me in another direction. So, maybe I should address all your points so that we can come to an understanding, and one which cannot be expressed in the 140 characters of Twitter.

      I am glad these instances of “questionable” content were taken care of. I know no one there really thought about how these might appear, let along how they would be indexed by Google. You were, as you point out, within the parameters of legality more or less, but I know you know that appearances carry a lot of weight. It never hurts to add links, though sometimes we get pressed for time, as was the case with me not crediting your Flickr stream. (see we all make mistakes) I noted a moment ago that the references to PR Week and the clone ones to your articles are gone altogether. Someone did some work :)

      The update on the “Industry Issues” aspect looks great! I was not confused, but I know anyone with an eye looking at this section would wonder the same things I did. Simply put, it would have been better to just link to the original articles if possible, but then PR Week charges for those, so no one linking could actually see them? Well, in any event the new header does clarify the issue a great deal. As for the content behind these, as I said before, it is superb.

      As for being skilled, you obviously both are, it was not so much a compliment as an observation really. I like complimenting good people, it is appropriate, but I also paint things in a way in which the irony of relative excellence can be illustrated. The most revealing thing I can say about this is something like; “You guys are really good, you know better than to project something that does not hold up under scrutiny.” It is like the relative Twitter accounts for you and the company, what are their purposes? B2B social media is about a few hundred key people? As you say, your Alexa and Compete scores reflect the 8 to 10 people who come and read what is frankly content that many more people should be aware of. I don’t know if you guys are just modest, or if the B2B people you are engaged with or so mighty and exclusive a club, as to need these social mediums of communication for only secret handshakes and what not? Come on David, a couple hundred Twitter followers and answering a few business questions at LinkedIn? The lead PR in Punjab on his 386 laptop (while he is tending the sheep) is doing more engagement of business than that. Diluting criticism with surgical precision is one thing, but this razor needed a Wilkinson edge on it.

      Digital credibility. To be honest i love the way you used the term “rolling out”, as I have heard this (even wrote it a time or two) about a million times doing analysis of tech startups. In fact I think I actually got the term off of a press release or 100 fro PR firms begging me to write about their clients. You suggest on the one hand that your “digital footprint” there is meant for only a select group of business people who ostensibly use Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to find out what your agency is doing, and on the other hand that is is a stand alone exemplification of one of the largest PR firms in the world! Which is it? The reason I did not mention your company’s “presences” is because they are relatively insignificant. I am not talking about Ken’s one person he follows on Twiiter, or your 104 followers either David. LinkeIn is nothing more than a directory for all intents and purposes, I worked that community when it first appeared. Facebook is also a more refined version of one, and Twitter, well though indicative of a degree and type of activity, it is nothing more than an instant messenger for marketers. You cannot equate “buying” social marketing (see my upcoming expose) with actually being in the conversation. Making an alumni group or pages on Facebook, for 20 fans, does not exactly convey a company which should have a digital paw print the size of King Kong’s, now does it?

      As for profitability, my early pondering into the economic space taught me there are basically two kinds, net and gross profit. Since I am not privy to insider information about net profits there, suggesting that many millions in revenue means profit, does not seem all that onerous. As for Ken doing the branding or not, I was obviously wrong there all together, and I apologize. Does this mean however, that Ken does not consider himself an authority on digital media? He should, you guys are a reflection of him, and it looks like you understand it pretty well. Look at the damage control here. Opps! Well, the tone and points of this answer say many things which I will allude to in another article. Any how, I also wanted to clarify something for you and our readers/clients (but most of them know this any how).

      As far as being a potential competitor with your company, or any on the O’Dwyer’s list, let me categorically clarify our position in the PR spectrum of things. Though we have conducted campaigns for any number of early stage startups, we honestly do not have any designs on becoming Waggener Edstrom. Our team is small, and we intend to keep it that way. Our business is built upon a personal approach to helping people attain goals. On a personal note, neither Mihaela nor I desire the trappings of giant PR companies in revenue or complication. We essentially want one or two clients which line up rather perfectly with our skills, ideologies and capability to offer our best to them. We have a team of 3 or 4 people to handle clients directly, while maintaining a vast network of experts in every field of the digital realm. That being said, we recommend someone right down the street from you to clients who want the very best in expert and personal services, and who are either too large or outside our own areas of expertness. This is the new way of doing business we feel, and I just want to be honest about it. If IBM came to us right now, and offered us $100,000 a month for a campaign, we would direct them to our friends there in New York or San Francisco. We will never be your competitor, and the implication you made is honestly an insult (and you know why).

      On the blog issue, Everything PR is not a blog. It is built on the WordPress framework for the sake of simplicity and value, but Google news classifies us as a news site. This is what we are focused on now primarily, along with a series of books and papers on how businesses can take this digital realm farther than Twiiter.

      David, we all make mistakes. Our own website is flawed and under inhabited by what we call “digital branding indicators” too. We have a pretty good excuse though, no time and limited resources. I already said what our designs on the Web and PR are, we want to impact this medium personally and without so much regard for profit (either net or gross). We are almost at the point honestly where all our needs are being met. There can be nothing more refined and expert than a small group who’s needs are being met, dedicated to true excellence. We are not quite there, but shortly will be. Your company probably pays you more than we make to be honest. More money is not bad, but it gets down to what you want out of life.

      As for these articles, I start every single one of them with the honest intent of showing the world really excellent communication people, it is not my fault that so many “rich” companies have turned communication once again into a commodity to be bought and sold. This is the Internet David, and one thing every company needs to understand is that this “digital footprint” they leave is permanent and transparent. A top 5 PR company (note I did not say top 25) in New York cannot profess to be “engaged in the conversation” and at the same time pay a group of Mommy Bloggers to spread their wares. Buying into the conversation is just like making a commercial. The point here is that down here in the trenches, nothing you guys do up there on the top is undiscovered, at least not for long. Sooner or later a brand is going to be revealed for what it truly is. We are not scared for ours to be revealed, as it is human and fallible, but idealistically and effectively excellent for what we profess. We are simple people, with a little intellect, and a vast amount of experience where most of you have “purchased” a ticket in the game. Sorry, but that is my opinion.

      I hope this has not been too long winded, and especially not too acidic, as this is not my intent at all. We want to help you and other companies which are by far the best in the world. Being the best though, is not about sitting still and blowing one’s own horn. I am not saying this is what you are doing, just that you know you are capable of so much more. We are too, go ahead and be critical of us too, we welcome it. If I have pointed in the wrong directions, I will admit it and apologize. But for now, I do not applaud lip service via dropping Twitter and Facebook names. Tell the boss to fork over some money and really engage in the conversation, this is my best advice. With some more resources, I have no doubt that you and your boss can make yours the finest example of digital awareness in New York (well except perhaps those whose CEO’s came to comment or engaged us – that is being there).

      Always,
      Phil

  2. says

    Great post and analysis. Do you have examples or favorites of firms or companies outside the PR industry that are really nailing transparency and a great web 2.0 feel?

    • Phil Butler says

      Thanks Mark, As a matter of fact I am working on two which are right now. We are just behind on the editorial stuff and need to get several interviews and analysis pieces up. It is interesting thought that one would expect the big time PR companies to lead in this, when in fact the ones doing the cutting edge stuff are the “up and coming” ones. The big boy seem to be just “purchasing” marketing and social communication, while giving lip service to the “conversation” and all things digital communication. This is also a report we are working on, but the bottom line is, $5000 buys a lot of social networking.

      Always,
      Phil

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