Waggener Edstrom: Being Second Means Trying Harder

Waggener Edstrom Wolrdwide PR

Evaluating high dollar PR agencies is, well, it is fun. No matter what field you are in, there is a standard set and one to be reached. I ventured into the Edelman camp a few days ago and found a marvelous icon of communications might, with only a slight oxidation on its chain mail armor. Today, as I promised, I went down the list of the most successful agencies in the world to number two Waggener Edstrom. Interestingly, though these giants of media bear some resemblance, there are striking differences as well.

Waggener is led by CEO and President Melissa Waggener Zorkin. Since 1983 her vision has been on a skyrocket from a two person operation to a house hold name in the industry. According to O’Dwyer’s, the firm took in over $100 million in fees in 2007. One interesting note for me is the fact that the company was chosen the best agency to work for in 2006, an affirmation for a large entity in my book. However, like Edelman and virtually all the big firms, Waggener is not perfect at everything.

Doing The Digital Thing

Our focus is, as it should be, on the Internet primarily. It is our area of expertise, it is what we do. We are not perfect, but we know what perfect looks like. Waggener has a wonderful digital footprint in their site. Aesthetically, it is superb in my mind. However, much like Edelman, but in some different was, it is flawed. This is not the worst thing in the world, but for a company that represents Microsoft, and professes to be cutting edge, it does send the wrong message.

waggener EDSTROM PR

Where Edelman’s site was replete with massive amounts of information, it was none the less outdated and not indicative of a leader. Waggener’s though better in the aesthetic and practiced Web trendiness, lacks content and an engagement that even Edelman had at one time. The blog has no comments, and it as not been optimized to meet the criteria of completeness as far as a corporate blog should. Simply put, it speaks to no one just like Edelman’s did. This conveys a façade where actual community should exist.

Waggener is technically superior to many others in their display of “Twitter” connectedness, but in fact the mouseovers and connects to various Twitter and Facebook accounts for Waggener do not even work in FF. As I said, anyone who “does the Web thing” would instantly either recognize the façade or simply write Waggener off as “trying” to play the game. The second most powerful PR agency in the world cannot do better than Alexa half a million on their site’s blog, and their links to social networking do not work? Huh?

Everything critical I have to say about this great agency’s website and online image can be summed up by examining this statement from their editing manager of WE Studio D:

As a strategic communications agency, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide values innovative storytelling enough to staff WE Studio D with a team of copy editors like me. Besides a steady stream of traditional press materials, we review many other types of agency and client documents, including Web sites, interactive graphics, digital press releases, speeches and, yes, even blogs.

I wonder in their review of this blog, if they noticed no one was there? The Studio D aspect of the site is superb. It is simple, elegant and very refined. But, it is fairly obvious that it has been taken for granted almost as much as that of Edelman’s digital showcases. The picture we are trying to drive home here is not one of ov er criticism, but that these people are the best. It is their duty to act on what they profess even at cost. So, there we have the second in the series

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  1. says

    Hi Phil,

    It’s nice to virtually meet you.

    Thank you so much for the review of our site – walking the talk is central to our efforts to really push the boundaries of communications.

    We appreciate your thoughts and you’ve captured some of the pitfalls of investing in a “stop gap” site while building out our overall corporate presence. In fact, we’re in the process of folding in the WE Studio D microsite (the site it appears you spent a bulk of your time on and reviewing) into waggeneredstrom.com and will be sure to incorporate your feedback.

    We invite you (and others) to visit our newly redesigned waggeneredstrom.com site. As part of our 25th anniversary year, we’ve undertaken a redesign of our master site to better represent the work we do on behalf of our clients, our people, and our capabilities. It is a work in progress, but we think it represents a good first step forward to try and accomplish many of the things you cite that we and other agencies should aspire towards. Important points like engaging in conversation and dialogue are core goals of the site – check out the connect tab. We hope you’ll be surprised at how far we’ve come and how broad our vision is for harnessing communications and influence to move markets and change lives.

    Melissa and Pam’s vision has always been to put our clients and their objectives first. There’s tons of room to grow in telling our own story – and we think this is the year to really do that. Thanks for the chance to have a conversation about upping the bar. It’s in this type of ignition that we invent the future.

    Jen Houston
    Waggener Edstrom Worldwide
    Senior Vice President & Global Lead, WE Studio D
    Follow: Twitter/jhouston89
    Connect: http://www.linkedin.com/in/jenhouston

    • Phil Butler says


      Thanks so much for coming to respond, this exhibits something of what I expected from such an obviously classy agency, class. My criticisms were and are obviously constructive. Waggener is obviously one of the most successful PR firms in the world, and as such, leads the way in many regards. My mention of class is meant not so much as a compliment as an acknowledgment of what should be.

      This term, is more and more, valuable when applied to anything these days. It is not something that can be contrived, and not something that can be hidden either. I think that everyone likes to see success when that pinnacle is reached and maintained with “class”. Otherwise, though many do not recognize it, people feel cheated and jealous to a degree.

      I can tell by this response that I was not wrong i my assessment of second place, no doubt the top spot is not that far off for you guys. :) Thanks again and keep going.


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