JOURNALIST Q&A: Peter Van Allen

In addition to covering Philadelphia's thriving tourism industry, Peter Van Allen reports on the city's advertising and PR business for its weekly business newspaper, the Philadelphia Business Journal.

In addition to covering Philadelphia's thriving tourism industry, Peter Van Allen reports on the city's advertising and PR business for its weekly business newspaper, the Philadelphia Business Journal.

Here he talks to PRWeek about the oft-ignored Philadelphia marketing scene. PRWeek: What are some of the ongoing advertising and PR stories you've been following? Peter Van Allen: One of the long-running themes here is how ad and PR agencies can gain a national reputation. There's a major sense here that the industry in Philadelphia isn't accorded the kind of respect it deserves. At the same time, locally based companies frequently make a practice of hiring agencies or PR shops out of the area. Last year, a coalition of PR shops formed with the specific intent to work together to help the industry here gain wider recognition nationally. We did a story about the effort that mentioned several, but not all, of the firms participating. One shop that was not mentioned blew a gasket about not being mentioned in the story, said the omission damaged her credibility. To me, that temper tantrum spoke volumes about the real motives in the "team" effort. Someday I'm going to write a column called "Top 10 PR Blunders," and that will be high on the list. PRWeek: Many have observed that, for a major city, Philadelphia is surprisingly devoid of influence from the major advertising holding companies. Do you ever expect that to change? Van Allen: Tierney Communications is the city's lone rep, as an Interpublic Group company. While the area doesn't get a lot of outside recognition, the way Dallas' or Miami's or Minneapolis' agency communities might, it has a nice feel to it. In fact, it's in keeping with the mom-and-pop feel much of the city's business community still has. Most Philadelphians are born here, work here, and die here. Having said that, I'm sure as agencies like Gyro Worldwide get more attention, there will be agency holding groups looking for a piece of the action. PRWeek: Covering PR can be tricky, what with many of the firms reluctant to talk about clients and the work they do for them. How forthcoming are Philadelphia PR firms? Van Allen: For the most part, agencies here [have been] very forthcoming, in the three years I've covered the industry. We did get burned recently when we went with a story quoting T2 Group's Brian Tierney as denying rumors the firm was closing or that he was going anywhere. Two weeks later, the announcement came that he was indeed leaving and closing up the shop. That blew our credibility and made a mockery of the trust we try to cultivate in the business community. PRWeek: Tell us one thing about the Philadelphia marketing community that would surprise an outsider. Van Allen: There are talented people here. A creative director told me recently that she is sometimes reluctant to hire folks from New York firms. They come in like they're going to tell Philadelphia bumpkins what they know. That is a mistake. There are good people here. Besides that, many of them have already done their New York thing. Name: Peter Van Allen Publication: Philadelphia Business Journal Title: Staff writer Preferred contact method: pvanallen@bizjournals.com Website: www.bizjournals.com/philadelphia

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