Benjamin Franklin once likened New Jersey to "a keg tapped at both
ends." He was referring to New York and Pennsylvania, both of which
boast high-profile cities. It's unlikely Trenton and Newark will ever
outshine New York and Philadelphia, but PR in the Garden State is
New Jersey agencies benefit from low overhead and proximity to New York,
which allows them to tap into the city's market at competitive
Not to mention that New Jersey is itself an attractive home base for
many Fortune 500 companies. It is headquarters for giants in
pharmaceuticals (such as Merck), healthcare (such as Prudential),
telecommunications (such as Lucent) and many other industries.
"You cannot downplay the importance of being located next door to New
York, the number one media capital of the world," says Gwen Fisher,
manager of corporate communications at Merck. "This enables you to
build, and nurture, ongoing relationships with key reporters with
national reach. You just don't get that luxury in other markets."
The size of the state's PR scene is hard to gauge. The six New Jersey
agencies that participated in PRWeek's 2001 Agency Rankings reported 36%
growth last year, above average even by the giddy standards of 2000.
But there are an estimated 200 PR agencies in the state. That so few
chose to report their numbers reflects the fact that they are backwards
at coming forward. "In order to truly standout in its own right, the New
Jersey PR sector really needs to start marketing itself more
aggressively, and that's just not being done now," says Marc Weinstein,
Spring O'Brien managing director and SVP.
Michael Kempner, MWW Group president and CEO is also dissatisfied with
state government efforts to promote New Jersey. "They've done a terrible
job marketing New Jersey, and as a result, unfortunately, it's still
seen by some as a step child to New York," he says. "For example,
government PR RFPs are big business, but in New Jersey they lump them in
with advertising, which inevitably harms the PR program. The state can,
and must, do better."
Sure, New Jersey agencies are feeling the economic pinch like everyone
else. But the diversity of business there has helped insulate the local
PR industry. "New Jersey PR is strong because it is not dependent on one
sector," says Kempner. "This stability has enabled, very quickly, the
development of a series of high quality, smaller agencies that have the
foundation to take the next step - becoming national agencies.
"This includes a number of agencies in the dollars 1 million to dollars
2 million range, like Keating PR, Rosica Mulhern and Star Rosen,"
Kempner continues. "Then there's MCS, which is a larger agency to watch.
They all have the potential. Now it's up to them."
Kempner is certainly setting a good example. Once again, MWW was by far
the biggest fish in the New Jersey PR pond, and is the only one that can
truly call itself a national operation, with a strong presence in
Washington, DC, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago and New York.
In 2000, MWW's New Jersey operation enjoyed grew billings by 37%, in
excess of dollars 9 million. Areas of growth included the consumer
marketing practice (which added Hard Rock Cafe and Nikon, as well as
extra work from Barcardi) and crisis communications. The agency also
launched a public affairs practice that has since picked up antitobacco
work for six states.
However, MWW's 2000 sale to Golin/Harris means the agency forfeits its
title as the state's largest independent.
Paramus-based Rosica Mulhern & Associates is one of the agencies high on
Kempner's list of agencies to watch (reporting 26% growth on more than
dollars 1.4 million in revenue). Last year the firm got a street sign on
Hollywood's Sunset Strip renamed "Famous Amos Square," garnered coverage
of an African-American celebrity look-alike contest for Colomer's line
of ethnic hair and skin care products, and promoted the relocation of
Howard Hughes' famed Spruce Goose for Evergreen International
"We really beat ourselves up last year for not being involved more in
technology, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise," says
managing partner John Rosica. "Look at the malls of America and you'll
understand why people need people, and that's why we're in consumer and
Since establishing a Morristown, NJ, satellite in early 1999,
Manhattan-based Spring O'Brien wasted little time scaling the PRWeek
rankings, due in part to the presence and support of its nearby
headquarters. The agency obliterated last year's mark of dollars
290,000, reporting fees of nearly dollars 1.1 million.
"Part of our success is that we've been able to draw PR pros from some
of the large New York agencies, including Porter Novelli, Ketchum, BSMG
and Morgen Walke," says Weinstein. "That talent is helping us attract
clients in hi-tech and financial services.
"We may not be as rich and famous as some of our brethren," he
continues, "but we get home and spend time with our families, while our
colleagues sweat long commutes."
New business with Blackwood Trading and the Cayman Islands more than
made up for the few dot-bombs Spring O'Brien swept off its client
"We had a few that we had to take as write-offs," concedes Weinstein.
"But we were spared the impact other agencies had to absorb."
A number of New Jersey agencies look beyond the local market for
The Stephenson Group, headquartered in Califon, reported revenues down
23% last year to dollars 595,741. "Most of our clients are hi-tech and
are based in California," says CEO Ann Stephenson. "Here, you're close
to industry analysts and the Street. West Coast clients realize they
need representation on both coasts."
MRB Public Relations (dollars 388,500 for 2000) in Red Bank is another
hi-tech agency heavily involved on the left coast. "California is an
interesting market," says president Michael Becce, who recently opened a
San Jose office. "There aren't enough agencies to handle all the
business, and being based close to New York, makes us that much more
In 2000, MRB added California businesses Blue Silicon, Electronics for
Imaging, ShoWiz and Mindmaker.
Winning Strategies is a New Jersey shop that did not participate in the
rankings, but president and founder Jim McQueeny claims his company
logged some dollars 3.1 million in revenue. The agency spent most of
2000 consolidating in its new Newark digs.
Anne Klein & Associates reported a decline of 10% on its 1999 revenues
of dollars 865,000. "We're down a bit, but we spent 2000 really
solidifying existing client relationships," says president Anne
All eyes now, however, are on the future. It's linked to a large extent
to the national economy. "There is a huge opportunity for the smaller
agencies, as many companies eliminate some of their larger firms to push
for better service, more face-to-face time and lower fees," says
"Downsizing at New York and New Jersey Fortune 500 companies is also
good for New Jersey PR agencies because, as companies cut internally,
they then need to look to the outside for PR and marketing," adds
"So the issue of the softening of the national economy and the advantage
of geography both work in our favor."
Overall, local sentiment is also optimistic. A May 14 report in The
Star-Ledger reported that 67% of New Jersey residents think the state is
experiencing good times, and "strong majorities believe present
conditions will continue, regardless of fluctuations in the financial
markets and troubles at some of New Jersey's premier companies,
It is a rosy picture, too, for Cedar Knolls-based Berry & Associates (up
10% to dollars 752,316 in 2000) because layoffs, mergers and
acquisitions, and the downturn are the meat and potatoes for an employee
"In times of change, our business goes up because companies recognize
the importance of communicating to employees," says president Bob
"And since we tend to work for fairly sizable businesses, one division
will usually recommend us to another."
Powerhouse TYCO recently purchased two companies on Berry's client list
- CIT and CI Bard, which Berry hopes will lead to more business for the
agency in 2001.
Another big hope this year is healthcare. MCS is one of the many NJ
agencies solely focused on healthcare; it grew about 20% in 2000. "The
growth came from several new clients, as well as additional business
from existing clients such as Pharmacia," says CEO Joe Boyd. "This year
looks even better for us and the sector as a whole. We expect the growth
to be steady at 25% through the end of 2001."
"In PR, the biggest opportunities are in the technology and
pharmaceutical sectors, simply because there is the least talent and the
greatest need," says Becce. "In these two areas there is the biggest
lack of knowledge."
"We are seeing an upswing in the pharmaceutical business as they are
focusing more on consumer communications," says Laura Carabello, chief
creative officer and founder of CPRi Communications. "The Health
Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which deals with
privacy issues between providers and consumers, was passed and endorsed
by President (George W.) Bush."
Deregulation of the energy industry holds the promise of additional
growth in New Jersey. "Energy is getting bigger, as deregulation passed
two years ago," says McQueeny. "We are doing the Utility Education
Campaign communicating deregulation, trying to explain that this is not
California, it's a lucrative market. And next year will be really wide
open competitively. Deregulation has already happened, but issues of
price and competition kick in 2002, which will make it a truly
NEW JERSEY PR AGENCIES.
Rank Firm Name Revenue Incr Staff Location
00 99 2000 (dollars) (%)
1 1 The MWW Group 9,001,586 37 91 East Rutherford
2 NEW Rosica Mulhern 1,406,600 26 15 Paramus
3 9 Spring O'Brien 1,081,300 273 1 Morristown
4 8 Berry Associates PR 752,316 10 9 Cedar Knolls
5 6 Stephenson Group 595,741 -23 7 Califon
6 NEW MRB 388,500 NA 8 Red Bank
Totals 12,837,543 36
Source: Council of PR Firms Auditing: No audit was required for
inclusion in the rankings. The CEO/CFO/principal was required to sign a
statement verifying the accuracy of the data and agreeing to possible
participation in a random audit Disclaimer: While every effort has been
made to ensure the accuracy of these figures, PRWeek cannot accept
liability for, nor make financial guarantees based upon the information
in this chart.