Sulking behind more influential neighbors like New York and Philadelphia for so long would give any state identity issues. However, momentous growth in the local economy the last few years together with new methods of communication, have given Garden State PR pros something to get excited about.
Sulking behind more influential neighbors like New York and
Philadelphia for so long would give any state identity issues. However,
momentous growth in the local economy the last few years together with
new methods of communication, have given Garden State PR pros something
to get excited about.
At the same time, New Jersey PR executives shouldn’t break their arms
patting each other on the back. The industry here is worth just over
dollars 15 million in fee income, and grew by an estimated 11%,
according to PRWeek statistics.
That’s well behind the national average growth of 28%, according to
PRWeek’s Agency Rankings survey.
That has forced the MWW Group (New Jersey’s PR agency leader by far) to
look elsewhere for the majority of its impressive dollars 10 million
(58%) growth. The East Rutherford office now accounts for little more
than one fifth of national fee income, as expansion has continued in
Washington, D.C. and California.
But while the New Jersey PR scene may not be keeping pace with the
industry in general, it is making progress in two key practice areas:
hi-tech and healthcare.
From telecommunications to financial services, New Jersey has lured some
big names from across the Hudson by dangling lucrative tax
This migration has helped forge key business centers for hi-tech
It’s about time, considering Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein once
called New Jersey home. The software industry has spread throughout the
state, and there’s a mixed hi-tech concentration along the US 1 corridor
leading to Princeton. Jersey City has also become a center for financial
services companies, with heavy hitters like DLJ Direct, National
Discount Brokers, Knight/Trimark and Goldman Sachs setting up camp.
New Jersey is No. 1 in private-sector spending on electronic research
and a leader in telephony. Not to be outdone by counterparts in Northern
California (Silicon Valley), lower Manhattan (Silicon Alley) and the
Pacific Northwest (Silicon Forest), New Jersey even coined its own
hi-tech moniker: Silicon Parkway.
’Not only does northern New Jersey alone boast more hi-tech firms than
all of Silicon Valley,’ points out MWW president and CEO Michael
Kempner, ’but New Jersey has more Fortune 500 companies than New
With the largest hi-tech practice in the state, MWW reported dollars
6.25 million in fee income (the PRWeek chart shows a 32% decline because
the 1998 figure includes the New York office). Of MWW’s roughly 60 new
in-state clients, 35 are hi-tech firms.
Unfortunately, for a state in which hi-tech industries employ one out of
every 10 workers (paying a salary nearly double the state average), some
observers say the hi-tech sector hasn’t received the attention it
’The state has done such a poor job marketing the hi-tech presence, when
in fact New Jersey is as much, if not more, of a tech center than
Seattle or New York,’ says Kempner. ’Under the current administration, I
don’t think we’ll see any improvement. Hopefully the next governor will
see this as a priority.’
While the state’s hi-tech industry struggles for recognition, New
Jersey’s other major area of PR growth, healthcare, moves along without
the identity crisis.
The medicine chest
’New Jersey’s been known as the medicine chest for the nation for some
time,’ explains Josh Weinstein, president of Torre Lazur Public
Relations (which was called Torre Lazur/Weber until January of this
year). Dedicating itself entirely to healthcare PR paid off for the
Parsippany-based agency in 1999, as it enjoyed 142% fee-income growth,
reporting dollars 1.1 million.
New accounts include Baxter Healthcare, Daiichi Pharmaceuticals and
Marlton-based Anne Klein & Associates added several big healthcare
accounts, including Horizon Mercy, the Delaware Valley Healthcare
Council and Mainline Health.
’Last year we certainly got an increasing amount of work in healthcare,’
says president Anne Klein. ’That’s because there are just so many more
issues facing hospitals and healthcare organizations today.’
But rather than throw more resources to build up the healthcare practice
quickly, Klein, like many of her counterparts, is hedging her bets with
a more diversified client roster.
’I have purposely done this to insulate my agency from the up-and-down
spikes in the hi-tech and healthcare areas,’ says Klein. ’When the
economy is good, everybody can afford everything. But, when the economy
is not good, there will be more of a need for employee communications
and crisis management. We just haven’t suffered those ups and downs for
Whether it’s hi-tech, healthcare or any number of disciplines, it
appears that it’s getting easier for New Jersey PR agencies to attract
out-of-state business. Many large, deep-pocketed corporations are now
using NJ outfits, says Joan Wainwright, vice president of corporate
communications at drug maker Merck & Co.
’With all the technology available today, the location of an agency
isn’t that important,’ she says. ’What is important is the quality of
the work produced by the agency and the talent/skills of their
Even more important, Wainwright says she sees more people and companies
specializing in the industry.
Eyeing out-of-state opportunities of his own, Ken Ribotsky, president of
Ribotsky Worldwide (dollars 191,985 in 1999 revenue), says New Jersey’s
up-and-coming image is working to his advantage.
’Out on the West Coast there’s so much business you’ve got agencies
interviewing the clients to see if they want to work with them,’ says
Ribotsky. ’So, it’s not surprising that we’re getting calls from
California to New England.’
Trailing MWW in 1999 was MCS (19% growth to dollars 3.1 million in fee
income) and Star/Rosen Public Relations (22% growth to dollars 1.3
’The borders are breaking down,’ says Steve Rosen, president of
Star/Rosen Public Relations. ’I’ve noticed other agencies winning
business from all over the country, when in past years regional firms
only did regional work.’ Rosen also attributes much of his growth to
technology; the agency’s biggest win of 1999 was San Francisco-based
KeraVision provider of an alternative to laser eye surgery.
Manhattan-based Spring O’Brien established a Morristown, NJ satellite
office in March 1999, and then wasted no time in vaulting up the
rankings, due in part to the presence and support of its nearby
headquarters. The agency, whose New Jersey staff has grown from two to
10, reported dollars 290,000 in 1999 income. New accounts included
lucrative travel PR contracts with the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong Tourist
Association and The Greek National Tourist Organization.
New York service, New Jersey price
’A big selling point is we are able to provide the same quality services
as New York and Philadelphia, but often at New Jersey prices,’ says Marc
Weinstein, senior vice president and managing director of Spring
O’Brien’s New Jersey operation.
Berry & Associates is another New Jersey firm heavily into employee
communications and related disciplines, which take up 80% of its client
roster. Berry made a modest 2% growth gain, reporting 1999 income of
dollars 683,371. New accounts for Berry include Hoffmann-La Roche, NECA
(National Exchange Carrier Association) and the Sussex County Democratic
’The hi-techs have driven the employment marketplace goofy,’ says agency
president Bob Berry. ’They’re starting to realize you can’t get to
profitability without your employees, and you can’t motivate without
proper employee communications. Common sense.’
New Jersey agencies that saw earnings slide last year include
Califon-based The Stephenson Group (a 7% decline to dollars 776,685) and
Red Bank-based Danlee PR (a 20% decrease to dollars 715,993). Danlee
dropped three rungs in the rankings from 1998, mainly because of an
unsuccessful merger, and later de-merger, with the DHM Group. A smaller
agency favoring steady growth, Danlee did manage to pick up
While the New Jersey PR scene may look rosy now, Danlee managing
director Anne Higgins says a downturn could be just around the corner.
’I’ll tell you, everybody rushed out to get dot-com clients, but now
they’re the ones left holding the bag,’ she says. ’I know at least five
people sitting on receivables they are never going to get. And I’ve
heard some of the vendors are now insisting on cash up front for
Red Bank-based Wall Street Communications rounded out this year’s list
of top New Jersey agencies. While the smallest on the list, it
experienced the largest statistical growth, a 153% jump from a little
over dollars 50,000 in 1998 to a bit over dollars 128,528 in 1999.
What will the future hold for New Jersey PR? Perhaps the time is right
for New Jersey agencies to bring home more of the business.
SILICON TURNPIKE: NEW JERSEY PR AGENCIES
Ranking Agency Name Audit NJ income (dollars) Growth
99 98 1999 1998 (%)
1 1 The MWW Group* X 6,252,346 9,200,519 -32
2 2 MCS Y 3,058,446 2,570,197 19
3 3 Star/Rosen Y 1,299,800 1,066,000 22
4 7 Torre Lazur/Weber** Z 1,139,608 470,000 142
5 N/A Anne Klein & Associates Z 952,365 N/A N/A
6 5 The Stephenson Group Z 776,685 832,258 -7
7 4 Danlee Public Relations Z 715,993 896,000 -20
8 6 Berry Associates Z 683,371 670,000 2
9 N/A Spring O’Brien Y 290,000 N/A N/A
10 N/A Ribotsky Worldwide Z 191,985 N/A N/A
11 8 Wall Street Communications Y 128,529 50,847 153
Totals 14,054,778 15,755,821 -11
US income US income
Ranking Agency Name (dollars) NJ% (dollars) NJ%
99 98 1999 99 1998 98
1 1 The MWW Group* 27,002,400 23 17,220,267 53
2 2 MCS 3,058,446 100 2,570,197 100
3 3 Star/Rosen 1,299,800 100 1,066,000 100
4 7 Torre Lazur/Weber** 76,760,938 1 57,866,543 1
5 N/A Anne Klein & Associates 952,365 100 N/A N/A
6 5 The Stephenson Group 1,465,442 53 1,387,097 60
7 4 Danlee Public Relations 715,993 100 1,200,000 75
8 6 Berry Associates 683,371 100 670,000 100
9 N/A Spring O’Brien 2,261,000 13 1,693,000 N/A
10 N/A Ribotsky Worldwide 191,985 100 N/A N/A
11 8 Wall Street Communications 527,126 24 305,082 17
Totals 111,513,516 13 82,285,186 19
Ranking Agency Name Location
1 1 The MWW Group* East Rutherford
2 2 MCS Summit
3 3 Star/Rosen Cherry Hill
4 7 Torre Lazur/Weber** Parsippany
5 N/A Anne Klein & Associates Marlton
6 5 The Stephenson Group Califon
7 4 Danlee Public Relations Red Bank
8 6 Berry Associates Morristown
9 N/A Spring O’Brien Morristown
10 N/A Ribotsky Worldwide Somerset
11 8 Wall Street Communications Red Bank
*1998 includes New York office income **called Torre Lazur PR as of Jan.
Source: PRWeek 2000 Agency Rankings
Auditing: X denotes a full audit or review; Y compilation audit; Z
unaudited statements approved by either the CFO or CEO/partner. A random
audit process will be used for agencies providing unaudited figures.