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How Many Service Hours Do You Complete?

Posted At: April 9, 2008 12:11 PM
by Taryn Ely

What do you think when you think of large public relations firms? Do you think of big offices and high-power professionals? There is probably one thing you haven’t thought of: philanthropy work.

Many public relations agencies adhere to corporate social responsibility requirements. In other words, the practitioners often do two forms of charity work. Sometimes they do public relations work for free, and other times they participate in philanthropic events.

Two of America’s most notable public relations firms, Ketchum and Manning Selvage & Lee, both practice active corporate social responsibility. Ketchum was ranked second in 2008 among Corporate Responsibility Officer Magazine’s “Top 10 PR Firms in Corporate Responsibility” list, while Manning Selvage & Lee was named first in service.

Ketchum in action

According to Ketchum’s Web site, some of the firm’s volunteer work is a result of certain clients. In August 2005 the Louisiana Recovery Authority was developed to help with the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. Ketchum helped design the communication campaign: “The Road Home.” The campaign highlighted Louisiana’s contribution to American culture. The program targeted Congress, sending thank you notes with King Cake and Mardi Gras beads to congressmen who showed their support.

Involvement with the Louisiana Recovery Authority led 25 partners to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward in November 2006. One year later, Ketchum employees again contributed to Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans as they helped restore Wilson Elementary School.

Ketchum also participates in several ongoing projects. In its office in Sao Paulo, Ketchum raises awareness for the Brazilian Cancer Association and provides public relations services to ONG Alquimia, which seeks to help needy children. Additionally, in Ketchum’s Atlanta and Chicago offices each employee participates in an annual 24/7 Brainstorm. During a 24-hour period associates work on communication strategies for local nonprofits that can’t afford public relations efforts regularly.

Ketchum’s largest pro-bono relationship is with the World Economic Forum’s Global Health Initiative with which it has been active since 2004. This program addresses HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in developing countries. Ketchum has worked on message development and created a network for global healthcare communicators to share information with each other and the media. Additionally, Ketchum has initiated efforts in sub-Saharan Africa, China and India. It’s not surprising that this firm was ranked one of the most active in the corporate social responsibility realm.

The community service tycoons

Manning Selvage & Lee’s Web site also boasts a long list of community service endeavors. In 2007 Manning Selvage & Lee (MS&L) won a SABRE award for best workplace initiative for their staff volunteer program “Change minds, Change lives.” The initiative’s main philanthropic endeavor is in association with the Hands on Network which connects 370 civic organizations helping facilitate local community service opportunities. As a whole the branches participate in events sponsored by clients, and most offices offer their services for local nonprofits. MS&L also encourages employees to volunteer individually.

The New York City office has an annual program called “Winter Wishes,” which donates clothes and toys to children in need. Practitioners in most offices also participate in food drives. Additionally, offices in London, New York and Dubai are currently working on reforestation in Mexico.

MS&L’s Atlanta branch just finished providing services for the Center for Puppetry Arts assisting with marketing guidance and promotion of programs. Finally, in Boston, offices have established a two-year, $100,000 grant that will aid the local Boys & Girls Club of Boston with communication efforts and media relations guidance.

The thousands of hours of volunteer work represented by these two firms are just a small fraction of the pro-bono work and volunteer activities done by public relations professionals across America. Maybe when future practitioners think of public relations, instead of fancy offices and nice suits, they will think about holding a hammer and helping others.


Ketchum Inc. (2008). Corporate Citizenship. Retrieved Feb. 18, 2008, from

Manning Selvage & Lee Worldwide Communications (2008). Corporate Citizenship.Retrieved Feb. 18, 2008, from

CRO Corp LLC. (2006-2007). CRO’s Top 10 PR Firms in Corporate Responsibility 2008. Retrieved Feb. 18, 2008, from

What will you be able to offer future potential employers in the area of community service?

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