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May 1, 2017
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May 10, 2017

Why we turned down a client last week

We often get invited to pitch for business. Whether it’s via word of mouth, or through a Google search, we get on a pitch list and off we go. But last week was different – we declined the work. And here’s why.

PR firms manage their clients’ reputation. We understand it’s a risk taking on an agency – let’s face it, there are few things more important than your company’s reputation, and you want to be sure it’s in safe hands.

What is less well understood is that taking on a client is a reputation risk for a PR agency too. Our contacts – nurtured over years, our credibility and our integrity are at stake. There has to be a synergy between client and agency. If, for whatever reason, we aren’t delivering our part of the bargain, it reflects poorly on us. Yet clients have to deliver on their part of the bargain too. Because if communication doesn’t work between client and agency… it sure won’t work between agency and the media, on the client’s behalf – and the results won’t be there.

We believe that a successful PR campaign is very much a partnership between agency and client. We can create awareness and interest. But the pricing points, market position, product type and quality and the eventual sale… are all out of our hands.

These were some things that had our alarm bells ringing:

  • reluctance to talk about turnover
  • reluctance to discuss SMART goals
  • no photos available
  • declared there was no budget… although eventually conceded they might pay just 60% of the original quote.
  • wanted a Rolls Royce service for the cost of a Kia
  • unwillingness to commit to an “editorial charge” contingency budget (unusually, in their sector, the media are very keen on this – and as they are the gatekeepers effectively to a massive market, it seems a small cost to pay)
  • insisted that we guarantee how much coverage we could get
  • didn’t want to try anything new …

But what tipped the balance was the realisation that no matter how much media coverage we secured, how much marketing knowledge we imparted, how much added value we could deliver… it would never be enough. They would never be happy with a PR campaign. And without SMART (specific, measurable, achieveable, realistic and timely) goals, we had nothing to demonstrate our success against.

We want our clients to be delighted with the work we do. We ALWAYS go the extra mile for clients – their success is our success too. So I’m afraid that sometimes we just get that gut feeling that it’s just not going to work out. For neither party. And so in the interests of PR, we politely declined… and walked away.


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