They call Alabama the Crimson Tide. Call me Deacon blues.

August 3 - climb-stack-of-paper An erstwhile client of ours recently decided to put the entire account up for review.

As a 'courtesy,' they invited us to participate in the pitch.

Wary of not re-engaging with what had been a tenuous, high maintenance relationship at best, I asked our point person to carefully qualify the opportunity. She did so, and reported back that the prospect was 'limiting' the field and would duly note our track record in their evaluation.

Since the budget was respectable, the times were tough and the client sported a recognizable brand name, I gave a reluctant go-ahead. 

Later that very same week, though, O'Dwyer's ran a front page story indicating the prospect was issuing an RFP. Oh boy. 'Danger Will Robinson!!!!!' When O'Dwyer's runs a front page story announcing an RFP, one can safely go to the bank assuming that everyone and their brother will be pitching the account.

Our point person promised to check with the prospect. After doing so, she insisted we still had a great chance and should proceed. So, times being what they were, we did. And, we heard nothing for the longest time. Complete radio silence from the prized prospect.

Then last week, rising like some proverbial Phoenix, the contact resurfaced. We received a long note thanking us for our 'excellent' submission, but letting us know that, sadly, we hadn't made the final round.

To cushion our loss, though, the prospect was nice enough to let us know he'd received some 55, count 'em 55, proposals. Let me repeat that number: 55.

How'd you like to cozy up to 55 public relations proposals over a bottle of chardonnay, some Barry White love songs and a roaring fire? I can think of more romantic weekend escapes.

To further cushion our loss, the prospect really opened up in his note and told us we had made it to the 'semifinal round of 10' agencies. Oh boy! The semifinal round of 10? What are the odds of that? Actually, I guess they'd be one in five. Nonetheless, what an honor! 

And, where would the semifinals be held? Greensboro Coliseum? The Staples Center in LA? MSG itself? And, who else made the semis? Gonzaga? Syracuse? Wake Forest? What a joke.

As Steely Dan wrote, 'They got a name for the winners in the world. I want a name when I lose. They call Alabama the Crimson Tide. Call me Deacon Blues.'

After this experience, you can also call me Deacon Done. I am so done with not trusting my gut and avoiding these pointless cattle calls.

4 thoughts on “They call Alabama the Crimson Tide. Call me Deacon blues.

  1. Thanks Robert, but I think something got lost in translation. We had worked on a discrete project for the ‘client’ in question quite some time ago. They issued the industry-wide RFP for a global PR campaign at least six months after our short project had ended. As a result, there really was no opportunity to build a ‘trusted advisor’ relationship” that would have forestalled a massive, time-consuming search.

  2. Your client was just doing his/her job. The problem is he/she was doing it poorly. Sifting through 55 proposals is not only a waste of time for the 54 losers but makes picking the right partner a pig in a poke. I will bet you lunch the two biggest losers (6 months from now) resulting from this process will be the client and the firm/agency they selected. That being said, we need to accept and embrace the fact that clients have a tremendous amount of pressure on them to demonstrate they are getting the best value they can from their partners. If you were viewed as a trusted advisor there should have been an opportunity for you to help your client create an effective process to select the best partner for moving forward. If you you made it clear to them that you completely accept the possibility the best fit may no longer be you, there is only one reason why they would turn down your offer…You lost your trusted advisor status. If a client is not open to sharing all of their issues, concerns, challeneges and reasons for wanting to put their account up for review then it should be a pretty clear sign your trusted advisor status has been lost. In that case accept the fact you lost the account and spare yourslef the time of putting together a proposal.

  3. Thanks Stan. I agree. But, who’s to blame? The bogus prospect who published his RFP in O’Dwyer’s or the 55 PR firms who blindly responded? I take full responsibility for us blindly following the crowd on this nightmare. But, as George W. Bush so memorably said, ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, er ah, fool me twice, er ah, and we won’t get fooled again!