There are right ways and wrong ways to develop new business.
The right way is to first conduct deep research on a prospect organization, arrive at some sort of possible 'white space' opportunity and then 'ask' the prospect's permission to discuss the findings.
The wrong way is to spam the prospect. One of our clients, who leads communications for a global brand, says she is literally being deluged by spam pitches from myriad public relations firms. They're arriving in ever-increasing numbers, are 'inside out' in their approach (i.e. “We're a great agency and you'd be smart to hire us.”) and are actually counter-productive since they damage the firm's image and reputation.
I have the great fortune to serve on several boards populated by some of the best and brightest corporate communications chiefs in the world. I would never, ever allow my firm to blindly spam these individuals. To do so would violate a business relationship and, even more importantly to me, a personal friendship. That said, I've been able to win new business with some of my board peers but only after a long period of building mutual trust.
So, here's a heads-up to all the new business people at all the PR firms in the world. Stop spamming prospects. Step back and be more thoughtful in your approach and suggest solutions instead of pitching your incredible capabilities. My client will tell you those unsolicited mailers are going straight in her trash can, as is any chance of being considered for future assignments.
Why am I not surprised, Ghost? We suffered a somewhat similar fate a few years back when a ‘reporter’ from The New York Times called to say she was writing a feature about one of our larger clients and had the client’s permission to find out more about our firm. Since this particular client was quite publicity friendly, I didn’t think much of it at first until the ‘journalist’ began asking me who did what on the account, how long they’d been at Peppercom, their strengths and weaknesses, etc. That’s when I asked for the ‘reporter’s’ phone number so I could call back and confirm she was, in fact, who she said she was. She hung up immediately. I’m convinced it was a recruiter from one of the large agencies looking to poach our talent. BTW, this sort of behavior is typical from the larger agencies in our field. They’ll routinely have one of their recruiters cold call Peppercom, hop from cube to cube, and hope to tempt one of our employees to “play in the big leagues.”
In a similar vein, I remember when one of our agency’s high-profile accounts was up for review and we started getting calls from a magazine we couldn’t find in Bacon’s. The calls came in to the assistant account executives specifically and the requests, beginning with press releases and color slides, later bled into the area of client interviews. It all seemed too good to be true: A magazine calling the low man on the totem pole and, without any pitching, wanting the full gamut of services all the way up to an interview. It turns out the “magazine” was one of the agencies pitching the business, and they were going through this exercise to demonstrate how we delegated our media work to entry-level staffers who didn’t bother to check the credentials of the person on the other end of the phone.
I hope everyone sleeps soundly after reading this.