Six Other Reasons PR Firms Get Fired

Lucy Siegel of Bridge Global Strategies recently authored a blog entitled, 'Six Reasons PR firms Get  Fired.'  As someone who's been a journalist, a corporate communications manager and a PR agency manager, Lucy knows her stuff.

I agree with each and every one of her points. But, I'd add six other reasons PR firms get fired:
1) There's a new sheriff in town. We've won business when a former client becomes the new top dog at an organization and brings us along. We've also been shown the door when a new head of corporate communications wants her own PR firm. It happens all the time.
2) The client falls in love with someone else. The CEO of one large agency is absolutely nonpareil in his ability to wine and dine other agency's clients. He's taken a big one away from us in the past and has quite the reputation for doing the same thing to just about everyone else.
3) Bait-and-switch. Big agencies still front load their new business pitches with superstars from the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations who promise to open doors. Then, when the prospect hires the agency, a bunch of 23-year-old junior account executives show up.
4) Account staff turnover. Every agency loses people, but some (such as the one run by the wine-and-dine guy mentioned above) are revolving doors. Clients hate having to re-train new account managers and fire agencies as a result.
5) Different offices or practice groups fighting over who owns the client relationship. This is another reason big agencies lose clients. I remember witnessing first-hand a major power struggle within Hill & Knowlton between my boss and the head of another practice to see who would own the new P&G client. P&G hated the internecine warfare and fired us.
6) Agencies become newsmakers. Clients do not like seeing their agencies making negative news. So, when H&K was raked over the coals in the early 1990s for manufacturing news for the government of Kuwait, there was a wholesale client defection. Ketchum and Edelman have also taken very public bruising for past misdeeds. And, McGarryBowen was just identified as one of the sources of leaks that enabled environmental activist groups to hijack client Chevron's 'We agree' campaign. That cannot be sitting well at Chevron HQs right now.

What have Ms Siegel and I missed? Why else do PR firms get fired? Do blogs about getting fired cause firings? I sure hope not.

5 thoughts on “Six Other Reasons PR Firms Get Fired

  1. That’s brutal. Or how about the client who wants nothing more than tactical order-takers, resists any and all strategic suggestions and ends up firing you because ‘you didn’t understand the business of their business’?

  2. I’ll give you another variation on what ghost ran into.
    How about the ex-agency person who lands on the corporate side of a global company’s US operation and knows everyone’s job too well? Back in the homeland, he/she is considered invaluable by the global marketing team and the public relations AOR.
    However, they haven’t been able to keep ANY agency in North America for 15 years because that same day-to-day and shoots down every creative idea, requires 40 hours paperwork/reports each month, and rewrites everything, even the best stuff. In a situation like that, getting fired is fine as no agency can ever do a good job or make enough money for all the hours of aggravation.
    Yes, this has happened.

  3. Yup. Great points. Ex-agency people can be brutal clients (especially to their former peers). I’ve been in your position and it’s a helpless one. Thanks Ghost.

  4. There’s also the revenge factor when someone who had previously worked on the agency side becomes an internal hire for the client. I’ve seen this happen twice. In one instance, the client hire had been passed over for a promotion while working on the agency side years earlier (for a position that ultimately went to his new day-to-day contact on the agency side). Very subtly, the new hire worked to undermine the agency contact at every turn, as if to avenge the lost promotion. In another case, the client hired someone directly from the agency — and this person then systematically started torturing her former employers. I specifically remember the agency being given an unworkable assignment that had to be on her desk by 9 am the next morning. At around 8:30 that morning, she turned off her fax machine, so as to ensure our failure; and, at 9:01, there she was on the phone, chewing us out.