You Can Go Your Own Way

This post is dedicated to the long suffering Ann Barlow, President Peppercom West.

This is a cautionary tale about a professional services firm that exemplified a Fleetwood Mac lyric Goaway_sm_000 written with a different meaning in mind. To wit: “Players only love you when they're playing.”

The professional services firm in question has only 'loved' us when they were 'playing' at retaining a PR agency.

They first played with us three years ago. At that time, we were one of several firms to pitch the account. We were told we lost because we lacked an office in the firm's headquarters city (a criterion not mentioned once in previous meetings). Nice.

They next played us about six months ago. In the midst of a mega crisis, they asked us to attend an immediate meeting with their partners. We did so at our expense. The meeting went so well that we were asked how soon we could begin, whether we'd be available for a start-up session the following week, etc. Then, nothing. Radio silence.

More recently, the very same firm re-surfaced asking for help with search engine optimization. Being the naïve optimists that we are, we sent recommendations. Again, nothing. Radio silence.

We're done with this player. They've loved us for the last time. Borrowing from another Fleetwood Mac standard, “(They) can go (their) own way."

12 thoughts on “You Can Go Your Own Way

  1. Good question, Peter. We have a rigorous scoring system that grades every incoming lead and helps us decide whether to pursue or not. Sadly, it doesn’t screen serial prospects who were never interested in hiring a firm in the first place. I’d pay lots of money for a system to prevent that.

  2. We’ve all been there at one time or another, seduced by what my wife calls the “bright shiny object.”
    Regardless of discipline, marketing agencies seems particularly vulnerable because it’s often so time-sensitive and there is rarely a consistent regimen for evaluating how many resources will be used to go after a new business opportunity.
    I know it’s mostly a judgment call. Still, perhaps the real question is how do you decide if these situations warrant an “all hands on deck” approach? If an agency imposes strict guidelines on internal costs or billable hours, can it effectively do the same for business development?
    Regardless of what’s being sold (including medical supplies and lunch boxes), I’d be interested in hearing more about how small- and mid-size companies keep themselves from consistently getting into these situations.

  3. I like that suggestion a lot, Julie. We might also consider saying, ‘Gee, we’d love to help, but your largest competitor just hired us for a higher fee than the one quoted by you. Good luck!’

  4. great response, Julie. Ann and Rep, follow her advice about the office situation next time and report back to us. That would be grand.

  5. It sounds to me like these buffoons just wanted some free professional PR counsel each time they contacted you. The way to get that was to dangle the carrot of future work.
    Tell them to take their carrots elsewhere and not to call when their next crisis knocks (and it will). Better yet, tell them that you wish you could help them, but since you don’t have offices in their town, it wouldn’t be appropriate.

  6. Thanks so much for the note, Aaiello. It means a lot to know someone on the client/prospect side really does get it. Don’t get me wrong. We’ve had (and have) great clients who have treated us like full partners. Sadly, though, they’re in the minority. Too many people in positions of power tend to abuse the privilege.

  7. Having spent only a couple of years on the agency side but most of my 18 years on the client side, I always try to take posts like this to heart and try to be a good client. I was apologizing to our PR firm the other day for having dropped the ball in getting them a PO number. They told me that I had nothing on their numerous clients that they have to beat with a stick to get them to return a phone call. That made me feel good for me but bad for them. I don’t know why so many clients and prospects of PR agencies think that rude behavior is acceptable. Although I do remember a former colleague who once told me that she could often get entire campaigns out of an ad agency without paying a dime by asking them to do work on spec. Not cool.

  8. Well played, Biffo. Getting back to the Lindsay Buckingham/Stevie Nicks version of the group, I’d also submit ‘Second Hand News’ as a suitable lyric for the way PR firms are treated by prospects.

  9. I am reminded of the earlier, and far superior, Fleetwood Mac fronted by the great Pete Green and the anthem “Oh Well”

  10. P.T. Barnum was clearly speaking of you, Ms. B., when he said, “There’s a sucker born every moment.” Sadly, he was also speaking of me (and just about every member of Peppercom’s management team). We’ve all been suckered by these bogus “players who only love you when they’re playing.” There ought to be a law.

  11. Thank you, Rep. I can’t promise it will be the end of all quixotic pursuits on my part. But I wash my hands of these guys. Unless they come back with a promise of a signed contract. Or maybe just an email commitment. Perhaps just a verbal agreement. They wouldn’t lie, would they??