We agreed the advertising trades don’t pull any punches, and balance their content with an equal mix of good, bad and just plain ugly accounts of misbehaving clients and agencies alike.
We also agreed the exact opposite was true of PR journals.
The latter continually celebrate our industry’s having already won a coveted seat at the C-suite table (a half-truth at best, that never fails to remind me of W’s ill-advised ‘mission accomplished’ speech in the weeks following the fall of Baghdad).
The PR trades also lionize Fortune 500 CCOs and the CEOs of global holding companies (one need only read the recent ‘Power 50’ of one publication to see what I mean).
So, in the interests of providing balance to an otherwise, Stepford Wives-like approach to coverage, here are three recent tales from the PR dark side: prospective clients whose atrocious behavior would never see the light of day in our utopian trade media:
1.) Prospect number one reached out to Peppercomm, and expressed significant interest in an employee communications program that would be driven by our Comedy Experience training. Encouraged and emboldened by such talk, this blogger hopped on a five-hour flight. The next day, I showed up at the prospect’s headquarters only to be told the lead executive had gone home early due to an adverse reaction to meds. “Would I be interested in a tour instead?” the receptionist asked. I would not, I responded. Mortified, I asked that the meeting be re-scheduled while I remained in town. There was no response to said request. Nor was there ever an apology from the meds-challenged prospect. And, there’s been deafening silence ever since.
2.) A midwestern law firm told us we were one of three finalists for what would be a significant, multi-year relationship. Our team re-arranged their schedules, jetted to the prospect’s offices and nailed the presentation. But, alas, one or two lead partners had missed the meeting. So, the prospect asked us to jump on another plane ASAP and brief the missing executives. We did so (again dropping everything else in the process). Now, some five years later, we’re still in the dark as to how that second meeting went.
3.) It was a true horse race. The prospect said they simply couldn’t decide between my favorite firm and an investor relations challenger. Say what? IR? Isn’t this a PR assignment, we asked? Well, yes, but the IR firm had been in place for some time, and had done a nice job in the pitch. Would both agencies be willing to undertake a speculative project to break the logjam? Sure, we said. Months later, a ‘Dear agency’ note informed us that investor relations was a top priority at the moment, but that the prospect would be in touch at a later date.
Yeah, sure. And, the meds-challenged lady will call me tomorrow, and the Midwest law firm wants to sign an LOA this afternoon.
So, there you have it. Three tales from the dark side.
Actually, it’s not the dark side at all.
My anecdotes are part, and parcel, of every day life in our industry that, unfortunately, goes unreported by the Fourth Estate.