The Deplorable Prospect: After Word

BULLIES 4Since so many of you were kind enough to weigh-in yesterday with your thoughts on the increasingly boorish behavior of prospective clients, I thought I’d share the ending of the sad tale I had told.

As expected, we revived a ‘Dear Agency’ letter which, although sanitized to protect the names of the guilty, will provide insight into the sleazy underbelly of PR that our noble trade media pretend doesn’t exist.

Keep in mind, this Dear Agency form letter was received more than two weeks after the prospect had demanded fresh ideation the afternoon after we pitched them the morning on that same day.

We complied, and then our point person placed countless follow-up e-mails and voice mails that were completely ignored. It was painful to be copied on his numerous attempts and scan the in-box for some sort of acknowledgement.


And, then this letter arrived yesterday (the date of the product launch they had originally asked us to pitch. I thought the timing of the note was a particularly sleazy aspect to the entire deplorable affair).

Anyway, please read on (and, weigh-in with comments). I especially enjoyed David Baker’s tongue-lashing about playing right into the prospect’s hands and not “interrupting the entire RFP process as so many others have.” That elicited a hearty LOL from this blogger:


Thanks for participating in our search for a new PR partner.

We appreciate the thoughtfulness of your submission and the timely manner in which you returned everything. We also very much enjoyed meeting with you and meeting your team in New York at your office.

It was a hard decision and it ultimately took us a little longer than expected to make a decision as we wanted to be thorough in our approach.

As a result, we have decided to go with another partner who more closely aligns with our strategic needs at this time.

Thank you for your time and best wishes in the future.


8 thoughts on “The Deplorable Prospect: After Word

  1. The biggest red flag for me was not (just) the radio silence following 11th hour project work on spec. It was the request for 11th hour project work on spec after such a brief and rapid client/agency introduction. That says the CMO is scattered, or hasn’t learned how to handle agency service partners, or the client is troubled and desperate for answers, or they are used to exploiting people, or some combination of the four. Hindsight is 20/20 – but I vote for the agency who explains to the CMO, face to face, that 1) this requires a last-minute re-allocation of time, and 2) we ask not for guaranteed business but constructive and quick feedback if the business isn’t retained. If the agency cannot get the 60 seconds to have that conversation, or the agency sees that the CMO does not respect the effect of what she has requested, then the agency should drop out then and there. Much easier said than done I understand. But, bad vibes during initial outreach are a key reason why agencies turn opportunities down. This is one. I think. I also don’t advocate any e-mails suggesting outrage, or planned pitches to competitors. Clients write that off as sour grapes. Instead – send them an invoice, and copy the CEO. No other communication says less and says more all at once.

  2. after the 2nd or 3rd unanswered email follow-up I’d have sent a short note saying something like “just wanted to give you a friendly heads-up… if we don’t hear back within a week we’re going to start setting up meetings with some of the other interesting firms in your category; since our team has been able to learn quite a bit about your industry, I’m sure you can imagine we are eager to put that to work asap”

    The thing with me is, its always true; because the second I start researching for a prospect, I start sizing up their competitors as potential prospects, looking at who I may know, ways to get into the door, etc.

    If your ideas were as on-point as you say, which I’m sure they are considering Peppercom’s reputation, how does he possibly ignore that?

  3. I’ve often wondered if the biggest danger in new biz is chasing prospects that aren’t marriageable, to use your image. One thing I do is try to kindly push back on something, which is usually something obviously wrong with the positioning. “Ah, that’s interesting. That explains why your website says xyz. Because before you explained that, I assumed xyz. I wonder if that’s partly why you are struggling.” Or something like that. I want to find out if they’ll be open to feedback.

    Anyway, thanks for the followup.

  4. That’s the problem, David. It’s just like the dating world. You catch each other’s eyes. The flirting begins. Every sign points to a very promising relationship. Then she tosses you out like yesterday’s newspaper. Believe me, we are highly selective in the business we chase, but it’s virtually impossible to determine who might be Mr. or Ms. Right in advance.

  5. So, Steve, in all seriousness, what did you learn from this experience? Were their some signs early on that they would be an asshole client? In some ways, I guess it’s a bit of a relief that you did NOT win the business since they might have been a terrible client. But were there signs that this was a waste of time? In my own practice, I work hard to try to screen out bad clients, but I’m not always successful. I’d be curious to know what agencies should do differently based on your experience.