Apr 08

When the aircraft carriers sail into your waters

Economists and pundits alike are quick to point to telltale signs of an impending Recession. Some citePr
housing starts. Others look at consumer spending habits. Me, I look at what the large PR agencies are doing. And, when I experience what I just experienced, I know that, yes Virginia, the economy is indeed heading South.

The experience I’m referring to was a recent new business pitch for a Web 2.0 start-up. We were up against a few other midsized firms as well as one aircraft carrier (that’s inside PR speak for a large agency). The prospect loved our ideas, loved our team and called to tell us we’d won. Yay! Break out the champagne! Or, based upon the smallish-sized budget, break out the Bud Light! Regardless, it was time for a mini-celebration.

And, then, things changed. A day or so after we’d been told we’d won, the prospect called to say they were "still reviewing a few other proposals." Oh. Then, another day passed and we were told it was between us and another top midsized firm. Uh oh. Finally, the prospect called to say they’d selected the aircraft carrier. Apparently, the large firm’s CFO had called the prospect over the weekend, committed to an amazingly small retainer and guaranteed, in writing, that the firm would invest $50k in time of their senior account manager. I told the prospect we couldn’t and wouldn’t compete with that.

So, what does it say when the big guys are willing to compromise the rest of the playing field by slashing fees and giving away their time? In my mind, it cheapens our industry and belittles our value add. It’s also probably a pretty good economic indicator of what the big guys are experiencing now and what might lie ahead for the rest of us. If so, batten down the hatches and be prepared for more aircraft carriers to start sailing into your waters.

Mar 12

A higher concentration of more intelligent women

Some time ago, a gifted junior employee left one PR firm to join another. Fair enough. It happens all theShocked
time. But, in doing so, she’d ruffled some feathers along the way. Again, fair enough. Stuff like that happens as well.

Now, fast forward to a recent industry event in which the CEO of the woman’s former agency bumps into her new boss. Pleasantries are exchanged. Backs are patted. Success stories passed back and forth. Then, as an aside, the woman’s name comes up in conversation. ‘How’s LaSheika doing?’ asks her former employer. ‘Oh, she’s a superstar,’ responds the new boss, with the slightest hint of a smug smile. ‘And, she’s much more content now since she says she didn’t feel intellectually challenged before.’

‘Oh, really?’ asks the erstwhile boss, starting to feel his gastric juices boil. ‘Yes,’ sighs her current employer, ‘she feels we have a higher concentration of more intelligent women.’

Befuddled, bewildered and, by now, totally batshit, the original CEO wraps up the small talk and beats a hasty retreat into the evening air. The next day, he passes along the message to his troops. They, too, are befuddled, bewildered and totally batshit with rage.

Now, fast forward to the present and foreseeable future: the intellectually-sated employee goes about her business at the new firm blissfully unaware that she has done a major job on her image and reputation within the industry. If, and when, she grows tired of the higher concentration of more intelligent women at her current job and begins floating her resume, those toxic remarks will come home to roost in a very big way.

Moral of the story? Loose lips sink ships (and careers). They can also put a real damper on a cocktail reception.