Fire A Client Today
The more time I spend talking to people in the PR and marketing worlds, the more I think it is time to reconsider the way service providers find, vet and retain clients. Lately, with the state of business and the economy, agencies are holding on for dear life to any revenue they can get their hands on – without concern for the quality of the client, the product/offering they are representing and the long term impact of that work on their brand and team member reputation.
I know that much of the focus has been to stay afloat and avoid additional layoffs – and perhaps this is idealistic – but maybe as the economy begins to slowly head north again we should take this opportunity and get rid of some dead weight. Tom Foremski recently wrote a great post called Pedal to the Metal looking back to the shockwaves the Sequoia Capital presentation calling for a massive PR/marketing bloodbath sent through the Silicon Valley community. Foremski, in his forward-looking wisdom, calls for a new presentation encouraging companies to get back into the game now: “Surely it is better to have all your ducks in a row now. This is a great time to invest in people and services to make sure your startups are well positioned and well known.”
I couldn’t agree with Foremski more – and I’d like to put a call out to agencies and PR pros with the same idea in mind. You have lost a lot of clients – it hurt and required an intense reconsideration of how you managed your business. What would one more client loss mean at this point? Even if you have to not make a hire you were thinking about – or work that much harder to get another, better, client – or even make one more layoff – you should fire a client.
Get your ducks in a row – take the time now to build the right client base – stop taking anything that moves. Do the work of looking for companies that have a compelling business model, money to pay their bills and a story worth telling. Without taking these measures now, you may not be well positioned for the next wave of business that is sure to come your way – and, to Foremski’s point, you will certainly not be well known as being a savvy, smart, strategic resource that works with the right kinds of partners.
Ok, so maybe you REALLY can’t fire a client – so at least have the balls to tell a client what you really think. Why is their story so hard to tell? Is there a story there at all? Is the product just awful but you never felt able to give them the straight dirt? Do they spend way too much time worried about the wrong parts of their business making it impossible for you to do your job? Do they really not “get it” when it comes to what you do? Hell, if you tell them all this one of two things will happen: they’ll respect you more than any PR person they’ve ever met before, or they’ll fire you (in which case, you should be glad to see them go).
But I still think you should just fire the worst client you have – do it now.
Check out Mark Johnson’s counter-point on this post, The PR Blame Game. So right, Mark: “If you haven’t armed your PR firm with a great message about a killer product, you only have yourself to blame.”
- A hot steaming pile of crap in the hand, is not worth two in the proverbial bush
- They would do it to you, in fact they already have