The contract included the usual services: monthly press releases, media list unique to our market, case study articles, initiating an industry awards campaign, three national press tours within the calendar year, and presentation coaching for our senior management.
Noteworthy: The PR agency sales rep outdid herself during the negotiation phase. Obviously trained on the “tell them what they want to hear” school of selling, she did her homework on our company, and convinced everyone that their agency could move mountains for us. Her obvious polish persuaded us that they understood our needs, possessed the right talent to service our account well, and had excellent media contacts in our niche markets. She even committed to personally oversee our ongoing program.
Thus Far, Everything Seems Perfect ... But Wait, There’s More
While the due diligence plan was executed well and our management team felt that the PR firm chosen was qualified and would be effective, as the Marketing Director chartered to handle the day-to-day relationship with them, I and my team would be the conduit through which our ongoing objectives and implementation would flow.
Very anxious to begin the communications rollout, my team prepared a comprehensive project list and was looking forward to the next phase.
So, What Went Wrong?
The agency brought in a new account manager (someone new to their group and one we had not previously met). With fanfare and near breathless introductions, we were told that she was an expert in our field and that her PR work had 'won awards'.
While disappointed in this turn of events (naturally we preferred to work with the team with which we had already established a rapport and whose capabilities had been presented to us). Our timelines loomed and we were pressed to quickly advance the PR communications agenda, so we proceeded.
Almost as soon as we began, performance became an issue. Our agency account manager was clearly out of her league. Even with hand-holding and support, she didn’t service our needs (defined and agreed to in our contract). Without delay, I met with the agency owner, explained the circumstances and defined both our surprise and displeasure.
Many assurances followed, more meetings, review of outlined services, information dumps, etc. did not repair the growing service void. Missed phone calls and showing up late to meetings told us everything that we needed to know. We dismissed the agency and selected one of the alternative prospects, which wound up performing superbly.
What’s The Moral to The Story?
- Sometimes even when we prepare well, the results don’t always turn out as expected.
- Also, the old “bait and switch” tactic is used in all businesses, not just by your mechanic or brake guy.
- Service providers can’t afford to ignore their client’s concerns or objections. In this case, the smart move might have been to assign the sales person as an interim account manager to re-gain control of the account.
- And, confidence and trust evolve in business relationships just as in personal relationships. They usually take time and must be satisfactory to all parties involved. Otherwise it isn't a relationship.
Forest’s mama was right “... life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get.”