Tuesday, August 02, 2005

True Story 

This story obscures names and companies, and you will understand why. It comes from a friend of mine. He was complaining to me recently about his PR agency. He works in a global company with a brand name you would recognize readily. The firm he was complaining about is an instantly recognizable brand in PR.

Here is what my friend said. The PR agency has not been providing him good service for a long time, even though it is paid a significant sum monthly. My friend says the problem is constant rotation of juniors on his account. Once he gets a junior trained, the person is pulled off and sent elsewhere, and my friend has to start over again training another junior. He can never make headway because he is always retraining agency staff.

The firm also hasn't gotten results for him, even though he has one requirement for the account. Now, it is possible that the strategy behind the publicity campaign is wrong, but my friend said the agency never brought that up to him during annual planning. As far as my friend knew, the agency approved of the plans that were developed jointly.

Recently, my friend said the agency told him the amount of money the company was paying the agency was too small and that is why the agency can't get results. (The amount of money would make our agency happy, thank you.) Further, the agency had to move juniors onto the account to make up for budget shortfalls. In other words, the agency blamed the client for the agency's failure to perform. My friend, who is a direct individual, told the agency, "That's not my problem. It's your problem." He was seething when he said it.

As of this writing, the situation has not gotten better.

From both agency and client perspectives, this is a horror story and failure of client relationships 101. First, you don't blame a client for failure to get results unless you document clearly that the client has not delivered what is promised. Even then, you place blame carefully. Second, you don't provide excuses for inaction on your own internal dysfunction. Third, you don't ask for a budget increase from a position of weakness.

I would have thought better of the agency involved. It is a wonderful brand. But, my friend thinks the agency is falling apart because many people are leaving. Who knows what the truth is, but the agency has left a perception of incompetence. That's not good any way you look at it, especially since this fellow is in a position to make his unhappiness known to other companies looking for agencies.

It's never good to make a client angry.


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