Turning down a potential client can be hard, but in the short-term and long-term it will likely turn out to be a wise business decision that will save money and heartache.
To help make the tough call on when to say "no," let's review some established rules and less tangible ones that can be used before deciding to take a pass on a new client.
These are just few a red-flag rules, but if the client gets past these then the chances are better that you can create a successful relationship and do a better job of helping clients build—or rebuild—reputations.
Insist on immediate results.
PR is a long-term process, particularly in crisis communications. Building a reputation can take time and an investment. Quick-hit PR campaigns rarely produce desired results.
Want to spin the news.
Yes, the media landscape is fractured, but journalists can still smell when a company's PR team is trying to spin the news. Plus, it's just not a good practice. The truth may not get immediate results, but it helps build a brand reputation over the long-term.
Rift in the executive offices.
When there are divisions in the executive team, particularly as it relates to the PR team, it makes for an uphill battle. A successful PR campaign needs buy-in from all of the executives.
Seek a service agency.
Successful PR campaigns work better when a firm is part of establishing the initial strategy, instead of simply carrying out a campaign. PR firms do this work everyday and bring established strategies, and know when to say something is not going to work, and, what will be successful.
Sketchy PR track record.
There may be legitimate reasons why a company seeks to switch its PR direction and go with another firm. Take notice if the switch is a regular occurrence. It might be a sign the company doesn’t get PR or has unreasonable expectations.
No cultural fit.
This red flag is based on the unscientific gut check. While you may not want to hang out with your clients after work, you do need to like and respect them and their business. Plus, work styles and expectations should mesh not just on paper.
Gil Rudawsky is a former reporter and editor with 20 years of experience. He heads up the crisis communication/issues management practice at GroundFloor Media in Denver. Read his blog or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story first ran on PR Daily in January 2012.