The 5 stages of client-loss grief

When a client walks, everyone in the PR agency is likely to experience intense emotions. Let’s work through them.

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When a PR agency loses a good client, aka gets fired, it hurts to the quick. All agencies experience client attrition, some more than others, whether for performance (the ugliest way to lose a client), M&A, personnel changes by the client, etc.

And while every agency may have a unique methodology for replacing lost business, one thing many have in common is that they suffer through the same emotional and intellectual phases of loss (or stages of grief).

It goes something like this:

1. Denial

This is the “tell me we just didn’t get fired” stage. “No, that just did not happen, did it? And everything was going so well, wasn’t it?” Ah, apparently not. But denial is a natural and immediate response to a client termination and helps get the agency to the next stage—one step closer to acceptance.

2. Anger

This takes different forms. Especially in termination for performance, anger inside an agency can quickly spiral out of control:

• Agency principals may be upset with the account director’s inability to defuse client-agency issues before they escalate, as well as with the team’s ability to generate results.

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