The saying goes: all’s fair in love and war. Meaning that in certain high-stakes situations, any method to achieving your objective is justifiable. When it comes to business, however, does or should the same cut-throat principle apply? More specifically, in the public relations world, is it okay to poach another agency’s client?
Recently, we helped a client make a significant announcement that garnered a lot of media coverage. A couple days later, we received an email through the “media inquires” contact form on our client’s website – inquires go directly to our inbox – from the VP of another PR firm. We’ll call him Dave.
Dave’s email read: Hey folks, Reaching out on my birthday (54 years young today) to congratulate you on your recent [news]. Great stuff and all my best wishes for continued success. If you’re looking to invest some of that cash in marketing and PR, please let me know. I’d love to schedule a call for next week to tell you more about my digital PR agency. We’re a senior team with the punch of a powerhouse and a solid track record of success working with startups…Your team’s done a nice job getting press…the hard part comes after. How do you maintain a steady drumbeat of coverage? We’ve got lots of tactics up our sleeves to share with you. Smart, strategic, and battle tested. Let me know if you’re keen to connect next week. Look forward to hearing from you. – Dave
Our response: PR is all covered, Dave, thanks.
His response: Shame on me for not digging deeper before reaching out. Poaching other agencies’ clients is not part of my strategy. Kudos on coverage to date, and best wishes for continued success. Appreciate you getting back to me.
Admittedly, we were miffed by Dave’s initial email. However, after his response we chalked it up to an honest, albeit avoidable, mistake. He was correct in that a simple Google search would have shown that we’ve been the agency of record (AOR) for this client for several years. He was also kind enough to compliment our work, twice. What stood out, though, was Dave’s insistence that poaching clients is not his modus operandi – which makes you wonder if poaching is a common practice among other PR firms and practitioners.
For us, the answer is no. We have never actively tried to snatch a client from another agency. We have, however, engaged with prospects that currently have an AOR, but it was the prospect that contacted us first because they were unhappy with their current firm.
Like all agencies, we employ the usual, basic business development tactics in order to drum up clients, including networking, email marketing, land-and-expand, and the like. Most of our business comes by way of referrals, which we not only prefer but think speak highly of our work.
All cynicism aside, we don’t think Dave was trying to poach our client. Some may see his intentions differently and think poaching is not only okay, but good business. In our view, it’s just plain dodgy. So keep this in mind: a PR firm that uses sleazy methods to win your business will also use sleazy methods to service your business.