In the public relations agency business, there is seldom room for any complacency. And more than that, there are no room for any assumptions whatsoever.
We have done some very good and immensely satisfying work for a couple of clients in the past year – one of them had a huge image advantage in their target markets, and this was indeed stated by them on more than one occasion – whilst the annual retainer was in vogue. The image visibility for their brands was built from ground zero, and in comparison, the coverage they got was equivalent to a peer who was 10x in size.
Come the annual pitches, and we go ahead, confident of the win again, and adding to the knowledge investments with a lot of tools and additional value add to the client (like we would do for any client we retained).
There was continuing work for this client, and also seamless communication between we, the agency, and their brand teams – making us privy to the next years plans, and soliciting our inputs.
In a nutshell, the business ambiance created was such that we could make a safe assumption that the retainer tenure was being extended to another fiscal – all activity hinted to that.
However, just a day before the contract closure date, someone from the brand team sends in cold mail stating that they were going ahead with a competing agency, on the basis of a better pitch.
Thankfully, we had other clients in place to make sure our business continuity was seamless. However, the sequence of events that led to the strong existing retainer engagement getting disconnected was puzzling to say the least.
Lesson learnt – irrespective of the credentials and the great track record, never assume a retainer renewal, until its signed firmly on the dotted line.
As they say, assumption is the mother of all fuck ups.
So true if you are a PR agency!