7 deadly sins PR agencies commit

7 deadly sins PR agencies commit

My mother always told me to preserve my reputation, as it is more precious than silver or gold. “Wealth can be won or lost,” she said, “but if you lose a good reputation, there’s no getting it back.”

Is a reputation irreparable? Not necessarily, but it’s no easy cleanup once it’s been tarnished. PR agencies are supposed to be experts at issue management and public opinion, and yet oftentimes they care more about their clients’ reputation than their own.

Let me rephrase that – it may not be that they don’t care about their reputation, but they may not be paying attention to it, or even be aware of what they are doing to ruin it.

Agencies can be so concerned with servicing their clients that a lot of things get lost along the way. They may be over-servicing, burning out staff, not paying market wages, or any number of things I’ve previously written about.  These people leave, and share their experiences.

But what if this ISN’T your agency? What if your agency is awesome on the inside? You don’t burn out staff, you pay good wages… you must be in the clear, right?


There’s another crucial point in time when agencies can either rock it, or drop the ball, kill their reputation, and end up with sub-par talent on board, in turn creating sub-par delivery to clients, and lost accounts.

When is this crucial moment? Believe it or not, it’s in the recruitment process.

If agencies don’t manage their recruitment process carefully, either directly or when using a recruiter, they will get a bad a reputation, and more importantly, they’ll miss out on the best people out there. And the very people you’re representing yourself to are the ones who are out in the marketplace, talking to everyone and referring their friends.

So what are agencies doing wrong?
  1. Not getting back to candidates who apply: Just a quick email to say thanks, but you weren’t suitable for the role, is more respectful than nothing.
  2. Scheduling and rescheduling interviews, and rescheduling again: I know your clients are important, but everyone is important. This brilliant new talent you’re bringing in for interview has taken time out of their busy workday to come see you, and if you play your cards right, they may be winning you a $1M client, so respect their time.
  3. Not giving detailed feedback (or sometimes any feedback) to the talent who interviewed or the recruiter representing the talent post-interview: When clients ignore this because they’re busy or not interested in progressing, candidates often say “well I guess this tells me a lot about how they run their business”.
  4. Being rude or too challenging to the candidate during interview: Candidates are interviewing YOU as much as you’re interviewing them. I had two rockstar candidates who interviewed at four agencies, one where the interviewer was aloof and pointed out only areas of weakness. Both candidates had no interest and a poor opinion of that one agency post-interview, and each were subsequently snapped up by other top agencies in 24 hours. You can imagine what they told their rockstar friends about that agency.
  5. Drawing out the process for ages: Apart from the obvious fact that in a talent tight market, the hottest talent is in demand and the agencies who act swiftly will scoop these candidates up, it also shows lack of interest. I have agencies tell me to put people in a holding pattern that lasts for weeks on end, while they scour the market. If you aren’t interested in the talent, it’s better to release them than keeping them waiting for ages, as they lose faith in you.
  6. Not working in partnership with your recruiter: Give us the time of day, return our calls, give us a brief that is good enough to give you the exact candidate you need, culturally and skills-wise. Much of our role is to act as an advocate for an agency. How can we do this if we’ve never met you, or you don’t give us a full brief? We qualify our briefs to manage our very busy schedules, and we get the best results for the clients that give us the most thorough briefs, feedback, expediency and respect. I have a number of clients who do this exceptionally well – and they are always one of the top choices of candidates I represent, and 9 times out of 10, they get the candidates they want. It’s not a coincidence that they are also getting the account wins.
  7. Putting someone in charge of your recruitment process who is not interested or good at it: Tacking “recruitment” onto a job title to save money is a risky game. If that person doesn’t want to do it, or isn’t good at being the face of your agency, do you want them to be the first person this star talent is going to see?  Or do you want to risk them letting great talent slip through the cracks due to their lack of interest, follow up, or lack of ability to engage and attract stars?


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