Sitting on the dock of the bay last Saturday… well, actually I was taking my son fishing on a small lake outside of San Diego. I was rowing the boat, he was attempting to catch a trout or a bass, well frankly, he would have settled for anything. Let’s just say there was lots of downtime for the captain, me, to think about the upcoming week. I started to daydream about landing all the new business we had on the line. Some prospects seemed like they were going to be easier to reel in than others. We had a few that were nibbling our bait but hadn’t fully committed. Would they be worth all that angling?  When is it best to set the hook or just let them be the one that got away?

Let’s face it, trolling for new business is never any fun. And to catch something you don’t really want to keep in the first place is a waste of everyone’s time. Here are my top 10 warning signs to consider before you decide to land or to cut loose that next potential client.

  • They don’t really get PR: they think they need it but they don’t have a clear understanding of what PR is and what it can do for them – if it’s a struggle now, it’s going to be a struggle down the road
  • Conversely, they think they “know” PR: some clients will micro-manage you, ignore your advice and want you to do it their way – why did they hire you in the first place?
  • You haven’t yet met the decision maker: you’ve sent your proposal to the marketing manager, but have not met the person in charge of the ship and the purse strings – you need to have a face-to-face with all the players in order to move forward because you really want to like your clients, it makes work-life easier
  • They don’t have a set budget: give us ideas, we’ll let you know if we can afford them – you’ll spend a lot of time spinning wheels with this approach
  • They have no budget: they want PR but have no money allocated for it – see above
  • Did I mention budget?: enough said
  • They’ve churned through agencies year after year: something fishy is going on if every agency they’ve had has been “bad” – why be that next “former agency”
  • They have made major changes/suggestions to your proposed PR campaign: based on the proposal alone, they have had so many suggestions and revisions the plan no longer resembles your vision – you should only be doing what you feel is right for your client, you are the expert (see #2)
  • You get a sense they/their product isn’t on the up and up: if you have the heebie geebies for any reason, go with your gut and step away if you don’t like the brand/company – it’s easier to do it now than once you have committed to the job
  • They have unreasonable expectations and requests: you don’t even have a signed contract and they are pushing for press releases, media lists and of course national exposure ASAP –nothing is free and your time and knowledge is valuable – if you can’t manage expectations now, you’re certainly being set-up to fail

If you experience any of those warning signs then just maybe you might want to row your boat away to another fishing hole. Cut bait or fish! Where did I put those worms?