The BLACK paPR Report


PR from an African American Perspective

It Will Cost You More

An undertaker taught me an extremely valuable business lesson. He shared that it is a common practice for families to have one funeral home pick up their dead loved one while they scout around for a cheaper, less expensive funeral home to perform the services. During their consultation, he’ll tell them “it will cost you more” and they will ignore him, ask him to pick up the body and employ his services on the spot. All is well until they see the bill, which they must pay in full upfront.

What they would not bank on is (1) his integrity (2) his relationship with the original funeral home owner — his colleague, and (3) that he’d tack the amount they owed the original undertaker on to his bill.

He was right, it costs them more, because he takes the amount due the colleague and pays him. The undertaker thought it was an unconsiable act to pick up a body from a man or woman who had not been paid what they were owed. In fact, it was a slap in the face.

The undertaker taught me the value of valuing the relationship between colleagues. He also taught me that if someone would run out on a bill with one person, they could very possibly run out on you too.

My client The Social Media Socialite and me were discussing the same thing happening in our respective professions. In hers, like in PR, it is common for a client to sign with one practitioner and run out on the contract in search of someone who is less expensive. The client genererally banks on the fact that there is no loyalty between competitors or whom they perceive to be competitors. The Social Media Socialite told me that she appreciated hearing the story about the undertaker, because she had done the same exact thing.

“You have to hold the client accountable,” she said. I agreed though I know all too often practitioners deem it a badge of honor to sign on someone else’s client particularly one with a name or brand recognition that is a potentially hot media property. The thought is that even if the client left a debt, it has no bearing on their relationship. And the newly contracted practitioner is no more concerned about a relationship with a perceived competitor than the man on the moon.

Public relation and publicity professionals are undervalued by the very nature of our jobs. We don’t offer much that is tangible short of a release, press kit and other collateral. So, we’re often treated as though we are expendible. In entertainment and sports, it is not uncommon for artists and athletes to have multiple publicists, some of which are unpaid or poorly paid. (That’s another blog.) In short, one practitioner will pick up the body as the client scouts around for a cheaper, less expensive practitioner to perform the services.

Unknown to him, the undertaker was actually practicing the very core of public relations by demanding that the client be accountable, and by expressing accountabilty to his colleague. He set a standard and in the process developed a relationship built on mutual trust and RESPECT.

It is essential — absolutely necessary — for PR and publicity professionals to start esteeming one another more highly. It is okay for one professional to pick up the body while another prepares the services, as long as both are compensated for their work. And our profession is best served when clients see us demonstrate solidarity from one colleague to another.

The next time a colleague’s client comes to you (1) do your research by calling the colleague to ensure that all is well and there is no debt or bad blood (2) think critically and examine the possible costs of taking on the potential client and (3) take a grown up pill and ask your colleague to be straight with you about their relationship with the person. If there is debt and bad blood, think seriously about signing the client. If you should decide that there are benefits to signing the client, then work with him or her to make the other relationship right. Never let a client position you to slap another colleague in the face.

Do like the undertaker and say “It will cost you more.”

Best, Robin

Filed under: Client Relations, Colleague to Colleague, Ethics, Help for the Practitioner, PR Standards & Practices, Public Relations, , , , , , , , ,

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