How not to brief a PR agency

Posted on: 2015-11-27 in Steaming Barrel

TopLine founder Heather Baker on the worst, most suspicious "lead" she's ever received. 

Heather Baker is founder and CEO of TopLine Comms. 

TopLine Comms, the agency I founded and operate, can now be somewhat selective with the clients it takes on, but it wasn’t always this way. When you’re starting a business, you’ve got to take a decent amount of crap from people willing to pay you if you want to survive and eventually get ahead.

Because we’re a lot more established now, when a potential client is making unworkable, unprofitable, or…unnatural requests, we’re in a position to say “hell no”. And when you’re in a position to say “hell no”, you have a much clearer idea of when a prospect is being ridiculous, demanding, or sly.

It is for this reason that I laughed heartily at the following email, which was, at best, a hugely time-consuming and likely fruitless endeavour; at worst, a time-consuming and likely fruitless endeavour that also ends with the wanton pilfering of all our best ideas. In either case, it’s an excellent example of how not to brief an agency – or in this case, thirty-two (!). The email came from a gmail address and it’s so ridiculous that I thought I would publish it.

To whom it may concern,

I am currently participating in a fact finding exercise in order to engage a PR agency, on a long term basis as soon as possible, for a private client who is based in London.

My client has asked me to research PR agencies BEFORE putting out a more detailed brief. Having researched extensively on the web, your company is one of 32 agencies who may be suitable.

As a first step, I would like to have an initial 15 minute meeting with the most appropriate person from your company. I will be the main person leading on projects for my client and so it is important that whoever you send is representative of staff I would be working with in the future.

My background is in educational innovation. I have an MBA in Strategic Management and, before becoming a consultant, my track record comprised the radical transformation of failing secondary schools through collaboration with community and business organisations.

Many of the projects I am supporting my client with will involve developing and marketing innovative products and services to the education sector and teenagers in creative but effective ways.

As a starting point, these are the questions I would like to cover in the initial meeting:

· Is your organisation more creative and innovative than other PR agencies and, if so, how?

· Does your organisation have any expertise that may be relevant to marketing innovative solutions that historically only appealed to early adopters? If so, please be willing to give me some examples.

· Does your organisation have any expertise that may be relevant to marketing to schools? If so, please be willing to give me some examples.

· Does your organisation have any expertise that may be relevant to teenage marketing? If so, please be willing to give me some examples.

· Does your organisation have any expertise that may be relevant to public sector campaigning? If so, please be willing to give me some examples.

· Please bring a list of services your organisation offers, an approximate cost per hour/day for each service and how many staff work within each of your services. We are interested in all areas including strategy, thought leadership, market research, talent, branding/design, academic and celebrity endorsement, influence/campaigning, reputational management, event management and all types of media including paper, newspapers/magazines, TV, radio, websites, social media etc.

· What are your employees’ hours of work? I am often only available outside of normal working hours or at very short notice.

I will be based on the ground floor at the _____, in between ___ and ____ Stations, on _____ from ____ until _____. If you have a member of staff who you could send to meet me, please phone me on ________ at any time including the weekend/evenings to arrange a time. I will then use the outcomes of my meetings to construct a more detailed brief for you, if there is mutual interest in working together.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.



For anyone soliciting our services, we have but one message: we want your business. We do. We’d dearly like to work with you - whether you need PR in London or are looking for a PR agency in South Africa

But not at any price.

Want to appoint a PR agency? Download TopLine's free eBook for some helpful pointers! 

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About this blog

The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog was founded by B2B PR specialist Heather Baker, who runs video production and corporate animation agency TopLine Film and digital PR and SEO agency  TopLine Comms. The B2B PR Blog takes contributions from sensible industry folk with something interesting to say.


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