Red Flags to Turn Down a Prospective PR Client

Sabine Raabe
3 min readMay 14, 2023

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As a public relations (PR) professional, it’s important to carefully consider which clients you choose to take on. While it’s tempting to say yes to every prospective client who approaches you, it’s not always the right choice. In fact, turning down a client can sometimes be the best decision for both parties. Here are some situations in which you may want to turn down a prospective PR client.

They don’t align with your values

It’s essential to work with clients whose values align with yours. If you don’t believe in their mission or their actions conflict with your beliefs, it may not be a good fit. You want to work with clients whose message you can authentically promote.

They have unrealistic expectations

It’s not uncommon for clients to have unrealistic expectations of what PR can achieve for them. If a client expects you to work miracles and make them an overnight success, it’s not a good sign. It’s important to set realistic goals from the outset and work towards them. If a client isn’t willing to listen to your professional advice and set achievable goals, it may be best to decline the project.

No clear brief

Another reason to consider turning down a prospective PR client is if they are unable to provide a clear and concise brief or if they keep changing their goals. A clear brief is essential for any PR campaign to be successful, as it helps PR professionals to understand the client’s goals, target audience, messaging, and key performance indicators. If a client cannot provide a concise brief, it can lead to misunderstandings, misaligned expectations, and ultimately, a failed campaign. Additionally, if a client keeps changing their goals or messaging mid-way through the campaign, it can be challenging to achieve any meaningful results.

They have a bad reputation

If a potential client has a bad reputation or has been involved in a scandal, it’s important to think carefully about taking them on. While it’s possible to work with clients to improve their reputation, it’s not always easy. Additionally, associating with such a client might harm your reputation as a PR professional. In such cases, it is best to politely decline the offer and recommend that the client seeks professional help elsewhere.

Unrealistic budget

While it’s possible to work with clients with small budgets, it’s important to be realistic about what you can achieve. PR is an investment, and it’s important to have the resources to achieve your goals. If a client’s budget is too small to achieve their desired outcomes, it’s best to be upfront and honest about what can be achieved.

They’re not willing to collaborate

PR is a collaborative process, and it’s important to work with clients who are willing to collaborate with you. If a client isn’t willing to listen to your advice or work with you to achieve their goals, it’s not a good sign. PR is a two-way street, and both parties need to be invested in the process for it to be successful.

Ethical Concerns

As a PR professional, it is important to maintain ethical standards when working with clients. If a prospective PR client requests that you engage in unethical or illegal practices to improve their image or reputation, it is important to turn them down immediately. Not only can these practices harm the reputation of you as a professional, but they can also result in legal consequences. It is essential to prioritise ethical considerations above all else when working with clients.

Turning down a prospective PR client is not an easy decision. Unrealistic expectations, poor reputation, budget constraints, and ethical concerns are just some of the reasons why you might need to turn down a prospective PR client. By carefully considering these factors, you can ensure that you take on clients who are a good fit for you.

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Sabine Raabe

I help leaders craft their stories to #communicate and connect better. Think thought leadership, professional branding and reputation management.