There are times when cutting ties with a client and losing that business is best — and only — option for a PR agency. Holding onto a nightmare client that causes damage to your reputation is not worth the money that they bring in. With that said, it’s not just about the agency’s brand but also yours as a PR professional in the industry.

After all, PR is all about reputation management. Therefore, the main focus should be to protect and manage everyone's reputation; this includes the brand, the agency and the professional, too.

So, what are some of the biggest red flags to look out for when working with a client?

media update’s Talisa Jansen van Rensburg reveals the right time for agencies to cut the cord.

Let’s leap right in:

1. The client wants you to make false claims

As a PR pro, you are well aware that authenticity and fairness are the key points to building a successful reputation for a client. If, for example, you are asked to make false claims either at a public space like a press conference, in a press release or on social media, this is a big red flag.

“It’s time to cut ties with a brand when your values no longer align, or if you feel that your values would be compromised by continuing to work on their PR or/ carry out their requests,” says Jenny Griesel from Jenny Griesel Communications.

The moment you agree to making a false claim, you are placing your own integrity and reputation in jeopardy. When the truth eventually comes out (and it will), your agency will go down with them. And let’s just say that trying to rebuild your reputation after that will be extremely difficult to do, if you’re able to at all.

So, when a brand asks you to make false claims on their behalf, be sure to inform them in a respectful manner that is not the way your agency works. If they insist, it is best to rip the BandAid off and end the relationship with that client.

“Everyone needs to generate an income. But, if that income comes as a result of a client expecting you to generate false claims, providing misleading information to the public or the media, it’s time to walk away,” says Gabriella Brondani Rego, PR Aficionado for urban espresso.

2. The client has no boundaries

Having a client that wants to be involved with the PR process can be a dream come true, but there is a line (and you need to know when to draw it). As soon as a client is becoming too involved, issues can start arising.

For example, if they insist on writing press releases that seem pushy and unprofessional, they’re putting the relationship at risk. Or, if the client faces a crisis and you advise them on how to deal with it and they deliberately ignore your advice.

Instead, they just do what they think is best. This could end up causing more damage to their name and your firm’s reputation.

“As in any relationship, it’s essential to set clear boundaries, expectations and accountabilities from the start — particularly around what you are willing and not willing to do,” says Rego.

3. The client ignores feedback

In order for the client to build a good reputation, it is necessary that they listen to the feedback that you give. If they refuse to listen or make the necessary changes, it will be difficult for your agency to do what it’s set out to do. This of course involves, among other things, helping clients gain earned media or mentions on social media.

Communication between the PR agency and client is crucial to ensure that both parties get the best results with campaigns, press conferences and press releases. If they don’t communicate or listen to your advice, the relationship will be one-sided.

If this is the case, it might be time to inform the client how difficult it is to build their reputation if they are not willing to listen.

media update top tip: Keep the following in mind when making the decision to end a relationship with a client:
Cutting ties with a brand should always be the last resort. This is because letting a client go affects your agency's reputation as well. The only time when you should fire a client is if they are risking serious damage to your reputation and if they become impossible to work with.

“Ending a relationship with a client is never easy, but it may be required of you at some point. And, if or when it does happen, you will need to open yourself up to finding clients or brands that are more in line with your agency’s values and who respect your ethics, time and expertise,” says Rego.

Have you ever had to let a client go? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

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Want to learn more about how to protect your brand’s image? Then be sure to read Reputation management 101.
*Image courtesy of Pexels