When Opportunity Knocks, Be Careful How Far You Open the Door

By Rachael Kitchen, Account Specialist, LA

I recently approached a popular broadcast show regarding a giveaway opportunity for my client, and, much to my delight, the producer was interested, promising both high level exposure and celebrity endorsement pending our sizable product contribution. This was a large donation and it had to be organized in three days.

Being a PR professional and having worked in the industry for a while, I knew that, although difficult, three days was possible. At this point, however, I was unaware of the chain of events about to occur and the experience I’d ultimately gain.

The Fusion team approached our client with the segment giveaway idea and all of the important details; their approval was the first necessary step. Additionally, we needed to gain consent from a high level department at one of our client’s partners, as this was a two part contribution and this partner was needed to provide a valuable piece of this product. This became tricky; we could motivate our client, but trying to motivate our client’s partners was a different story.

This brings us to day two.

Upon trying to encourage a favorable decision, but receiving no response from this partner company, we were under pressure to make a decision – do we forego this opportunity and tell the producer that we’re unable to make it work, or do we leave things in limbo and wait another day? After much deliberation we decided to wait until day three. We were certain that we could meet one-half of the giveaway demands and still hopeful that our partner would respond in the interim.

Upon delivering this update to the producer and telling them that we were unable to guarantee an entire product package, they assured me that another competitor’s product was already lined up, should we not be able to pull through.

We continued the process…

Day three came, and by late morning, we still had only one part of the final donation. A team member received approval from one of our two main client contacts, excited about our pursuing the opportunity. We were also reassured that providing our part of the giveaway would not be a problem. I called the producer and explained that, at this time, we could guarantee only part of the donation and she told me that a partial donation was ok.

Then, within minutes of my phone call with her, my colleague came into my office with an indescribable look on his face and I knew immediately that something was wrong. As I put my head on the desk he told me that our other client contact (remember there are two) just called to tell him that we could not arrange the giveaway in time and we were not to pursue this opportunity further. And, crisis mode began.

Quickly we scrambled to try and solve the problem. We made another call to our client with alternate options, but there was no changing their decision. I now had to call the producer and deliver news that we were unable to participate despite originally agreeing, mere minutes before, to this huge giveaway. With a pep-talk from my boss, I made the call. As you can imagine, the producer yelled, asked for me to explain again and again why this was happening and told me that she may lose her job because of me. I also received an email from the producer stating that our client had agreed to the giveaway – “the executive producers were not taking this lightly and they would be in contact.”

I passed all emails to my boss and she thought that we needed to discuss this with our client before contacting the executive producer. During this time my phone was ringing off the hook as the lead, executive producer was trying to reach me. The Fusion team called our client contact and discussed potential fallout from retracting our original offer, which included legal action.

The client decided that they could fulfill the giveaway after all, but that the product would not arrive until the week following the show’s taping.

We quickly called the executive producer to explain the circumstance, our displeasure with the threats and the way the assistant producer handled the situation. And upon reaching an understanding with the producer, agreed to the giveaway.

By that time it was 8:30 p.m. and I still had to locate a store to purchase sample products that would be used the following morning as part of the segment.

So, upon tearing through town, finding a store and begging the sales associate to open the door 10 minutes after they’d already closed, I had completed the task.

In the end, the samples were delivered safely and the segments looked great; I had completed my first broadcast opportunity. Our client contacts were pleased, and we received complementary emails from executives, as well as from their international office.

In retrospect, this provided significant lessons and opportunities to learn. There are several things that I’d like to share in considering forthcoming opportunities or dilemmas:

* Consider the turn around time and truly ask yourself if it is feasible to complete
the necessary tasks in time for the deadline.

* Make sure that you know who is making final decisions, should there be more than one client contact.

* Make sure that client contacts are communicating openly and that opportunity details are crystal clear.

* Keep all important details tracked and communication organized in email. A documented trail of communication is essential.

* Seek the advice of all team members.

* Stay calm with show producers, but make sure that you’re satisfied with all details being provided. It’s your job to provide clients with a comprehensive breakdown of the opportunity. If you’re not making headway with production staff members, request to speak to a higher level producer.

* Don’t apologize for something you’ve done correctly. In this case, Fusion did nothing wrong. In fact we bent over backwards to make this work for the show, and in the end, our client donated a substantial amount of product to a good cause. We made it happen and consequently helped make the episode a hit.

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