When to Say No to a Sale
About ten years ago, a local PR agency decided to subcontract some overload copywriting projects. She asked me if I wanted to try out wrking together. The first assignment she gave me was for a manufacturer of luggage–sounds innocuous enough, right? This was a local company, and I knew that they had a number of DOD contracts to make cases for weapons.
Well, when she sent me their sell sheets, they were so jingoistic and pro-war that they made me sick to even look at them.
I knew the PR agent was overwhelmed and didn’t want to mess her up (especially on the first project)–but after an hour of thinking about it, I realized there was no way I could work on this account–it was too at odds with my values.
So I very apologetically called the PR agency and told her I’d be glad to help her out, but not on this account, and sorry to strand her.
She immediately gave me a different account. I’ve never been sorry I turned that first one down.
OTOH, about a decade earlier, I did some work for Smith & Wesson involving sales materials for their police training program. The material was not rah rah, shooting is good–but emphasized the need for cops to be well-trained before being unleashed on the streets with lethal weapons. I decided that well-trained cops was an agenda I could support, at least to the point of doing this assignment.
In Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First, I go on at some length about when to say no to a sale. Discomfort with the politics of the client is a legitimate reason. At the same time, you don’t want to suddenly walk away from a big chunk of your income.
And this works two ways. Although I disagree with the position of making gay marriage illegal, I respect the right of a right-wing fundamentalist to say no to an account promoting gay marriage, for instance. It’s not congruent with their values. (Something I blogged about this idea a year ago, in fact.) I hope we and other activists can eventually change those values–a very hard thing to do and a whole other discussion.