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PR in GeneralThe Subject Line

Poach Eggs Not Clients

By September 22, 2017January 28th, 2021No Comments

The saying goes: all’s fair in love and war. Meaning that in certain high-stakes situations, any method to achieving your objective is justifiable. When it comes to business, however, does or should the same cut-throat principle apply? More specifically, in the public relations world, is it okay to poach another agency’s client?


Mmmm, poached eggs.

Recently, we helped a client make a significant announcement that garnered a lot of media coverage. A couple days later, we received an email through the “media inquires” contact form on our client’s website – inquires go directly to our inbox – from the VP of another PR firm. We’ll call him Dave.

Dave’s email read: Hey folks, Reaching out on my birthday (54 years young today) to congratulate you on your recent [news]. Great stuff and all my best wishes for continued success. If you’re looking to invest some of that cash in marketing and PR, please let me know. I’d love to schedule a call for next week to tell you more about my digital PR agency. We’re a senior team with the punch of a powerhouse and a solid track record of success working with startups…Your team’s done a nice job getting press…the hard part comes after. How do you maintain a steady drumbeat of coverage? We’ve got lots of tactics up our sleeves to share with you. Smart, strategic, and battle tested. Let me know if you’re keen to connect next week. Look forward to hearing from you. – Dave

Our response: PR is all covered, Dave, thanks.

His response: Shame on me for not digging deeper before reaching out. Poaching other agencies’ clients is not part of my strategy. Kudos on coverage to date, and best wishes for continued success. Appreciate you getting back to me.

Admittedly, we were miffed by Dave’s initial email. However, after his response we chalked it up to an honest, albeit avoidable, mistake. He was correct in that a simple Google search would have shown that we’ve been the agency of record (AOR) for this client for several years. He was also kind enough to compliment our work, twice. What stood out, though, was Dave’s insistence that poaching clients is not his modus operandi – which makes you wonder if poaching is a common practice among other PR firms and practitioners.

For us, the answer is no. We have never actively tried to snatch a client from another agency. We have, however, engaged with prospects that currently have an AOR, but it was the prospect that contacted us first because they were unhappy with their current firm.

Like all agencies, we employ the usual, basic business development tactics in order to drum up clients, including networking, email marketing, land-and-expand, and the like. Most of our business comes by way of referrals, which we not only prefer but think speak highly of our work.

All cynicism aside, we don’t think Dave was trying to poach our client. Some may see his intentions differently and think poaching is not only okay, but good business. In our view, it’s just plain dodgy. So keep this in mind: a PR firm that uses sleazy methods to win your business will also use sleazy methods to service your business.

Matthew Pugh

Matthew Pugh

Matthew Pugh holds more than 20 years of public relations and communications experience, primarily in the technology space. Before co-founding Pugh & Tiller PR, he served as Vice President at Weiss PR, where he was instrumental in growing the firm and its technology practice, particularly among international and global companies. Prior to that, he served as the Director of Communications for two high-growth technology firms where he devised and executed comprehensive public relations, analyst relations, and social media programs. He also worked as a Senior Public Relations at a leading cybersecurity company, where he provided strategic PR support for corporate and marketing initiatives, industry trade shows, product launches, and employee communications. He also spent several years at a national public relations firm, designing communications and media relations plans for clients in the technology, higher education, commercial real estate, and legal industries, and began his PR career working for a faith-based disaster relief and development organization. Pugh has earned several industry awards including, a MDDC Press Association award for feature writing, several PR World Awards for his work in the technology sector, and was named part of the “Marketing Team of the Year” for a high-growth international technology company. Pugh earned his B.S. in mass communications from Towson University.