Last week, I posted a bit of my side of Tangyslice’s story of Firstgiving’s selection of a new PR firm, and promised to talk about the thing we did that caused the most trauma to the folks pitching us. It’s hardly unique to PR that the people who pitch you and sell you and win your business are not always the ones who actually deliver the service.

We had already had a preliminary meeting with each candidate agency, generally meeting a principal and a lead member of our team to be. So my idea was to ask each PR agency to send us the full actual team that would be working on our account, and to leave the principal behind. Tangy talked me out of the last bit at least in part because he thought the firms would just tell us to get lost. He might well have been right, but what happened instead was actually more revealing than meeting the team alone would have been.

We told each agency that we wanted to meet the full team and wanted the principal to keep her mouth shut as much as possible. After all, we had already heard the big pitch from the head honchos. We know that we won’t get that much time from the top dog and most of the daily work will be done by the mid-level and junior folks. We wanted to meet those people and hear what they have to say.

As it turns out, what we got to see was to what extent the principal really trusted the team in front of a client, or even more frighteningly, a prospective client. We threw out questions to individuals and to the group and watched when principals interrupted or corrected the junior people and when they let them speak. One principal spent much of the meeting talking about how she would be doing lots and lots of work for us and by implication calling her team amateurs. Not cool.

I suppose it might have been more traumatic for the junior people to get put on the spot by a client in front of the boss than for the boss to let them talk, but some of those junior people are going to run their own agencies some day, why not give them a shot now? Maybe someday I’ll be able to say that I believed in them back when they were just associates.