So, why are we here on earth?

by Bob Hope

Every human wants to feel significant and appreciated.  But that can sometimes seem like an impossible goal.

After all, there are eight billion people on earth, and each of us is only granted a relatively short and finite time on earth.  There are millions of solar systems and planets.  Our significance can cynically be seen as not more important than a speck of dust in the continuum of time.

I think I solved that dilemma.  I ventured to a very remote place 25 years ago.  It is the Agalta Valley in the state of Olancho in rural Honduras.  Olancho, if you don’t know, is known as the “Wild West” of Honduras.  Its theme was printed on T-shirts that read, “Olancho.  Come if you will. Leave if you can.”  It was a place of legend.  The legend was the “Lost City of the Monkey Gods.”  The ghosts of the monkey gods were supposedly in the mountains, and anyone who ventured into the valley would be cursed.  Luckily, I didn’t know that.

We traveled eleven hours from the airport in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, the last several hours on treacherous dirt roads winding through the mountains.  When we approached a river or stream, the only option was to find a shallow place to drive through.  There were no bridges.

The only people who lived there were the natives whose homes were tiny houses made of mud bricks and whatever other materials they could gather to use for construction.  They were lovely people, but they had nothing.  Somehow, they didn’t seem poor.  They were happy; they just didn’t have any possessions.  They also didn’t have schools.  It was a place that time and the government had forgotten.

I asked teenagers what they wanted to do when they grew up.  Their responses were based on what they knew.  All the girls wanted to have babies and live in their villages.  The boys wanted to be truck drivers (there were only a very few trucks) and ranch guards.  It was a remote but very simple life.

I was charmed and wanted to do something to help.  An organization called Honduras Outreach, based in Atlanta, had built a ranch there, and church groups had begun visiting and working in villages installing cement floors, building latrines and basins for washing.  That didn’t appeal to me.  I asked if there were other options.  I was told they wanted schools and asked if I could bring some people from the states and help them figure out how to build schools.  I agreed to try.

That was a quarter century ago.  Since then, each spring I gather a group of friends and friends of friends to travel to the place.  There are now over 50 of us.  We’ve helped fund and build marvelous schools, schools that would rival anything you might have in your community.  In a country where only about 60 percent of youngsters ever go to school and only about 60 percent of those make it through sixth grade, our students all graduate from high school and almost all go on to college.  They are bright, bright-eyed, and even though I don’t speak Spanish, they speak English.  It teaches clearly that education is the solution to almost all problems when it comes to building a community and converting difficult living conditions into living in a paradise.

I just returned from this year’s trip.  The school complex is beautiful, and the students are even more beautiful. They are filled with hopes and dreams.  When asked what they would like to do in their lives, answers include being a doctor, or a scientist or a computer programmer.  The schools are mostly built and just need upgrading and maintenance.  When we arrived, there was a brand-new cement building that would become the first grade and kindergarten.  Our group quickly had it painted and ready for students.  There were other projects at the school, but with 50 of us, two teams volunteered to travel to somewhat remote (an hour and a half away) mountain villages and put in the cement floor in homes, build latrines and basins for bathing.  Others divided up to do assorted projects, like installing 125 water filters in homes so they would have clean water to drink.

It is an amazing experience.  Everyone in the group thrives on the joy of helping others, meeting new friends and better understanding what’s important in life.  One of the most amazing things is how people in our group bond and become lifetime friends.

Even those who reluctantly came on the trip are committing to come back in the future.  I am not suggesting that a trip like this is for everyone.  Sometimes our group members come once, and that is enough for them.  However, for everyone, it is an experiment to find a purpose and passion in life that adds to their own sense of significance and inspires them to give back some of the blessings they’ve accumulated.

I love this trip, this work, the people who have become friends in Honduras and greatly love the people who travel with me to this very remote place in the world.   You should consider trying it.  There is a chance that you might be hooked on it forever.  If you want to give it a try, our annual trip will be March 1-8 next year.  You are welcome to join us.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Why are people so mad? What is causing us to become so firmly planted in our ideas and beliefs that we cannot even engage with someone who may differ in those beliefs? It saddens me! So, what can we do to be happier and to coexist? 

There is such heightened polarization in the world, in our country, in our neighborhoods and even in our families. And when you couple that intolerance with the abundance and fascination with guns, we have a real catalyst for tragedy. Is there anything we can do?  I believe there are several things we as individuals MUST do.

First, accept that we are all different; we all have the freedom to believe as we choose. We may live in a neighborhood to which some have applied a label – racist or liberal or wealthy or poor – but the truth is, most neighborhoods are not generic, even if a label has been applied. Look for the good in each other. Find the commonality. We are all human! I am reminded of the remembrance Stephen Colbert shared about this friend Toby Keith after Keith’s recent death from stomach cancer. The two seemed to have very little in common. In fact, Cobert recalls that before meeting Keith for the first time, he stopped and said to himself, “He’s your guest. Make him feel welcome. See who he is.” When Cobert did that he said, “We hit it off like a house on fire. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed talking to him. And, evidently, Toby had a good time, too…” Certainly the public personas of these two would show them as adversaries, but they became good friends. They maintained different political views and different beliefs about many things, but they found their commonality, their humanity. Rumi, a 13th century Persian poet and scholar said, “The lamps are different, but the light is the same.”

Second, be happy! For many, that is an overwhelming and difficult task – and may even seem selfish. The Dalai Lama argues that it is just the opposite. Unhappy people are more self-absorbed than happy people, who are compassionate, helpful, and generous. That is why it is your purpose as a human to seek happiness. The key to happiness is peace of mind. This cannot be bought. Inner peace must come from within. The Dalai Lama espouses that the purpose of life is to be happy. Being happy involves understanding the difference between the sensory or physical and the mental feeling of joy. The sensory/physical is usually short-lived; inner/mental joy sustains itself.

“Be happy” is an easy phrase to say but much more difficult to actually be. Personally, I start by trying to be grateful for what I have. At my age, when I wake up each morning, I am grateful! One more day to enjoy! And before I go to sleep each night, I try to name three things I am grateful for that day. It could be an enjoyable conversation with a friend or family member, a beautiful sunrise or, on a more difficult day, simply that the day is finally over! I try not to worry too much about things. Worry isn’t helpful.  If I have a problem, I try to think of the best plan of action (or sometimes the worst that could happen) and then let it go.  That is not always easy. Mark Twain said, “Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.”

When I am able to do these things, I am happier, and I am a kinder, more tolerant person. “Remember, our purpose is not to separate ourselves from one another, but to join forces and collectively enhance the well-being of humanity,” Marcus Aurelius 

Or stated another way – A Muslim, a Jew, a Christian, a Pagan and an Atheist all walk into a coffee shop…and they talk, laugh, drink coffee and become good friends.  It’s not a joke. It’s what happens when you’re not an A!@#$%^.

Tips For Working At Home

Here at Hope-Beckham, we have been working from home since March due to the coronavirus, and it looks like there is no end in sight. Companies like Google have recently announced they are keeping employees working from home until summer 2021. It is great to see companies putting the overall health of their employees as such a priority. Extending working from home longer allows employees more time to focus on their work and their wellbeing instead of feeling forced back into the office, paranoid about their health. Below are some tips to help manage your work-life balance while staying out of the office for the foreseeable future.

Set a routine and stick to it
One of the best tips for working from home is to set a schedule and stick to it. Now that so many people are constantly at home with their technology and ability to work, work hours get muddled and may drag on much later than if you were in the office. Setting your schedule will help create a work-life balance that is very hard to establish if you do not set boundaries early on. Part of my routine that I love now is my commute time. Instead of waking up, getting ready, and then driving 30 to 45 minutes to the office, I use what my commute time used to be to begin my day and walk my dog. I used to love my commute in the morning because it was a time to drink my coffee and organize my thoughts for the day, now I organize my thoughts on my walk and get some fresh air before the office day.

Don’t forget to communicate and socialize
The most important tip for working from home is to over-communicate. In the office it was so easy to call a team member to your office and talk about a client, now these conversations are mostly through email, and it is tough to keep track of numerous conversations with one client. Our team has become more connected communicative since working from home to keep everyone in the loop! One of the hardest parts about working from home is the loneliness. I am a people person, so not going into the office and seeing everyone has been hard and has felt a little isolated. Thankfully, Hope-Beckham also has weekly Zoom calls to catch up on our work and look ahead at our work. These Zoom calls are a great way to reconnect with everyone, and it helps to see everyone’s face once a week.

Practice self-care
Being home all day can be draining and very distracting! One easy way to combat this is to have a designated work zone in your home and plan out breaks. Having a designated spot for your new “office” helps put your mind into the work zone and has proven to keep me focused. If I don’t work in my designated office, I find myself snacking and becoming much more distracted throughout the day! Another essential part of self-care is to schedule your breaks and have healthy food around the house. It is easy to munch on food all day, and if you stock up on healthy snacks and prepare full meals, it will make your days much brighter.

Overall, these times are confusing and new for everyone. Give yourself a break and a learning curve! I would never have thought that within my first year of being in the office, I would be working from my apartment, but here we are. The best advice I can offer is to keep on keeping on and adjusting to the new normal and embracing the new environment. One day we will return to the office when it is safe, but who really knows.

Communication Strategies for Nonprofits During COVID-19

COVID-19 is wreaking havoc in nearly every industry with a ripple effect. The infectious disease is creating an array of problems in our world, while putting enormous financial pressure on nonprofits. These organizations rely heavily on fundraising events, and many of these events are being canceled in response to the CDC’s guidelines. Additionally, corporate donations are far and few between while most companies are understandably concerned about their own financial security. In addition to a lack of financial resources, social distancing is creating a barrier between these organization and volunteers lending a hand. I have compiled a list of effective communication strategies that nonprofits should be implementing during the pandemic to stay top of mind for donors.

Don’t Be Afraid to Fundraise

With so many businesses struggling right now it can feel awkward to make a financial ask. One of the biggest questions nonprofits continue to ask is whether it’s appropriate to be fundraising right now. The simple answer is yes, it’s okay. That said, it’s extremely important that your messaging does not appear tone deaf, and that you empathize with your donors. Now more than ever, the language and tone of our communication really matters. Keep in mind that even though it seems everyone is impacted by the pandemic, there will be individuals and businesses that have the means to support you. Provide them with information on how your staff and services are being impacted during the pandemic. Don’t deny people the opportunity to help because you are afraid to ask. It’s universally understood that we are all in this together.

Stay Engaged

The global health and economic situations are constantly changing. With an influx of information being shared online every second, it’s important to be present and stay engaged. Most companies are implementing a COVID-19 landing page on their website including information on their response efforts. Additionally, right now is the time to double down on your social media presence. Sharing high quality graphics is an easy way to stand out while people are quickly scrolling through the internet. It’s also important to post updates as often as needed and not allow long periods of time to go by without sharing content with your audience. People value personal connection, especially during a time of social distancing. Lead with empathy and use simple messaging that is clear, concise and direct about your call-to-action.

Show Compassion

With people and businesses being impacted in so many different ways, it’s crucial to be sensitive to the situations people might find themselves in today. People are worried about their health and safety, the health and safety of their loved ones and are likely worried about their financial situation. Resist the temptation to make this pandemic all about you. Donors care a lot more about your mission and the people you serve than making sure your organization is surviving. Additionally, it’s a good time to also show compassion towards your fellow nonprofits also trying to continue their good in the world. This could be as simple as sharing something positive you see on their social media channels.

Share Your Positive Stories

In today’s world, it seems like everything the media reports is bad news, and it’s coming at us all day long, through our phones, laptops and TVs. Nonprofits typically have a plethora of inspirational, heartwarming stories that they can share to stand out from the constant noise. Now more than ever, we all need to hear and read these good stories. Continue to remind your donors about the incredible impact that they have on your organization by sharing your most compelling stories. Keep in mind that these stories are often re-shared by viewers as a way of uplifting family and friends, aka more people learning about your organization! That’s a win!

Be a Resource

Use the current situation as an opportunity to also educate the community on what we can all be doing to stay safe and help others. Everyone is busy and most likely too immersed in personal things to connect the dots on how a ripple effect might cause a negative impact on your organization. It’s important not to contribute to the noise with opinions, but focus on the facts and only quote medical experts from the CDC, WHO and NIH. Use your ability to connect with others and encourage your community to respond by giving them a call to action. This could be asking donors to write a senator or lawmaker or donate certain needed items to your organization. If your situation is complicated, perhaps host a webinar to provide all the necessary tools and information they might need to get involved and help.

In Closing..

During times of crisis, nonprofit leaders should take the opportunity to showcase inspirational leadership. Now is the time to step forward and offer your community hope and optimism. The months ahead will be challenging, but they don’t mean you have to stop. Continue to remind your employees, your donors, and your community that the mission of your organization is unwavering.

Generation Z Paving Their Own Way

Lately, every time Generation Z is in the media it is negative. We have credited generation Z with killing many industries from chain restaurants, shopping malls and even magazines. As a member of Generation Z myself, I do not understand why everyone is blaming us for these new changes. Sure, we grew up with more technology, and everyone likes to say we always have our faces in a screen, but it also means we have more knowledge at our fingertips than ever before. Generation Z is not actively ruining industries, but we are trying to pave our own way into this world.

Baby Boomers and millennials are mad that their favorite chain restaurants and malls are going out of business and want to believe that it is because Generation Z thinks they are too good for these standard restaurants and stores. However, this new generation is cares more about their local community and would rather support locally owned businesses rather than large corporations. Blaming an entire generation for this problem is just not fair. People of all ages are changing their habits and preferences because new information is constantly available and society is focused more on a healthy lifestyle, which most chain restaurants are not. On top of being entrepreneurial, this new generation wants to be unique and showcase its individuality through its style, and that does not include stores that are in every city.

Another noticeable shift in media has been the decline of the magazine industry. Many magazines have stopped print editions and now only exist in the digital world. Everyone is blaming Generation Z for killing magazines, but the reasons are admirable. Generation Z is very focused on protecting the planet and trying to save resources. Since almost everyone already has a smartphone and another digital device, why not read articles on these rather than printing paper only to read it once and throw it away?

Every time a new generation takes over as the new purchasing power and workforce, there are cultural shifts. While everyone likes to blame the new generation, no one is commenting that older generations are just as bad. Baby boomers love their technology and from my experience, they’re on their phones and smart devices more than anyone! Generation Z is trying to navigate the world with new information and with this comes new traditions and lifestyles. So, if Generation Z is annoying you with all its changes, just remember, we mean no harm; change is not always a bad thing.

A New Decade of Public Relations

default thumbnail placeholder

It’s hard to believe we’re already almost a full month into the new “roaring twenties.” What isn’t hard to believe is that the new decade means all sorts of new PR trends are on the rise! Here, we will look at what PR pros have already projected to see starting in 2020.

First up, in the realm of social media, Ragan Communications expects a heavier emphasis on social “stories.” Stories began as a SnapChat feature, a temporary 24-hour post that only your followers could see. Today, we see this feature on Facebook, Skype and even some dating sites. Stories have also become increasingly popular on Instagram where millennials use them as highlights and essential marketing tools.  Additionally, Facebook uses the 24-hour Stories feature to communicate with brands as well. “Facebook asserts that Stories inspire shopping and stronger customer relationships with brands. According to a Facebook-sponsored survey, 62% of people polled say they have become more interested in a brand or product after seeing it in Stories,” Ragan reports.

Next, Public Relations Today predicts a rise in interactive engagement. We typically see this now on mobile devices through Twitter Polls, augmented/virtual reality or even filters on several social media apps. “More than 90% of buyers are begging for more interactive content… If you’re spending on content, make it interactive, or you won’t keep your customers engaged—but you can bet your competitors will,” says Public Relations Today.

Last, Forbes predicts that 2020 will be the year of the micro-influencer. An influencer can be described as a user on social media who has secured substantial credibility within an industry. An influencer has a large following and, thus, a very large audience that can be persuaded. “You see influencers with large followings all the time, but do they really have an impact on their followers?” asks Forbes. Forbes Councils Member and author Darian Kovacs feels that a micro-influencer will prove to be more popular in the upcoming decade because they are easily tracked down, manageable and are willing to work alongside you rather than for you. She states, “These influencers are important for brands because they have built trust with niche audiences and can connect your brand to that audience. This makes it easier to narrow down the right influencer for the right task.”

What other PR trends do you think we will see in 2020?

Chelsea Rosen Wollerson named PR NEWS PR Professional of the Year in the Nonprofit Category

Anyone who has had the privilege to know or work with Chelsea Rosen knows her bubbly personality, easy-going spirit and her passion for her work. When handling events, Chelsea exemplifies leadership. Day to day in the office, Chelsea is a bright light on our Hope-Beckham Inc. (HBI) team. She is a public relations professional with the utmost respect for her team and her clients.

Chelsea graduated from the University of Georgia in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a minor in Communications. Like many of the others on our Hope-Beckham team, she is a proud Georgia Bulldog!

In 2017, Chelsea joined the HBI team as an account executive where she worked on various accounts including Legacy Ventures, MAP International (MAP) and Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation. After seeing her hard work, dedication and talent for planning events, Chelsea was promoted to Senior Account Executive in 2018.

During her time at HBI, Chelsea has had extensive experience creating first-year fundraising events for nonprofits. In 2017, Chelsea helped MAP establish an annual fundraising initiative for their ongoing work around the world to raise awareness of MAP’s humanitarian efforts in the medical and corporate communities. In addition to creating the event, Chelsea developed the messaging and award for MAP’s inaugural Bill Foege Global Health Awards.

Chelsea has been recognized with numerous awards for her work with MAP and the Bill Foege Global Health Awards including the PR NEWS’ Platinum Awards in 2018 and both the PR Daily Nonprofit Awards and MARCOM Awards in 2019.

In 2019, Chelsea helped Christian City create a fundraising event, the Community Champion Awards. Amongst other first-year event needs, Chelsea helped the nonprofit create the event name, logo, branding and all messaging for the event. These awards supported Christian City’s Safe Place program for runaway and homeless youth. The inaugural event raised over $130,000 for Christian City and their Safe Place Runaway and Homeless Youth program.

These are just a few of Chelsea’s successes and exemplify the justification of her being recognized as this year’s PRNEWS PR People Awards winner in the Nonprofit/Association Category. We are so proud to have Chelsea as part of our team. Her hard work and dedication is more than deserving of this award. We are excited to see her continue to grow and thrive in the years to come. Congratulations Chelsea!

Is Hiding the Like Count a Move in the Right Direction?

Instagram rolled out a new update this past week that hides the like count on pictures. Instead of seeing 250 people liked your photo it only shows a username and others liked your photo. Adam Mosseri, CEO of Instagram, explained that the new update was “about creating a less pressurized environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.”

For the average Instagram user, I think this is a great move. Many users would only take pictures that they thought would generate the most likes. If the post would not reach a certain number of likes, then the user would delete it. Instagram started as a photo-sharing app where people posted nature pictures, food pictures and anything else the user enjoyed or thought looked pleasing. But people became more obsessed with the number of likes and stopped posting what they thought was pretty. Now when you open Instagram almost every post looks like one another; users figured out the magic formula on how to receive more likes. The like count turned into a popularity contest for everyone to see and compare to every other post on Instagram. Now that the number of likes is hidden, it is harder to compare pictures, and people will not constantly look at their phone waiting for the likes to roll in. Hopefully, this is a step in the right direction. You can post whatever you want without fear of judgment from others and slowly break the grip social media has on so many.

However, the hidden like count is not well received by a rising group on Instagram, influencers. An influencer is someone who has established credibility, and their audience trusts their opinions. Recently, influencer marketing has become a big trend. Instead of traditional ads, companies pay influencers to tell followers about the product and their personal use of the product. Generally, companies seek influencers with many followers and send products in exchange for the influencer featuring it on their social media. With the like count now hidden companies have a harder time finding the influencer who will give them the most return on investment. In a recent survey, 54% of teenagers wanted to become influencers. Kids used to aspire to be doctors, lawyers and astronauts; now social media is such a big part of their lives that they want their job to be scrolling on their phone 24/7 and getting paid.

Unfortunately, hiding the like count does not magically fix the social media problems like jealousy, low self-esteem and fear of missing out (FOMO). Since social media is a platform to interact with others, and people are always trying to one-up each other, there are new metrics to keep an eye on. Instead of looking at likes, people will now look at the number of followers and engagement users receive – – how many followers are commenting and reposting a post. So, did Instagram help people with social media or just force people to use a different route to determine popularity?

The First 25 Years

Life is a book, a series of stories, and there are chapters in each of our lifetimes.

The longest chapter in my life was my marriage. The second longest has been the past 25 years working with my friend Paul Beckham and the wonderful people who have been associated with Hope-Beckham Inc.

In my case, I have had more colorful times. I was the PR guy for the Braves when Hank Aaron set the all-time home run record, a magical time with hundreds of media traveling with a team but only interested in one player. I was then publicist and promoter for a town character named Ted Turner who took an unorthodox course to change the world of reporting news. I worked briefly at The Coca-Cola Company but soon realized the “magic touch” Ted claimed I had wasn’t so magical in a bigger and more staid company. So, I left and ended up in New York City in a top job at the largest public relations firm in the world. Simply put, the early chapters of the book of my life were colorful and remarkable. However, nothing matches the satisfaction of the past 25 years of Hope-Beckham.

First, Paul and I are friends remarkably different in our skills but also remarkably the same in the basics of life. We both started at Turner, so we understand the craziness that can happen in business. We both were married to wonderful wives and have great families. We are both Methodists and regular attendees at church. We both try hard to give back to our communities and are committed to the idea of doing good. We both like new challenges. If we weren’t so different, we’d be the same.

So, it wasn’t so odd that we would join hands in a quarter century adventure that we call a business. We have opened doors for women, starting with the creation of the first all-women professional baseball team, the Colorado Silver Bullets, a project for Coors Brewing Company. We have built and toured the world’s largest peanut for the National Peanut Board. We worked on the Olympics for The Coca-Cola Company. We helped jump-start the tech industry in Atlanta as the agency for TAG (Technology Association of Georgia). We’ve seen clients rise and shine from nothing like Priceline and the Atlanta Dream, and we’ve seen some fade to memory like Cingular, Enterpulse or BellSouth and now SunTrust. We were on the first call to address problems of two once mighty companies like Arthur Andersen and Enron. We have worked with clients through their good times and their tough ones. Antron and Stainmaster Carpets were booming, and then, the economy collapsed and suddenly no one was ordering carpet. Business went from shining bright to darkness in an instant. We were working on several new bank openings every weekend, and suddenly, banks were no longer having grand openings and were struggling to survive.

At Hope-Beckham, we have worked closely with wonderful city leaders like Ted Blum and Ernest Greer of Greenberg Traurig, Ambassador Andrew J. Young, and Hank Aaron. We have done good by helping those who do good, like MAP International, Christian City, the Lighthouse Foundation, the ALS Association of Georgia, the National Down Syndrome Congress, Covenant House and many more. We have had many adventures over the past 25 years that sometimes our staff thinks cannot be labeled as “work.” In short, we have had a wonderful 25 years.

Our business has also given us the time to pursue our passions. In Paul’s case, he has been devoted to Young Harris College and the Emory Ethics Center. In mine, I lead a group to rural Honduras each spring and am on several charitable boards.

We work each day with beautiful people who enjoy each other, are smart and talented and work very hard to do things right. There is joy in knowing that these are the people you will be with each day.

Hope-Beckham will never be the largest public relations firm in the world. It is perhaps the best; we certainly do better work than most others I’ve seen. However, the greatest value in life comes with the opportunity to do great things will great people. In that, Hope-Beckham is priceless.

Now, on to the next 25 years.

The Idea Sharing Conundrum – Navigating the Fine Line Between Too Much and Not Enough

default thumbnail placeholder

Measuring the value of PR is indisputably the prevailing dilemma the industry faces. But there is another unsolved issue that often brings even more anxiety to agencies when developing new business – idea sharing. Navigating the fine line between “not enough” and “too much” when submitting proposals and RFP responses is a concern that comes up time and time again. In scenario one, an agency that provides only capabilities without concrete campaigns or ideas is not likely to be chosen, as the prospect can’t accurately assess if the agency’s line of thinking will lead to a successful outcome. On the other hand, the agency that reveals too much in the proposal phase runs the risk of having their ideas stolen, the prospect ultimately deciding they can implement their newly discovered creativity with existing resources for a fraction of the cost. Or, even worse, they hire the lowest bidder and let them execute your ideas. Is this fair? Is it right? Of course not. Is it legal? Unfortunately.

In the world of intellectual property – the bread and butter of PR – ideas alone cannot be copyrighted, trademarked or patented, and are therefore very hard to protect. However they remain a firm’s best competitive advantage. So, if withholding ideas is not an option, the question becomes, “what’s the best way to present our ideas and protect them too?”

Joel Feldman, an IP and trademark attorney with Greenberg Traurig LLP, says that because ideas are not automatically protected under IP law, many people resort to using contract law instead. “A non-disclosure agreement or ‘NDA’ is the most common type of contract used to attempt to protect ideas,” Feldman explains. “But NDAs are often difficult and costly to enforce.  And, like a prenuptial agreement, they may cause ‘relationship strife’ early on in the new business relationship.”

Furthermore, companies, especially those rifling through dozens of RFP responses, are likely to find the added task of signing an NDA an annoyance and will toss those in favor of an easier route, thus rendering your ability to win the account as ineffective as if you hadn’t supplied the ideas in the first place. On the other hand, the NDA sends a strong message that your contributions are valuable, worth consideration and not to be taken lightly. Either way, Feldman suggests discussing the pros and cons of using NDAs with an attorney. An alternative to an NDA is adding a subtle disclaimer in your proposal, such as “Content supplied in this proposal is confidential.” While it would never hold up in court, it might be enough to dissuade a company from any disingenuous attempts.

The best approach is to strive for balance and compromise. If you are truly concerned, then don’t supply your prospect with every idea you come up with – if you have five to seven, give them three. Eliminate your weakest and strongest idea from the list, and submit the others. The first key here is to communicate that the three you’ve chosen are only a sampling of your overall strategy – a preview of what you’ll do. The hope is that this preview will not only confirm your creativity is on the right track, but that it will also entice them to want to see more. The second and perhaps even more important point to make is that your agency is uniquely qualified to implement the presented ideas. Great ideas without great execution are meaningless.

Ultimately, you’ll have to face the reality that there really is no perfect solution here. Recognize that the potential for reward outweighs the risk. Acknowledge that there is a real possibility you won’t win a contract but might see a press release down the road announcing a new campaign that is too similar to be a coincidence. But also acknowledge that most companies and brands – especially those willing to put the effort into a formal RFP process – are ethical and operate with integrity. It reflects poorly on them to employ such a practice, and they are most likely to hire a creative partner that submits the best case for success. Finally, find solace in the fact that you’re not alone. Every agency is in the same boat. If the worst happens, pout and move on. But if the best happens, you’ll have a bright, shiny new client to show for it.