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

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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.

Bob Hope Inducted into Atlanta’s Hospitality Hall of Fame

President and Co-Founder of Hope-Beckham, Inc., Bob Hope was inducted into Atlanta’s Hospitality Hall of Fame. 

The ceremony took place at the Georgia Acquarium as city hospitality legends Karen Bremer, John Grant Jr. and Bob Hope were honored in this year’s induction class.

“I admire the incredible work our Hall of Fame inductees do to support and promote Atlanta,” said William Pate, President and CEO, ACVB. “This year’s honorees truly represent the collaborative nature of Atlanta’s hospitality industry and showcase the variety of ways hospitality can make an impact on the city.”

Make the Most of Networking

No matter what stage of your career you are in, it is always important to network. You never know where these connections may lead – in both your current position and future career. Follow these simple six steps to make the most of your next networking event.

1. Go to Events
Step one in networking may seem a bit obvious but essential – go to events! If you are not at the event or joining the group, it is impossible to grow your network and expand your reach. Joining is easier than you think and goes beyond purely professional groups. Also consider community groups, philanthropic/volunteer groups and alumni associations.

2. Attend With a Purpose
Once you’re at the event – attend with a purpose. Do research beforehand. It is important to show up knowing what you’re walking into. For instance, look up background information on the presenters, familiarize yourself with their name, title and professional background. This may help you break the ice later. Also, get a vibe for the networking event as a whole. What types of professionals will be attending? Is there anyone in particular you should make a point to meet?

3. Put Yourself Out There
So you’re at the event, you know the overall gist of the event and the who’s-who of the main presenters, now meet the other attendees. Sit with folks you don’t know; after all, the purpose of these things is to expand your network and who you know. Have your business cards handy. A good tip is to write down a few topics you discussed on the back of the individual’s business card for when you reach out to them later. For instance, if you discussed hobbies or career paths, you can then reference these in an email later to jog the individual’s memory of you and your connection. Yes, we live in a virtually connected world, but business cards are critical to making those LinkedIn connections later.

4. Know Thyself! – But Listen
Remember to prepare information about yourself. Practice a quick and to the point introduction – your elevator pitch – but also practice the art of listening. Engage with people. Once others feel you are listening to them, they are more likely to value your connection. Ask open ended questions. This will keep the conversation flowing.

5. Mix and Mingle
Don’t spend too much time talking with just one person. Make the most of your time at the networking opportunity by bouncing around. Learn how to politely exit a conversation. You don’t want to cling to one person. Meet several people you can then follow up with and your network is sure to grow.

6. Follow Up
Once the event has ended, it’s time to follow up. First and foremost reach out to the presenters of the event. Shoot them a LinkedIn direct message or email referencing their presentation and thanking them for their time. You don’t want to just add the person on LinkedIn – this can come off as insincere and lazy. Don’t forget to reach out to attendees you met at the event on LinkedIn. If you restate your interaction (using those brief notes you wrote on the back of his/her card) the person will be more likely to want to accept your social media connection. After all, he or she might not remember you. Staying connected goes far beyond adding someone on social media. For instance, invite them to go with you to lunch or an upcoming event you think they may be interested in.

Remember, the more prepared and willing you are, the more impactful your experience and the faster your network will grow.