Should client trust extend to bills?

One way of staying ahead in a recession is to make sure that money earned is in your company's bank account.

Ian Monk: 'Because the good PRO is passionate about their clients , trusting them to pay our bills can become an ancillary consideration.'
Ian Monk: 'Because the good PRO is passionate about their clients , trusting them to pay our bills can become an ancillary consideration.'

More SMEs, into which category a majority of PR businesses fall, go to the wall because of cash flow problems than structural deficiencies.

Yet this need to ensure prompt payment can lead to a sense of conflict among industry practitioners. After all, the business of PR, more than most, is founded on trust.

Clients trust us with their reputation and we return that trust with confidentiality. Because the good PRO is passionate about their work and clients, trusting clients to pay our bills can become an ancillary consideration.

Maybe that's why my company has just suffered a bad debt. It was not the outcome expected when we were hired last October by award-winning film distributor Revolver Entertainment, to promote the London 2012 Olympic film, First. Yet when money was due in November we were told payment wouldn't be possible.

Subsequent emails and calls to the FD and CEO went unanswered, although Revolver continued in its business and never made any criticism of our services.

Legal action became the only option and we obtained, on 14 January, an undefended County Court Judgement against Revolver Entertainment. I assumed it was now simply a matter of waiting for payment.

Sadly trust in the due processes proved misplaced.

High court enforcement officers twice visited Revolver's London HQ in February but failed to secure a penny. There wasn't a shred of legal protection for a small business expensively and legally pursuing its debts.

Last week, Revolver Entertainment reportedly padlocked the doors of its London HQ.

I am lucky. My business is highly profitable and my clients and I are bound together by every level of trust that makes our trade uniquely rewarding. But next time new clients with a flashy reputation come calling I may have to insist on a down payment on that trust.

As PRWeek went to press, Revolver Entertainment was still listed as trading at Companies House, but could not be reached for comment.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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