THE BIG PITCH: What would you do if a client made sexual advances towards you or your staff?

Carly Rondinelli

Carly Rondinelli

Carly Rondinelli

Urge PR

Los Angeles

In the ever-changing world of the Net, playing fields and participants

can change in the blink of an eye. As a PR firm specializing in new

media, this means being in constant contact with our clients, earning

their trust (and many times their friendship), but always maintaining a

professional relationship. While my response to this scenario would vary

based on the severity of the advances, my reaction would be to verbalize

the inappropriateness of the client’s behavior and immediately remove

the employee from that specific account. High employee morale is a vital

aspect of any company’s success, and demonstrating managerial support is

imperative to that morale.

By showing employees that their comfort and job satisfaction is

important to the success of the company, they will respond with the same

level of allegiance.

Colleen Coxe

Hauptman & Partners Communications

Portland, ME

Our clients are part of the equation in creating a safe, comfortable and

enjoyable workplace for our staff. If a client makes an employee feel

threatened, then the situation requires immediate action. In the case of

an unwanted sexual advance, we would confront the senior person on the

client team, explain the situation and ask that the offending person be

removed from all agency contact. I would anticipate that we would resign

the account if we felt that the client company did not respond

appropriately or if the situation were such that no course of action

would make our employee feel comfortable again in the situation. The

latter could be true, for example, if the advance came from a principal

in the client company. In any case, such action by any client employee

would seriously threaten the relationship.

Terry Hemeyer

Pierpont Communications


Sexual advances in the workplace make the environment tense and


If handled properly, however the parties involved can continue to work

together amicably, without severe repercussions. My 35 years of

experience have taught me that addressing sexual advances when they

first occur stops approximately 90% of these types of cases. Should the

advances continue, you should report the matter to your supervisor who

should then take it up with the aggressor’s supervisor. The key to all

sexual harassment cases is accurate documentation, including the time,

date and place it happened, as well as a description of the nature of

the advances.

David Shank

Shank Public Relations Counselors


Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any circumstance. But within a

client/counselor relationship, the dynamics become more difficult

Ultimately, the firm may have to resign the account. However, there are

several steps that could save the business relationship without

jeopardizing the firm’s integrity: One, the employee can tell the

perpetrator that the advances are unwelcome. Two, a principal of the

firm admonishes the ’perp’ that his superiors will be informed. Three,

the principal discusses the issue with the client’s superiors. Four, the

firm reassigns the client contact.

Five, the firm resigns the business. The PR firm has an obligation to

discuss this situation with the client’s top management as continued

unprofessional behavior will put the company’s reputation at risk.

However, you must be cautious that all reports are well documented and

legal counsel is obtained to avoid the potential for libel suits to be

filed by the ’perp.’

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