Most of the sessions in last week's American Association of Advertising Agencies'(4As) New Business Summit focused on themes that resonate across marketing disciplines. Putting together the perfect pitch team, prospecting, and the reality of integration were among the topics debated in panels that included agency leaders, clients, and search consultants.Procurement, a hot issue in PR, is obviously equally compelling to those in advertising. The 4As pulled together a panel that included procurement executives from Procter & Gamble and Texas Instruments, who defended their role in the process by saying that they help agencies truly understand their cost structures and streamline their offerings. The topic was not isolated to this panel, though, as even Donny Deutsch, CEO of Interpublic advertising agency Deutsch, stirred up the crowd in his keynote address, saying he would never give a prospect individual salary figures to win an account (an issue that prompted the agency to resign its lucrative Pfizer business this year). A key difference between the ad and PR approaches to the procurement issue is the way in which the industry associations have tackled the subject. As reported in this week's main feature, the 4As has published guidelines for agency compensation negotiation, including the point that being asked to provide specific staff salary information is "always inappropriate." The Council of PR Firms is also looking into the issue, but it needs to express its interest and involvement in a more dynamic way. Procurement is not going away, and the PR industry needs a strong voice to communicate what will and will not be tolerated in the process. PR firms desperately need the tool of industry consensus to help them oppose unfair practices where they exist, and that tool must initially come from organizations like the Council. Procurement, pricing, and search consultants are three issues causing confusion and anxiety for many PR firms. The Council needs to seize this opportunity to increase its relevance even beyond its membership, and help the industry take a stand. In down economy, keep tabs on staff morale The business environment is still brutal for many, but PR firms and departments cannot afford to ignore staff morale right now. There is a growing sentiment that many beleaguered staffers are just waiting for the hiring environment to get a little better so they can jump to the next gig. So if the job market improves somewhat over the next few months, we could see a lot of shuffling around that may create confusion and frustration for clients. Some turnover just can't be avoided, as a certain number of employees have clung to relatively secure jobs rather than take a chance on an unknown company, even though they may be truly ready to make a change. But others will simply want to leave because poor management in tough times has permanently damaged their job experience. Ruthless though it may sound, senior executives should be looking at their staff with a critical eye and identifying who they cannot afford to lose. If there is repair work to be done in order to keep a valued employee, the time to do it is now.