Here is an email exchange I recently had with a Digital Agency / PR firm that wanted me to tweet about their client’s brand.

First email from them on Day 0

Hi Naina,

We are planning a tweet-up for one of our brands X and have identified you as a key influencer on the Twitterverse. Below is the action plan for the same. We are looking for a total of 6 tweets from @NotMyTwitterHandle.

Brand: X
Day 1 Description of Tweet content. (2 tweets)
Day 2 Description of Tweet content. (4 tweets)

Please let us know the monies involved in doing the same.

They had copy-pasted the same email they had sent to another “influencer” – I didn’t want to unnecessarily drag their name into this thread hence have used “@NotMyTwitterHandle”.

My response to them on Day 0

Hello <name>,

Thank you for getting in touch.
We charge INR XYZ + 12.36% service tax per tweet.

Their Second email on Day 0

Thanks for the reply.

Can you please share the all inclusive costs. Also, it would be great if you could share the contact number.

To which I made no response. Not only was I traveling out of the city for more than a few assignments, I didn’t want to get into a negotiation spiral. In retrospect I could have told them that / informed them of the same. This communication gap is clearly a lapse on my part.

I then heard from them directly on Day 15

Thanks for the reply!
We would need final tweets from your end for prior approvals from the client and would request you to share the same with us at the earliest.

Below are the brand guidelines and below is the final flow of the activity:

Brand Guidelines:

OBEJECTIVE : —
TG : Female, 25-44 years
Campaign Idea: —
Execution Thought: #RelevantHashtag

Timelines for the entire activity:

Day 1: 2 tweets ( The date for these tweets would be Day 22 from first email exchange – I was being informed of this only now. )
Day 2: 4 tweets ( Day 24 since first email )

Details required from the client:
Hangout URL, the G+ page which the users will need to join in order to be able to join the hangout.

In case of any queries, you can reach me at <mobile number>.

My response on the same day, Day 15

Hello again,

We’ve shared our pricing with you previously.
We’re happy to schedule tweets with designated hashtags depending on your client’s schedule and pre-provided content.
We will also include a hashtag for disclosure that this is a client activity. The hashtag will be #Client
Since we are unable to proceed without a 100% advance, please let me know how to proceed.

Once the payment has been received, and you have provided skeleton tweets to us, we will get back to you with some customizations & take it forward.

I then heard from them on Day 17

Please share your contact numbers with us.

On the same day, my mobile number was shared with them with instructions for them to text me before calling. In my head the activity didn’t look like it was going to take place because I don’t know of many agencies that can pay a 100% advance on such short notice.

On Day 21 I missed a call from them & immediately called back from the middle of my shoot to inform them that I would call them back as soon as possible – maybe a couple of days as I was in the middle of a project. ( Clearly didn’t look like they were sticking to their schedule of starting tweets on Day 22 since first email. )

On Day 23, while I was live-tweeting a day-long event for a client, I received four calls from the above agency over a period of 30 minutes.

I could see the calls as the phone rang but I couldn’t take the calls because, well, I was in the middle of an active event with people on the stage and I was tweeting.

Meanwhile my email also pinged & I’d received an email from them saying the following:

We have been trying to reach her but to no avail.
She told us that she will get back to us but its been 2 days and we have not heard from her side. This is very unprofessional on your part.

Please get in touch with us at <number>.
We need to plan the entire actity with you as it is to happen tomorrow. And also close in on the payment process.

Please raise an invoice on the below details:<name of company and address>

To which I responded:

Thanks <name>. I’m not interested currently. Sorry I should’ve mentioned it earlier. Good luck.

Also after the fourth consecutive call, I texted saying, “I’m live-tweeting an event for a client. Can’t take calls. Sorry.”

To which I received a text in response saying, “Sure. But please do call back once u have time. That e-mail from your end is so not right. Very unprofessional and since we have official confirmation earlier.”

At this point I no longer wanted to pay attention to their emails or calls because clearly they were talking out their ass. Even so, I was doubtful about my previous communication as I clearly couldn’t remember any form of confirmation. So I checked my emails again and was unable to find any confirmation from my side. I even thought that maybe they were mistaking me for someone else. In any case I didn’t, at that point, have the bandwidth to investigate in detail. The live-tweeting event would end close to midnight and there was no way I would be making work calls at that hour.

They also responded to my email the same evening saying:

You should have mentioned this earlier to us. We have received an e-mail earlier from you confirming the activity. An e-mail is a legal confirmation.

When I caught a break next, I responded with the following:

<name>, we indicated interest. There has been no confirmation from our side or from yours. Unless you can see a signed contract that I’m somehow missing. I don’t appreciate being threatened. I would’ve liked to do the activity but I just don’t have the time. Thanks.

To which they responded,

There is not threatening but a reminder of your commitment.
We do understand that you are in a LIVE tweeting event however it would be great if you could call us after the event to clear the doubts.

I saw this email and proceeded to not give any fucks. I decided to focus on the client engagement I was currently present at.

They then proceeded to give another four missed calls. While I was still at a paying client’s event, working.

Unfortunately I couldn’t even put my phone away!

I finally returned after the live-tweeting event at about midnight and because I wanted to sleep peacefully, I had to respond to their last email. My response was this :

<name>, like I said, what commitment? Indication of interest is not the same as commitment.

Where’s the contract?
Where’s the advance?

I don’t comprehend your tone of trying to somehow guilt-shame me at all. Unless you’ve confirmed my name to your client in which case it’s not me who needs a reminder about professionalism.

I’m also letting you know in advance – as a professional courtesy – that I will be forwarding this email exchange as well as screenshots of your related missed phone calls log & threatening texts to others at your organization. And I will also be writing about it on my blog but without identifying any parties. This exchange will make a great case study about unprofessionalism : illusion of professionalism & no concept of boundaries.

I’m responding this late because I just got back from my client engagement that you tried so hard to disrupt and disturb me at. Despite me texting that I can’t take calls, you continued to call me.

In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t have the time to sign up for this assignment with you.

I hoped this would be the end of it. But I was given another call the following morning. Which I didn’t pick up of course.

At one point I was tempted to say something on the lines of, “Yes thank you, here’s the address you can send the legal notice to.”

I’m still quite aghast at the whole episode. All this while, this email interaction was also cc’d to another person at the agency and they made no attempt to intervene / say anything. Unless I’m missing something completely obvious to everyone else, WHAT WAS THIS?! Has anyone else faced this previously? If you’re at an agency, is this common practice when it comes to working with those you believe are “influencers”? What is the motivation behind this?

( No names of course because I don’t want one employee’s idiocy to affect the reputation of the entire agency. I’m quite sure the client brand has no idea either. Of course everyone I speak with in-person knows exactly what agency I’m talking about and who their client was. )

8 comments

  1. I have to say working with different agencies here in India they often over promise to their client and don’t deliver on time or at all. That’s why I assume your name as an obvious influencer was highlighted to the client and now it was up to the agency to deliver with that. It is just sad to see how often one comes across such a ‘rude’ behaviour which seems to be an accepted business practice in India. I’ve not seen this in any other country that I worked so far. First you have to have respect for each other. I really find it great that you informed them that you will highlight this as a blog story. Very few people do that as they are afraid to loose the next business opportunity. My respect for that. And yes, at a certain point you’ve to be clear with your answer to the agency, otherwise they turn around every vague word into a ‘confirmation’ or agreement like in your case.

    1. Hey Antje, Thank you for the comment. I’ve worked mostly in India so my point of reference is biased but I try my best to keep communication channels open and try to clearly convey my answers as soon as possible. Even if I somehow confused them on *some* count, I still don’t understand why and how they could do anything even remotely close to what they actually did. My priority is to lead a peaceful & prosperous life personally & professionally and if it means that there are some prospects that I will never work with or that there are some prospects who will never choose to work with me, I’m very happy with that. It is very important to choose thoughtfully and mindfully who we spend time with. While I am immense empathy for someone having a bad / stressful day, I have no sympathy for them if they try to push that onto me. Personally or professionally.

  2. What crap?!

    Who are these people? Ok, DM. 🙂

    Agencies like these are making things worse for the genuinely hardworking and smart ones.

  3. Hey Naina,

    Good to see your blog showcasing how such agencies / people should be treated, we also had a similar instance where after all the confirmation from both client & agency over email with PO raised ..client later refused to pay.

    I was planning to go your way of writing a blog with screen shots of email / sms, but later decided not to considering client VIP status, but now your blog post kinds of motivated me.

    I feel Photographer’s in INDIA should form a community where such client’s / agencies name should be published in a forum under “Banned category” with valid justification so that other photographer’s don’t suffer.

    Rds
    http://www.RobinSani.com

    1. Hi Robin, Sorry to hear about your experience. Generally a contract and an advance payment should prevent non-payment incidents. I’m not convinced about a “Banned Category” because so many such experiences are due to broken processes or other issues that you and I generally are not privy to. Sometimes someone’s just having a bad day. It’s the rare case where a client doesn’t pay that maybe blogging about it isn’t such a bad idea as long as one can stay objective about it. If the client does have a VIP status, your blog story about their non-payment will tarnish that status to a large extent and they will not like that. As long as you have a solid case, I would recommend writing it down, getting it vetted with a lawyer friend and then going ahead and publishing the story. Of course, bad eggs abound and sometimes one has to chalk it to experience and tighten one’s own processes to make sure there is no room for error in the future. Good luck!

  4. I’ll be honest here. Naina, there is clearly a communication breakdown from your side. I feel you made things tough for the agency – you did not get back to them on time, did not give them clear information but you expressed an interest in the assignment. On their part, they kept following up.

    And if you don’t want to negotiate, you should make that very clear in words on mail rather than leaving the other party to guess. In the real world, negotiation is part and parcel of any and most deals!

    Also, you were in a day-long live tweeting event? What kind of an event requires rigorous day long tweeting? And the brand you were live-tweeting for all day, were you not afraid of spamming the brand’s followers’ TL?!

    But agreed, no one should go to the extent of saying they will sue you. Having said that, it is very easy to blame an agency.

    1. Hi there, I appreciate the feedback although I’m not a fan of anonymous comments.

      Unfortunately this example was just one that went this bad that I decided to write about it. There are many other examples from many other agencies that I don’t have the time to document. The above example / case study is not meant to blame anyone – if it was, I would have named the agency. I’ve shared it to show how it happened, including what I did etc. You’re not the only one who has said this was a communication breakdown from my side – others have said the same. Not sure about the need to say that since I clearly acknowledge it in the blog post myself.

      I disagree with “there is clearly a communication breakdown from your side”. Maybe read the blog post again to see where the communication breakdown was happening repeatedly? So if I was suddenly busy for two days shooting and am unable to get back, now there is a need to try & screw me over? If I can be courteous when someone responds to my email after 15 days, I expect the same level of courtesy accorded to me as well. It’s a work email not a tantrum. Thanks but no thanks.

      As far as clear information is concerned, if someone is not able to understand clearly written emails, I’m not sitting here to educate them on how to read. There’s nothing open to interpretation in any of my emails.
      I operate in the same world as you do – whoever you are – of course I make my own standards and prefer to live up to them and expect the people I interact with to live up to them as well. No one is being forced to work with me and vice versa. ( Or wait, maybe in this case above they were trying to force me to work with them. ) I don’t appreciate the “real world” comment to somehow excuse slavery as negotiation. I’m more than happy to negotiate on the basis of reduced deliverables etc. But if there is no basis for negotiation, then there is no negotiation.

      You wrote : “Also, you were in a day-long live tweeting event? What kind of an event requires rigorous day long tweeting? And the brand you were live-tweeting for all day, were you not afraid of spamming the brand’s followers’ TL?!” And to that I say : “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Nice joke.” ( Firstly even though you – or anyone else on the internet – can ask me whatever you/they want, I’m under no obligation to disclose my dealings to anyone. Secondly, the latter part of your question is a whole different discussion that maybe would be answered better if you follow me on Twitter – I talk abut disclosure and paid Tweeting all the time. Briefly, I don’t spam & followers are not stuck to my hip. )

      People can say anything they want, whether in professional emails or personal dealings. I have no control over that. But I do have control over how I react to them, what I learn from the experience and what I do with it. In the above case I chose to document the process. There was no other intention. I didn’t realize it would generate the amount of interest / comments and discussion it has. Maybe I should write more about my experiences with agencies both digital and PR.

      It is very easy to blame. Period. In retrospect, I have realized that when I write about these things, I would do well to avoid phrases like “arm-twisting” because they color my interaction. The goal was to document, not blame. I reiterate.

      Thank you for this discussion o anonymous commentor. Always happy to learn what others think. Gives me a perspective into thought processes that I never would have considered otherwise.

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