Written by Sophie Hodgson

Apologies for the blatant use of a disco lyric with which to kick off a blog, but I thought it was fitting. ‘Ghosting’ is a term that first entered my consciousness when Charlize Theron split with Sean Penn. It was reported at the time that she simply stopped returning his calls, texts and any attempts to contact her were met with silence. The widespread reporting of this gave rise to numerous articles of people talking about how they too have been ghosted by loved ones, friends and family members.

Then a few weeks ago I read an article in Grazia about how many people were reporting a rise of such behaviour during the interview process. They attended an interview, it went well, and they were giving exceptionally reassuring noises, invited back for second stage interviews where presentations were met with smiles and emphatic praise. And then – nothing.

This situation isn’t unfamiliar in PR itself. Unlike many other creative industries, PR agencies are not paid to pitch. The research, ideas generation and sheer amount of time that goes into new business pitching is considered to be an acceptable cost of doing business. I genuinely have no problem with this. What I do have a problem with is when people simply don’t bother to acknowledge the effort you’ve gone to: by providing no feedback and not returning any emails or calls.

We’re all grownups here. I’m not going to rant and rave at you if you tell me you’ve chosen another agency. I’d like some feedback on why, then will wish you all the best. When it comes to new business, you win some and you lose some. It’s a fact of life.

I asked ten other friends working in agencies and they all said ghosting in the new business process was increasingly common where they worked too. Prospects full of praise and smiles, would then simply disappear.

I also asked a friend who works in-house who admitted that when she ran a pitch process two years ago, she told the winning agency but just ignored the others until they went away. Why? Because she didn’t want to be the bad guy.

Fact is, in all walks of life we each have to deliver bad news. We should be thankful in comms that when we have to tell an interviewee that they didn’t get the job – or a client that there is a mistake in a piece of coverage – that this is not life or death stuff. The same goes for new business. Sure we might be down for a couple of hours, but believe me I’ve had worse conversations. And I am a firm believer in the healing powers of cake.

Ghosting is simply not good form, it’s disrespectful and agencies should take a united stand against it becoming the norm within professional comms.

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