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Professional Ghosting: When Clients Disappear

The dinner was lovely, the wine flowing and the chemistry was great….but then you never heard from him again. Had you offended him? Was he dead? You’ve been left wondering what on earth happened after what had seemed an enjoyable evening.

If you’ve ever been ‘ghosted’ by a date, then you’ll know how awful it feels and how it leaves you questioning what you may have done wrong. If you’ve experienced ‘ghosting’ in a professional sense, then you’ll also know that hurts too!   This week, we delve into the issue of what we’re calling “professional ghosting” and the way it could come back to haunt you. Chances are, you too know of a few professional ghosters…

Ghosting: “The practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.”

A good business will treat potential and new clients like any blossoming relationship – it needs to be watered to grow and requires basic mutual respect. It takes time, money and perseverance in the hope that it will lead to something long-term and worthwhile for both parties. To have anyone completely disappear without a trace after a lot of time and hard work getting to know their business (which in many cases is unpaid!) is just downright immature.

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about unsolicited emails and calls here – of course, despite GDPR,  we all get contacted by salespeople we don’t need or want in our life. In this case, I’m taking about situations where you’ve been approached by a potential client and asked to pitch, had a meeting with, or perhaps even worked with them a few times – and then they completely go to ground. There are always going to be cases where a budget gets cut, or a potential client chooses another supplier for the campaign they’ve been in contact about, but the decent thing to do in that situation is to just be honest. To ignore follow up emails simply for a fear of conflict is unprofessional and rude. I’m always baffled by how many people working in the media and communications industry don’t even know the basics of communication!

Modern technology has made it so easy for us to completely ignore people or problems we don’t want to deal with. All I’m saying is be a decent person and close the conversation professionally if you no longer wish for it to continue. Simples! Ghosting may save you discomfort in the short-term, but you never know when a previous client may pop up in your life, so the act of doing so could potentially be damaging to your career.

Can you imagine turning up to a job interview and realising your interviewer is someone you never responded to a few years ago? You may not remember, but there’s a good chance they will. Yep, good luck in that interview I’d say! People chop and change companies all the time – do the proper thing and avoid an awkward situation in the future. No one likes being turned down, but if someone said a simple but firm ‘no’ I would respect them so much more than if they just ignore me.

Finally, a note on how to respond to the professional ghosters in your life… We’re broadcast PR professionals at Shout! Communications, so one thing we don’t know how to do is simply give up. We’re sure you’re much the same! Just as we do with journalists when we’re trying to secure coverage on TV and radio, we’ll keep checking in, plugging away, and offering you great opportunities to renew the conversation. If all that fails, then don’t let it get to you – there are plenty more fish in the sea as the saying goes! But let’s be honest, ghosting in your personal life is frustrating enough, so let’s leave the drama of that to the dating world and all strive to be professional communicators.

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