Radio Silence: When Ghosting Enters a PR Agency

By Matter

Sudden silence. Unreturned emails, calls, texts.

Anyone who has swam in the dating pool since the advent of the iPhone knows something about ghosting. Maybe you’ve swiftly severed communications instead of letting someone down gently and directly. Maybe you’ve been the one left wondering what happened. You connected online, you had a few great interactions in-person and on text, optimism abounded and then…*poof* ghosted.

If you think ghosting exists only in the confines of courtship, you might want to talk to someone in sales or business development. They’ll tell you: avoidance has gone mainstream, even at work. As I not-so-proudly can attest to, prospects can turn to phantoms without so much as a goodbye.

I’ll reserve commentary on my feelings toward ghosting in the “real world” for another time, but today I’m scaling atop a digital soapbox to take a stand against professional ghosting. Before I launch into a manifesto, allow me to define what I do and do not mean by ghosting.

Not responding to a cold call or email is not ghosting. True ghosting can only occur when you’re further down the “feeling each other out” path, and communications have become two-way. Perhaps you’ve had a few calls, an in-person meeting, created or reviewed a proposal – we’re talking about the territory beyond swiping left.

Now that we have our footing, here’s why professional ghosting should stop.

We can accept a “no”

PR people have incredibly thick skin. We’ve been shouted down by prickly reporters. We’ve had campaign ideas eviscerated. We’ve built careers out of trial and error, adapting to changing tastes and mediums, and, along the way, we’ve heard no as much as we’ve heard yes. What I’m saying is, we can handle rejection.

If you don’t think we’re the right agency to suit your needs, let us know and, while not required, bonus points if you can articulate why. If your business no longer has an interest in PR and social or has no budget for creative, we understand that might just be where you’re at right now. Timing and fit are huge factors when forging a PR partnership, and, while we always hope we’re a match, we know it doesn’t always pan out that way.

You’ll get fewer calls and emails

Who doesn’t want less inbox clutter? If you’re tired of us “checking in” on your decision or sending along relevant case studies, articles, references, etc., I can promise you that we are, too!

The problem is: unlike dating, where I can get ghosted and hide it, at work we have bosses following up after that in-person meeting, completed RFP or submitted proposal. Ghosting makes my previous updates to the powers that be seem like figments of overly active workplace imagination.

The Golden Rule is real

Growing up, my parents told me on a weekly, if not daily, basis to always treat others the way I’d like to be treated. While I’m pretty sure they have no idea what ghosting even means, I’m even more certain that, if they did, they’d tell me it falls outside of Golden Rule behavior.

Mutual respect is something we take seriously at Matter – within our walls, with our clients and with prospective partners. During the past year, we did a thorough sweep of our in-house measurement tools and what the market had to offer. As a part of a tech search, we considered ten partners and scheduled meetings or webinars with them all. After an exhaustive search and evaluation, we picked a preferred solution and began integration across the agency. We also let the other nine technology companies in consideration know they were not selected, and why.

If you enjoy being ghosted, you’ll have to get back to me on why. For the other rest of us, let’s commit to extending the same professional courtesy to each other we’d hope for in return. While that might mean letting down the person on the other side of your email, trust me, it beats wondering.