Almost half of leaders in the public relations industry have experienced idea theft, according to research by the PRCA for The Holmes Report.
The report, which surveyed PR agency and in-house leaders, also revealed some statistics about the pitching process: only 20% of senior consultancy and in-house practitioners said they were extremely satisfied or satisfied with the pitch process, while 47% said they were dissatisfied or extremely dissatisfied.
Besides that, 30% of in-house PR heads said they were not impressed with the unoriginal ideas pitched to them, while 50% said the ideas pitched by agencies were "somewhat original".
It is a dilemma for agency heads to call out the offending party for stealing their ideas, or to let it slide and maintain the relationship. PRCA director general Francis Ingham was quoted in The Holmes Report as saying: “It has been bubbling around for years, but everyone is reluctant to be the agency that speaks out and makes current relationships with clients more difficult.
Ingham said: “What matters is that the industry is having a serious, well-intended conversation. It is in everyone’s interest that we recognise the value of creativity in PR and communications while also recognising the sorts of actions that can make practitioners feel undervalued and unrecognised. With creativity as currency, it is only right that members look after their outputs.”
We have covered the recent dispute between agency Manifest and their former customer BrewDog, where Manifest accused BrewDog of stealing and running with an idea it pitched to the brewer before. The two parties have since settled the matter amicably.
But this incident has shone a spotlight on how the pitching process is flawed and always leaves agencies in a vulnerable position. The agencies find it hard to protect their ideas and concepts in the room, and they can be taken and developed by their customers without payment.