You don't believe in the brand.
Would you use it, do you feel it's worthwhile, or at the very least do you feel comfortable recommending it others? If you go 'meh', your results very well could too.
You have an ethical issue with the brand.
A PR friend was recently asked to send a proposal through to a website that promotes affairs, for a very substantial retainer. As a woman with children who had split with her ex due to his affair, she couldn't reasonably take it on and sleep at night. Could YOU do it? If so, perhaps you should contact them...they're probably still looking. ;)
You don't like the client/s...
If your personalities clash from the first meeting, chance are relations will not improve. Is the money really worth dealing with a client you don't click with, or worse - who is horrible - on a daily basis?
They have no money
You know when you can just tell? Sometimes they come right out and say it and sometimes you cotton on. If they try to screw you down from an already low retainer in the first meeting, you could be wringing blood from a stone in perpetuity.
You get the feeling they think they know more about PR than you do
The best clients are the ones who trust you and let you get on with your job. That's why they hired you in the first place, surely? Some will micro-manage you until you are so suffocated you can't breathe. If they keep not listening to your advice and wanting it done 'their way,' it could impact negatively on your agency and send you round the bend.
They have unrealistic expectations
If they expect to be on the cover of Vogue next week despite you telling them there's a 4 month lead time; or they think they're going to have traction globally with a straight-forward product; or they expect a huge spike in sales within days - listen to the warning bells. If their expectations can't be managed, you could come out looking like you can't do your job.
They've had 7 PR agencies in 2 years
We've all heard clients say 'our last PR agency were terrible', and...sometimes it's true. But if they've jumped around agencies more than a flea jumps around dogs at the park, perhaps it's best to decline - unless of course you want to be the next one they go around town slagging off?
There is no 'story'
If you can't find or create a story, an interesting angle, a point of difference or ANYTHING that will make this brand/service/client stand out from the rest, perhaps it's best to pass. If you can't see an angle, how will anyone else? Some brands are simply not 'PRable' and are better off directing their funds into advertising.
You don't have the skills or experience required to do it properly
This is where you simply have to be honest with yourself. You may really need some new business, but can you REALLY deliver? If not, pass it onto a PR company you know who can. Who knows, they may repay the favour someday.
It doesn't fit within your agency's portfolio
Undertow Media in Melbourne have 5 set criteria they use to assess all new business opportunities, having found that taking on anything and everything rarely works. Agency head Jess Nunns says they ask themselves:
-Does the client share our values?
-Does the client complement our current business?
-Is it a brand we would be proud to work with?
-Do they have an interesting story to tell? (or enough budget to create one)
-Will they pay us appropriately?
Jess says: 'They don't always need to be a 'perfect match' from the outset (true love can grow!) but we aim for long term partnerships, so taking the time to properly assess the fit of new clients is really important.'