Confidentiality And Agency Life

As you may know, I’ve recently begun a new job at a new agency (Edelman, for the record).

In doing so, I moved to an agency that represents competitors of past clients.

While I’ve taken this in my stride, several people have now raised questions about confidentiality with me – enough that I think it’s worth addressing at a broader level.

As an ‘agency guy’ you’re privy to all sorts of plans, strategies and future-focused documents that your clients trust you to keep confidential. Other companies would love to get their hands on those documents, or even to just learn the general plans of their competition. A lot is riding on the integrity of everyone who comes into contact with those plans.

At the same time, it’s completely normal for people who move to a new job to find themselves at a company either competing with their previous employer, or servicing a competitor. As I’ve written before, PR is a small world, and the odds are reasonable that the situation could arise.

I completely understand how any company could be anxious about someone leaving when they’ve seen to high-level plans – whether it’s a company employee or an agency team member. However, I’d make several points to those who are concerned:

  • Companies typically ask new employees to sign confidentiality agreements. Those agreements usually stand beyond the end of an employee’s work at those companies.
  • Companies trust the integrity of people to handle their plans while they work for them. That trust shouldn’t disappear as soon as a person moves on.
  • Your primary asset in the public relations business is your integrity and reputation. Lose that, and you’ve got little left.

For me, this last point is critical.

I’m not going to pretend that there aren’t unscrupulous people out there who violate the trust of their ex-employers (hell, some people do it while they still work for companies). For me, though, I’ll categorically state that my reputation is worth way more to me than one or two quick wins.

In a business where one indiscretion can lost you a reputation that took a decade to build, your career will benefit much more if you play the long-term game and respect the confidentiality of your clients long after you cease working with them.

Have you encountered confidentiality questions when you’ve changed jobs? How have you addressed them?

(Image: Shutterstock)

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.