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Some PR pitch tips

22nd September 2011


Clients can only expect a PR proposal to be as good as the brief they produce. This means considering timings, objectives and budget. For their part, agencies have to make sure that they appreciate exactly what the client wants, before rushing ahead and wasting energy by coming up with unsuitable ideas. 

Here is some expert advice for clients and agencies to make sure your next pitch runs without a hitch.
 
Tips for the client:
 

1. Do not invite too many to pitch (no more than four) and research the chosen agencies thoroughly to determine suitability beforehand.

2. Make sure the brief has clear objectives, includes thorough research and isn’t woolly.

3. Ask for input from commercial colleagues.
 
4. State a budget. If you don’t want to give an exact figure, at least offer a range.

5. Do not create a long and complex pitch process, with numerous hoop-jumping and stages involving many decision-makers.

6. Build in a minimum of two to three weeks from brief to pitch to enable thorough research.

7. Allow the agency to ask questions about the brief beforehand and then answer them quickly. It is unprofessional to share your conversations with one agency with another.

8. Ideally, give each agency the chance to meet you and ask questions face-to-face.

9. Give feedback after the pitch to all the agencies.

10. Don’t spend an unreasonable amount of time deciding which agency to use. Or worse, decide not to appoint anyone.

11. Recognise that the pitch process costs agencies money, so act professionally and with respect.  

Tips for the agency:

1. First of all, don’t chase after anything and everything, over-stretching the accounts teams. Only pitch for work that you have a good chance of winning.

2. Do not have a dedicated pitch team. In the pitch, clients want to meet the people who’ll represent the agency.

3. Read the brief and make sure you go through it crossing off all the requirements at the end.

4. Talk to the client and ideally meet with them. Occasionally, prospective clients are unclear about budget or what they want from any agency. Help them to pin down expectations. 

5. Understand the history of the company, know the space it is working in, the media it should be speaking to and be up-to-date on what the competition is doing.

6. Don’t assume you know who the client’s customers are and what they want – it’s always worth doing checks with the supposed target audience to get their views on the brand in question.

7. Carefully consider cost and deliverability. A creative idea is useless if it isn’t practical.

8. Too many slides and too many bullet points will kill any pitch.

9. Ignore you own agency agenda, and focus on what the client needs. There is never a one-size-fits-all approach. 

10. Have a run through – it doesn’t matter how good your research is or your ideas are, if you haven’t rehearsed properly and fail to get key messages across.

11. Don’t allow juniors to have an untutored role in the pitch, this can result in some real gaffes.

12. Don’t spend the first hour talking about yourself, how wonderful you are and how many awards you’ve won.  If the client didn’t respect your abilities they wouldn’t have asked you to pitch.

13. If you are worried about your ideas being stolen, ask the client not to take notes during the presentation and retrieve the hard copy document immediately afterwards. 

Thanks to everyone who contributed these tips: Lorna Gozzard, director at agency Kindred; Nancy Prendergast managing director at agency Tannissan Mae Communications; Julia Ruane, director at agency ChiCho Marketing; Paul Stallard, director at agency Berkeley PR; Caroline Tarbett, founder of agency Fierce PR; Andy Turner, founder of PR agency Six Sigma; Jeremy Walters, independent PR consultant; Rikki Weir, board director at PR agency Cirkle.

Written by Daney Parker


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