What is your worst ever PR pitch experience?
23rd January 2013
Clothes blowing off, falling over in front of the client and dropping dead – these are no excuses for not winning a pitch! Alan Twigg, managing director of agency Light Brigade PR describes how to keep calm and carry on, no matter what happens: “I’ve seen lots of inspiring things in pitches and some utter stinkers. I’ve seen a director’s skirt completely unravel and disappear down a windy street on arrival at the pitch venue. Once, running late for a pitch, I decided to take the team in their heels a short cut from the car park into the client building. It meant going down a steep, grassy bank – both my colleagues fell on their arses and slid to the bottom while watched by the client team at the boardroom window wetting themselves laughing. We won it!
“In another, someone accidentally passed wind really loudly as they were introduced to the client in reception, but the most frightening was the one a senior agency head told me recently about a pitch in New York where one of the client-side panel rested his head on the boardroom table mid-pitch. He seemed pretty tired of what he was hearing and then they realised … he’d actually died. I said to my mate: ‘What did you do then?’ He said, ‘Well, it was OK, they found another room for us to carry on‘!”
You might not die on the job, but it is also a good idea not to fall asleep when you are pitching. However, as long as you don‘t snore, you might get away with it. Julia Ruane, director of agency ChiCho Marketing, describes how she did: “I once fell asleep in a pitch. I'd been on holiday for two weeks and the pitch was supposed to be the day after I got back. But the holiday company messed up and I arrived back into the UK the morning of the pitch. With no sleep, and a stunning hangover, I had to present with my team to a group of 12 people. Luckily, with so many people in the room I managed to position myself to look like I was writing notes until my turn came up and I miraculously woke up. No one noticed and, to top it off, we won the work!”
If you are giving the performance of your life in a pitch, it is difficult to fall asleep. However, a ghastly silence from your potential clients may lead you to suspect that they may have dropped off. Or perhaps they just hate you? Jill Hawkins, director of PR agency Aniseed PR, tells how she pitched to clients she didn’t gel with and who seemed to be bored: “Quite a few years ago, and while at a different agency, a colleague and I pitched to a room full of disinterested and stern people. No one would make eye contact with us or smile, they sat there with blank faces and there was absolutely no rapport. They didn’t ask any questions and just seemed to hurry us along and get us out the door. We thanked them for their time and left.
"Once out of the building we had to laugh and rejoice in the fact that we obviously wouldn’t have to see any of them again because we had quite clearly lost the pitch – so we went for a drink on the way home to celebrate! But, to my dismay they wanted to appoint us. I took on the contract against my better judgement, and predictably the relationship didn’t work and about six months later we parted company. I’ve learnt a few lessons from that experience; there has to be a ‘click’ – if it’s not there, trust your own judgement and walk away because it just won’t work.”