The pitch process for organisations seeking to appoint PR and communications agencies is a rewarding experience which will help to boost an in-house team’s own communications power. But finding that perfect fit – the right chemistry, the right talent, shared culture and philosophy – is easier said than done.
It is important that the chosen PR and communications agency shares the vision and philosophy of the client, and this can often be the most challenging aspect. Choosing the right agency is vital as this third party will be looking after the promotion and branding of the organisation and managing its overall reputation.
The PR and communications industry is a broad and complex world, so organisations may find an agency search a little daunting. For that reason, the PRCA has developed the free-to-use Matchmaker service that will match a client’s needs with the capabilities of agencies that have been audited by the PRCA and follow our Codes of Conduct and Professional Charter.
Here are a few pointers on good agency search procedures:
- Before the search
If the organisation already has a contract with an incumbent agency, it needs to inform the agency of the review it is undertaking, and decide whether or not it wishes to offer them the opportunity to re-pitch or not.
- Prepare background information
When meeting with a new agency it is worthwhile for the client to go into the meeting with a prepared brief of its current expenditure and budget along with what is expected. Also, clients should take along previous work that their communications teams (whether external or internal to the business) have completed that is rated highly.
- Chemistry and confidentiality
Clients should ask for case studies and credentials from the agencies they are meeting in order to ensure they are appropriate and can meet their expectations. Chemistry is also vital when agencies are involved in a business, so meetings should be set up to find out each other’s philosophies and values.
Confidentiality is crucial and as a result a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement should be signed before any meetings take place and any potential ideas are discussed.
- Prepare expectations
When speaking to an agency it is vital that clients are clear about what it is they require from them to begin with. Clients must make it apparent if they are expecting a strategic plan or whether they desire a full creative pitch from them. It is recommended that no more than six agencies should be asked to prepare extended credentials for short listing.
- Invite three agencies
No more than three agencies should then be invited to present themselves, or four if a current agency is re-pitching to retain a contract. Clients should not invite a current agency if they have no intention of re-appointing them.
- Allow plenty of time
Clients should allow plenty of time to meet with agencies and understand their values. Ensuring the chemistry is right is crucial and that can only be done through informal meetings where they get to know each other. There simply are no shortcuts, so this process cannot be rushed.
- Provide background market data
When meeting with agencies, clients should be happy to share their overall business objectives and any market data they have with them, including relevant research. This will allow the agency to understand the client’s business and the market in general.
- Decide on the winning agency
Once a client has met with all of the potential agencies, it should try to decide on which one to use as soon as possible – usually one week after the presentations. It should ensure all participating agencies learn of the result on the same day.
Article written by the PRCA’s Matt Cartmell
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