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Nightmare PR pitches

26th January 2015


I have just came out of a pitch but there were no high-fives afterwards. The client had no sense of humour so my brilliantly funny spiel went down, then further down, and finally bombed.

To cheer myself up, I asked around for other pitch nightmares. Some of the stories I heard seem far-fetched, can you believe that a client actually DIED in the middle of the meeting yet the pitch still carried on? I was told this did happen, but I’m not so sure.

But the following stories are definitely true and one actually involved me (I won’t say which one). So from the horses’ mouths (sorry to call you horses guys and gals), here are some of the horrors that have happened in PR pitches.

Apart from 3 Monkeys’ Christine Jewell, everyone has chosen to remain anonymous, I have no idea why …

Meeting their Waterloo

Christine Jewell, MD at agency 3 Monkeys Communications describes being in the wrong place at the right time: “Being based in Soho means we’re always relatively well placed for meetings in London, so when we were invited to pitch for a new client, and were told it would take place in Waterloo, we made a mental note to allow a good 20 minutes to get there, either in a cab or on the Northern Line.

The pitch document came together nicely, and with 24 hours to go, we went back to the prospect to ask a couple of final questions – which is when a colleague spotted the email signature, and put two and two together: the pitch was scheduled to take place in Waterloo, BELGIUM.

“Thank heavens for Eurostar …”

Water boarding torture

“I once water boarded a colleague in a pitch for a video games client (we didn't win the pitch by the way!). It was unrehearsed, we'd read about 'how to do water boarding' on the internet, and then there we were in a pitch situation doing it live to demonstrate a stunt we had suggested. If you've never tried water boarding, then best to keep it that way!”

Wrong company

“The best/worst nightmare was very early in my pitching days, researching the wrong company (it had a name that could be spelt a number of ways and we’d taken the brief over the phone and I had spelt the name wrong. There just so happens to be two companies in our sector with that name) and not realising until we were literally at the front door of the right company.

“I remember looking at the nameplate in horror, going ‘Oh my God! Who are these people?’

My account manager glared at me as if it was all my fault (it was) and then I rallied, ‘It’s ok! We can do this, right?!’ She muttered ‘well we’ll f***ing have to now…’ Ahhh happy days!”

Wrong name

“When I was working for a large manufacturer, the boss of the company liked to pride himself on being a bit of a celebrity. He was really full of himself, and nearly every day would wave around a newspaper he was featured in. I thought it was hilarious when a woman kept calling him by the wrong name during one pitch, but my boss didn‘t see the funny side. He got more and more bad tempered each time the agency chief addressed him, but he never corrected her. Of course, she didn’t win the business.”

Bribery and corruption

“I had just joined an agency and wanted to prove myself on my first pitch which involved big money. I was killing myself to get it absolutely perfect, but found that the MD never seemed that bothered. The pitch didn’t seem to set the client on fire, and I was sure we hadn’t won. But we did. I found out afterwards that my boss was offering large backhanders to the client. I decided to leave the agency.”



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