Don’t waste precious time, energy and money on PR pitches you can’t win

“The secret of great pitching is saying no”, says Mark Borkowski, CEO of PR consultancy, adding: “People put a lot of effort into pitches they can’t win. If you don’t think a pitch is for you don’t waste time or money, not to mention a lot of time after the process trying to boost morale in your company.” Borkowski warns that you must be clear that you have got a reasonable chance of being appointed before you begin the arduous pitch process, and be strong enough to refuse to pitch if you haven‘t. He says: “It’s not about arrogance, it’s about survival”.

Once you are sure that the pitch is worth going for, you need to work out how to win over the client. Angela Oakes, joint-president of networking group Women in PR and managing director of agency Treehouse, says the first step to success is to find out more about the personality of the client decision maker. Oakes explains: “Something I think that that women are particularly good at is intuitively judging character. Is the potential client a detail fanatic or more a creative, broad-brush kind of person? That way you can pitch the presentation accordingly. After all, the final decision on which agency to choose often comes down to which one has the 'best fit' with the client company”.

For Andy West, group chief development officer at PR agency Hotwire, there are three key factors to winning pitches, and West claims these are “hygiene, capability, and ‘wow’”. Describing what these are, West says: “Hygiene is about ensuring the prospect understands the reasons that got you there. Size, experience, structure, service portfolio and client base are all elements here. More importantly however, is the demonstration of capability. The ability to build the right level of confidence with the client so that it is comfortable that you can be trusted with its brand is always key. Here, chemistry plays a big part, but so do industry and stakeholder knowledge.

“The icing on the cake is the wow factor. This is the often intangible element that separates the good from the great. It is the fairy dust that successful agencies sprinkle throughout the new business process. Sadly, it can’t be bought and it can’t be manufactured. It’s a mind-set, but every fast-growing agency in the land has it in some degree or another."

Louise Lloyd, founder of agency Popcorn PR, says that to create the wow factor you need to have passion. “We only pitch for brands which excite the people who will be working on the account. For example, I was truly excited to win a Peppa Pig brief because I have two young daughters while the account directors pitching for a Nickelodeon project were huge SpongeBob fans – this brand affinity comes across when you are pitching and is hard to fake.

“Clients love their brands and they want you to love them too, even if you are suggesting a radical change in direction. We have turned down significant budgets because we knew we didn’t feel that warm glow for the brand.”

Which brings us back to the start. Don’t waste time pitching for work you will never win. And if you don’t feel passion for the work, you ain’t going to win it.

Top five tips for winning pitches

1. Don’t bother with those you haven’t a hope of winning. Never re-pitch for business.

2. Get inside the skin of the person who will be deciding which agency to appoint.

3. Make it clear that you have the capabilities to meet the all the client’s goals.

4. Only pitch for work you feel passionate about.

5. Present work with the ‘wow’ factor.

Written by Daney Parker

PRmoment Awards 2019