Sadly, the PR pitch is sometimes the high point in the agency/client relationship. Agencies may over promise and under deliver, but equally clients may brief poorly or be seduced by showmanship or short term tactics. Objective evaluation of the PR companies selected to pitch is the answer.
Ten Things You Should Do
- Know what you want. Participants should all have received the same clear brief setting out your objectives and what you expect them to achieve. The pitch brief should indicate the structure of the presentation you want.
- Have a scorecard. Decide beforehand which factors are most important to you and have a weighted scorecard. Key factors may include, among others: relevance of the pitch to the brief, understanding of the issues affecting your business, appropriateness of the communication message, relevance of media selected, integration of target media to maximise impact.
- Find out who will do the work. The people who present to you should be the people who will be working on your account. Be wary of professional pitch teams. They are often very impressive but of no use to you if they will have little or no day-to-day involvement with your account.
- Look at team and company stability. How long has the business been going, how long have the people who will be working on your account been working together? Do they seem to work well as a team? What is the rate of staff turnover? Finally, does the company have long term customers or high rates of client churn?
- Try the day-after test. See what you remember of the presentations the day after.
- Look at the proposal document. Most communication has a major written element. Ensure that the written proposal and the presentation you have received carry the same message. Is the document clear in its analysis of the situation and presentation of ideas? Is there real substance in the proposal and is it convincing?
- This is a good test. If the people who present to you are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their existing clients then they are likely to be about you.
- Apply the reality test. Are the ideas presented practical? To what extent are the campaigns stunt-driven (events, awards, surveys, sponsorships or personalities) or news driven (people, products, projects, etc.) and what is the right balance for you?
- Personal chemistry. Ensure that you are comfortable working with your chosen service provider.
- Flexibility. Ensure that your provider can adapt their service to your needs, this means both growing with you and scaling their service to meet variability in your demand for their services.
Five Things You Should Not Do
- Don’t be dazzled by personality and technical wizardry. A degree of showmanship is fine but behind this there must a substantial and workable proposal.
- Don’t be sold something you didn’t ask for. Each company pitching will have particular experience and strengths but don’t allow this to dictate your direction.
- Don’t be swayed by size. Big companies are may not be better than small ones, the quality of resources devoted to your account will depend on how thinly the team is spread over a number of clients. If someone puts up a big pitch team someone has to pay for it – and it could be you!
- Don’t be short term. Look for a company that you will be comfortable working with for the next three to five years at least
- Don’t buy on price. This works both ways. PR is a professional service and you need to pay the right rate for the talent you want to work with you. On the other hand, you do not wish to pay high rates to subsidise sharp suits in swanky offices.