Agency relations are the most fun a client has – so why are pitches so dull?
For many clients, the meetings with their PR company will be among the most ‘fun’ parts of their job. So the camaraderie and
chemistry among the pitching team will, all other things being equal (as they frequently are), be among the deciding factors as to which agency wins the business. So, why do we make the pitch
itself such a dull affair?
In-house communications jobs are invariably stressful, inevitably involve close co-operation with the same set of colleagues (with the same office politics) and are largely carried out in an environment that, compared with the buzz of agency life, can seem a little, well, sterile.
Meetings with the PR company are therefore breath of fresh air: clients are listened to attentively, there will be lively discussions around new campaigns and journalists that may be
household names and – if their timing is right – a good lunch or some drinks at the watering hole du jour will be thrown in for good measure. So, the promise of fun (alongside informed
communications counsel, naturally) is one of the upsides of awarding an account – and how can a client have fun with a team that isn’t having fun with itself?
Pitches are, of course, a serious business. Millions of pounds of revenue may be at stake and the pressure is always on to prove that we are the most strategic, the most creative or the best resourced agency in the land. So, agency teams sweat every comma on every slide, rehearse the content to within an inch of its life – and ignore the fact that 90 per cent (or whatever number we are using these days) of communication is non-verbal. And even the best-informed pitch will fail to convince if it is being delivered by a bunch of people that seem to have met each other only the previous day.
Almost two decades of pitching has convinced me that the chemistry of the team in the room is a crucial determinant of the outcome: I have won pitches with fairly vanilla content and a real sense of fraternity within the team; and lost pitches with outstanding creative and strategic insight but a tangible sense of reserve among those delivering the presentation. So is there a secret formula for chemistry (see what I did there!) and can it be created? (I am reminded of the old George Burns quote: “sincerity – once you can fake that, you’ve got it made”.)
I’ll answer this question in the second part of this blog.