Pitch Perfect

Thursday, 2 June 2016, 20:34 | Category : General
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bad pitch pic

This article is about how to give your company the Bullseye shot at winning more pitches. By the way, using an image like the one above is a fast way to LOSE a pitch…guilty? You need to read on.

During the last few days, the PR Network team has been in the privileged position of approaching the competitive agency pitch from two very different viewpoints. We helped a large tech company select a new partner in one of their most important European markets, and we took part in a 3-way pitch for a high-end hairdressing chain.

Ask any PR agency what keeps them awake at night and we reckon there are two culprits; retaining staff and winning pitches and more often than not – retaining staff that win pitches! It often feels like you are on a continuous pitch process – a hamster wheel spinning with budgets, SWOTs and creative brainstorms all packaged up in a nicely designed document.

In an ever-changing agency landscape the quest for the winning pitch is in even sharper focus. Clients are moving from retainer models to project-based budgeting, and many are looking at the competitive pitch as a way to breathe life into their PR programme as they change the way budgets are allocated.

Having a good overview of the industry but sitting firmly outside of the traditional agency model, we are often asked to consult on the pitch process. This may be to provide an overview of a geography or sector, or to provide a long list of agencies, right through to running the entire selection process. Our impartial view helps the client see which agency maps best to their requirements.


Planning the pitch process

A well-run process with the right amount of time spent on a tight brief, a good sense of the softer skills and corporate culture will pay dividends in terms of getting the right agency on board. Upfront preparation work and careful thought on the mechanics will make the process as pain free for the client team. Using an external consultant to run the process and work on a scorecard (measuring scientifically the KPI and sentiment in the room) helps make the right decision.

Your best shot

What makes a winner? There is science to it, and more words than this blog post would allow, but I would say:

1) Really think about whether you are well suited to the brief. Energy is going to be a big part of the decision, so think long and hard about your team and whether you can match what the client needs in terms of skillset and cultural fit. If you can’t, don’t fudge it. It’s a brave decision to walk away from a pitch invitation, but recognise what you are good at and don’t go after those accounts you can’t service and that don’t fit well with your culture. You won’t win anyway.

2) Once you’ve decided you’re going for it, and that you have the right team available who are good at pitching AND available to take on a new client, think about the running order, which should map precisely against the brief. But please, keep it short…it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.

3) So much is down to those early minutes – as one of the presenting agencies said, it’s a lot like dating – you know in seconds whether it’s going anywhere. A well-prepared response demonstrating you know the prospect’s industry and you get their vision and know their media (if that’s required) should be the very first thing you present in a succinct fashion – NOT your team and your agency. We know this is hard, as we all like to talk about ourselves – but this also applies to the prospect – they want to hear about their business first, not about yours! If you can, get some third party influencers on video giving their view on the company – that will really make the prospect sit up, you’ll tell them something new, AND show the strength of your black book.

TT Image - Death by PowerPoint

TT Image – Death by PowerPoint

4) Once you’ve nailed the running order, and who’s attending from your side, think about how it’s going to look. The BBC published this article last year about Death by Powerpoint. Have a read – there’s a list of the TOP TEN WORST pitch images.

If you must use PPT, please be aware that there’s no excuse for boring slides – Microsoft has improved the software by making it far easier to insert images and make slides more visual and vibrant. While substance should naturally be more important than style, we also recommend hiring a professional designer to smarten up your presentation and ensure it’s lovely to look at. Incredibly, few agencies do this and looking at badly laid out wordy PPTs is a fast route to losing the pitch.

Sitting on the ‘client’ side of the pitch table in Europe last week was incredibly useful, and I’m pleased to say that by applying these learnings to our own pitch to the hairdressing chain, we won! We’ll share more on that another time…

For more information on our agency selection process, please contact directors@theprnetwork.co.uk

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