Pitch performance helps firms win award for truly 'getting it'

In this award-show season, I present some award-worthy moments from the past year that stood out as the best-in-class pitches I witnessed in the agency-review process. There was drama, comedy, and some stellar achievements that helped firms win business.

In this award-show season, I present some award-worthy moments from the past year that stood out as the best-in-class pitches I witnessed in the agency-review process. There was drama, comedy, and some stellar achievements that helped firms win business.

  • The brand definer.

Our client had designed a spiffy new brand and logo for a new service offering. Only problem: They still weren't sure what the key brand attributes should be. While they weren't necessarily looking to the new PR agency to define the brand – they expected that from a branding specialty firm – they did hope the PR agency would add some helpful thoughts.

The two finalist firms took different approaches. Agency one brought in the “branding guru” from their New York office who presented a 20-minute tutorial on how companies create brands. The client's reaction? Stifled yawns and rolling eyes. The second agency went straight to the heart of the matter – admittedly a bit chancy – and took a shot at defining the brand with six key brand attributes. Result? The client loved the latter's initiative, felt their take was spot on, and hired the firm. By taking a chance, the winning agency demonstrated a deep understanding of the client's business, its place in the market, and its unique selling proposition.

  • Palpable chemistry meeting.

Here, it's a tie between two agency approaches in two separate searches. Such meetings are meant to entice the client to want to learn more and include the agency in the final round.

Here, it's a tie between two agency approaches in two separate searches. Such meetings are meant to entice the client to want to learn more and include the agency in the final round.

The first agency created stations manned by agency specialists. The client was ushered from station to station and encouraged to have conversations with the teams. Representatives from the second agency sat across the table from the client and had serious discussions over PR strategies about the client's challenges, using smart questions and deep insights gained from research.

In both instances, the clients felt engaged and excited. They couldn't wait to learn more about how each firm would approach their specific PR challenges.

  • Junior AE wins the day.

Let's face it: 99.9% of senior agency veterans are great at pitching business. They know the ins and outs and can handle tough questions. Clients expect this. What's more telling is how a firm's junior account people handle themselves.

In this pitch, the client made a point of asking the most junior person on each team – the 20-something often positioned farthest away from the client decision-maker – a strategy question about its business. The winning firm's junior member not only had a great answer, but added a broader perspective on the client's industry as a whole. The client team loved that they could get a smart answer from anyone on the agency team.

These are some of those moments of magic when the candidate agency became a serious contender, when disparate agency and client teams bonded into fellowship, when senior client executives almost shed a tear because here is an agency that finally gets it.

Dan Orsborn is a senior partner at SelectResources International, where he heads the PR agency search practice. He can be reached at dan@selectr.com.

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