Seeing red: Everyone loses in a badly run pitch

Only well-run pitch processes give agencies the chance to present their best work - to the ultimate benefit of the client.

Badly organised pitches make Scott Learmouth see red
Badly organised pitches make Scott Learmouth see red

Badly organised pitches make me see red. We have all been through them: no brief or opportunity to go and meet the potential client. No time to ask questions about their needs, get to know their team, their culture or understand what success will look like to their organisation. A process with 17 competing agencies involved, yet the contract could still go to a late entrant. There’s a budget that is yet to be defined and an ultimate decision maker that no one knew about, and the prospective client’s request is that "we wanted to just see what you thought".

A well-run pitch is in stark contrast. It gives the participating agency opportunity to demonstrate how it will deliver against a client’s commercial objectives and showcase itself in the best possible light. In my mind, it means a shortlist of three agencies, time allocated by the client to brief the agency and take questions, a ‘tissue’ session where thinking can be tested, and a written brief that defines a budget and asks specific things of a PR programme, not just background info and a stated need to "do some PR". 

In a good pitch, a would-be client makes time for the agency before presentation stage to interrogate the brief and understand the decision-making process. This includes identifying who will be in the room for the presentation and giving the agency a chance to speak to each person to understand their individual priorities.

If the process is right then it’s a win-win; agencies have the very best chance to do their very best work, which reaps rewards for clients and agencies alike. The end result of badly run processes is that pitching becomes even more expensive than it already is and still leaves too much of the final decision to chance – a risk for both sides.

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