The Pitching Survey: Six PR horror stories, pet hates and nuggets of advice

PR professionals have revealed their pet hates, horror stories and best pieces of advice in a new pitch process survey conducted by PRWeek UK and the PRCA.

The pitch process "should be avoided if at all possible" - anon
The pitch process "should be avoided if at all possible" - anon

The survey included (mostly anonymous) comments from more than 160 agency-side, freelance and in-house PR practitioners. Here is what they said: 

Read next: PRWeek’s in-depth analysis of the pitch process survey

1. No excuse for rudeness

One agency employee, who chose to remain nameless, said they recently sat through a pitch where a member of the audience spent the entire time "answering emails and huffing".

"She then asked questions that were clearly answered in the presentation. In-house teams should at the very least listen and be courteous, even if the agency they're seeing isn't the favourite. There's no excuse for rudeness," they said.

Another, who also chose anonymity, said failing to provide an agency with status updates after a pitch is "rude, unprofessional and disrespectful".

Sticking with respect (or lack of), another respondent said clients needed to be more respectful of agency time and the level of resource that goes into pitches.

2. Pitch me a winner

Asked to comment on the process, one person, who again chose to remain anonymous, said their agency was recently invited to a 14-way pitch.

They said: "There is no joy to be had there. Granted this is unusual, but I don't think any agency should pitch against more than two other agencies. It is just laziness from the prospect."

Not to be outdone, another person said they hated pitch lists that contain 40 agencies. "Yes, they happen," the aggrieved respondent said.

An anonymous in-house PR professional said his company did not look for creativity. "Sector knowledge is key, [as is the] ability to identify issues and propose tactics and messages to address them."

In response, one agency-side PR wanted clients to know that pitching was "a lousy way of dealing with a professional services partner". Clients, they said, "might as well be buying office supplies".

3. Time is money

Elsewhere, one person, who said they feared they might be shot if they gave their name away, said they struggled to count the number of times they had gone to pitch and invested a lot of time and money only for the client to "go cold".

"[We'd] maybe get a call a month later saying 'ah yeah, thought you should know, new comms manager and they don't want an agency, so thanks but we're not gonna hire'. Absolutely infuriating, and small agencies cannot sustain repeated investment in pitching like this for no return," they said.

4. Mixed messages

The pitch process "should be avoided if at all possible", said another respondent.

Bucking the trend, however, Aduro Communications founder Natalie Luke said pitching was the lifeblood of any agency and one of the main reasons PRs prefer agency life to in-house.

"The rollercoaster thrill of the pitch is an absolute highlight," Luke said.

5. Understanding your environment

Meanwhile, Ian Crowder, who heads comms at the AA, said it was important for companies looking for an agency to spend time visiting the hopeful agency's offices "to get a feel for the environment in which they work".

6. #MicDropEmoji

Offering his best piece of advice to other agencies, The Romans co-founder Joe Sinclair said: "Don't waste your time pitching against The Romans #MicDropEmoji."

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