The new HCA Pitching Code of Conduct has been developed with input from marcomms and procurement professionals in the pharma sector, as well as healthcare comms agencies.
It aims to make the pitching process fairer and smoother for clients and agencies alike, and provides a best-practice checklist for both sides.
Mike Dixon, chief executive at the HCA, said: "Pitching is often about starting a new relationship between client and agency.
"Getting that relationship off to the right start, through a pitch process all stakeholders can feel comfortable with, should therefore be an important foundation."
The HCA Pitching Code of Conduct covers a wide range of scenarios, including asking clients to pledge only to pitch when there is a genuine requirement for agency support and there is internal stakeholder commitment to the programme in terms of funding and feasibility.
The code also calls on clients to give a clear indication of the programme size and scope, budgetary parameters, and indicative overall budget, and to ensure agency access to the most senior decision-maker pre-pitch as well as their attendance at the pitch.
Meanwhile, agencies using the code pledge to fully take part in any pre-pitch selection criteria – such as chemistry meetings and procurement discussions – with openness and honesty, and respect the confidentiality of the pitch process.
Malik Akhtar, vice-president of marketing procurement at Bayer, said: "Best practice guides, such as the HCA’s Pitching Code of Conduct, provide great support for me to help ensure consistent pitching standards are maintained throughout our organisation.
"They also help us manage the expectations from our agency partners. What is ultimately critical for their success is that everyone follows them, both agencies and key stakeholders alike. Setting the right tone during the pitch is an important first step in establishing a productive client/agency relationship."
Key points from the code
- Only pitch when we have a genuine requirement for agency support and internal stakeholder commitment to the programme in terms of funding and feasibility.
- Respect intellectual property rights of ideas and creativity from pitching agencies and do not use or share those of non-appointed agencies.
- Provide and adhere to a clear timeline of events and ensure participants are fully engaged, and not on phones or computers.
- Limit the number of agencies pitching to no more than four.
- Provide fresh creative/innovative ideas that effectively meet the specific brief and propose evaluation methodology and criteria.
- Only deliver proposals that are compliant with regulatory and relevant codes of practice requirements.
- Commit to present proposals that come within the budget where one is given and provide billing rates and indicative programme costs.
- Ensure that any senior presence at the pitch will be reflective of their continued involvement, and indicative budget provided, if awarded the business.
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