Clients, stop ghosting us after pitches

I'm not generally given to ranting - with the possible exception of the odd awards-related outburst - but for the second time in as many months we've pitched for a potential client and clearly haven't won.

A simple phone call will suffice, says James Gordon-MacIntosh
A simple phone call will suffice, says James Gordon-MacIntosh
Not winning isn’t the issue. The issue is that we don’t even know for certain that we lost because no-one has called us to say so. 

Despite emails and phone calls to follow up politely – not a peep. So I am a bit frustrated. Irritated even. 

Perhaps I’m just getting old. Or the world has changed and this is 'okay in 2019'. 

But I hope I’d struggle to find people across PR-land who would agree that this is acceptable behaviour.

It’s unprofessional and, I think, just a bit rude.

Now I’m not blind to the fact that, if you’re a client, it’s not a call you want to make. 

Tough feedback is hard to give. It’s the job you leave until Friday at 5.30pm and then put the phone down and go to the pub. The very epitome of the art of prevarication. I get that. 

So if there’s any reassurance I can offer, it is that most agency leads of a certain vintage will have taken a lot more "polite no" calls than you’ll have had to make. 

They’re disappointing calls to take of course. And we take them more often than we’d like. 

We do mourn the ones that got away. We stare at each other in disbelief when we were pretty sure we’d won. 

But we don’t take them personally. They’re not as crushing as you might think. What’s more, we value the feedback. We learn from our screw-ups and miss-steps. 

The lost pitch is all too often never spoken of again. But those are the ones that you learn the most from when you pull them apart and work out what not to do next time. 

So, with that rant and reassurance out the way, these are my five asks of clients post-pitch. 

1. Pick up the phone. It may feel easier to email a "no", but an agency deserves a call. They’ve invested hours and days, so you can invest 10 minutes.

2. Get to the point. The whole "how’s your week been, what did you do at the weekend?" stuff is delightful. But it’s a call with a primary purpose. Get to the result.

3. Give the result and then follow with the feedback. No one is actively listening to feedback while they’re still waiting for the yes or no to come.

4. If the strategy was wrong, tell us why. If you didn’t like some of the ideas or they didn’t work, tell us which they were... and why. If there was stuff you loved, likewise tell us.

5. And tell us what you thought of the team as people. And if someone was outstanding, say so. Likewise, if someone didn’t present well, inspire confidence or come across clearly, explain that. It all helps.

And there you have it. Nothing complicated. 

I sincerely hope that my frustration at waiting four weeks for a call from a client we pitched to that is yet to come (and who I know has gone elsewhere thanks to the agency grapevine), might lead to this situation arising slightly less often. 

Meantime, we’ll continue to chase for the result. 

James Gordon-MacIntosh is managing partner at Hope & Glory

Thumbnail credit: ArcadeImages/Alamy

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