OPINION: Good PR is worth its weight in gold

Pitching for new business involves a precarious balancing act between establishing an agency's credentials for the business on offer and giving away great ideas for nothing.

Ian Monk
Ian Monk

How tempting it can be to impress by reeling off a string of clever creatives demonstrating an understanding of the brand coupled with the ability to produce deliverable ideas.

And yet how unwise to give away rafts of creative thinking at pitch stage. How many times have agencies, unsuccessful in their pitch, then sat back and watched their ideas used in the eventual campaign - with fees frustratingly going elsewhere?

Call it coincidence, chance, plagiarism or theft of intellectual property, but it happens. I have heard many hard-luck stories recently. Several involve rival agencies winning the business and then apparently being handed ideas from other pitches from agencies whose fees were higher.

Another involved a pitch process that resulted in no appointment. Instead, the work was handled by an in-house team whose campaign appeared, cynically, to have been based on creatives from agency pitches.

Scandalous, cynical, exploitative and unjust. And undoubtedly a signal that the time has come for a robust and mature PR industry to defend itself.

Would an architect pitch for business leaving behind full plans from foundation to roof? The PR business should start to place a similar value on the building blocks of its creative thinking. Confident operators should limit pitches to an outline of approach based on previous successful campaigns and lessons from unsuccessful ones.

They should demonstrate a clear understanding of the values and key messages of the business and use a media audit that illustrates the potential client's positioning. A lucid and credible outline of agency experience plus the cost of hiring it should be central. The big idea should be verbalised rather than left behind in a full PowerPoint document.

Clever ideas and the ability to deliver against them are the crown jewels of good PR. They should never be exchanged for less than the hard fee currency.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun

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