Platform: Why beauty contests waste everyone’s time - Presentations are too confrontational and waste money which would be better spent on training, says Adrian Wheeler

Why do we like beauty parades so much? They are a hand-me-down from the advertising industry and they are now endemic in PR consultancy. But they don’t work. Worse, they waste a vault-full of money that could be put to much better use.

Why do we like beauty parades so much? They are a hand-me-down from

the advertising industry and they are now endemic in PR consultancy. But

they don’t work. Worse, they waste a vault-full of money that could be

put to much better use.



Competitive creative pitches don’t tell PR clients what they really want

to know.



Advertising agencies sell a creative product, and it’s easy to tell

whether you like it or not. The people on the agency team are less

important.



Ideas are everything. Therefore, formal presentations are an acceptable

method of choosing a new advertising agency.



PR consultancies sell a service. The ideas tabled at a presentation are

far less important than the people on the team. What a client wants to

know is: are these people inspiring? Do I want to see them in my office

every other day for a year? Will their team work well with my team? Can

I rely on them?



Creative presentations against the usual bare bones brief cannot

possibly answer these questions. Instead, they answer a different

question: can these people present well? In today’s PR market the answer

must be yes, so the client is left with only one option - judging the

quality of the performance.



The time set aside for interaction is usually negligible. Clients end up

choosing a consultancy on criteria which may or may not work, and hope

the relationship will flourish. Many do not - which is why aggressive

consultancies always re-visit a failed pitch a month or so later.



If we as an industry look at our most successful client relationships we

find that they are based on creative interaction: their teams and our

teams are more or less integrated to produce original, effective PR

ideas.



A beauty parade gives neither client nor consultancy much idea if this

is likely to happen.



There must be a better way. Instead of performing in front of a mute

client panel, why don’t we offer to give them an insight into what

working with us would actually be like? Let’s invite the client’s team

to spend half a day with our team on a structured brainstorm,

think-tank, strategy session or creative review - call it what you

will.



Our investment as consultancies would be to find out all about the

client, the market and the main issues, and then to run the session just

as we do with clients who have already appointed us. Their investment

would be their time.



No more wasted money on dazzling visuals and theatricals. Instead, the

client sees what we are really like to work with. Their choice can be

made on the basis of a very clear idea of compatibility. Likewise, we

would soon know if we are going to produce great work with this client,

or if we are doomed to frustration.



Presentations are confrontational. Let’s lower the barriers and put us

both on the same side. Some clients are halfway there already - but most

are just as trapped as we are in a system which costs a fortune and

fails to deliver. Let’s offer them an alternative. Let’s demonstrate our

intelligence, our grasp of the issues, our willingness to listen, and

our ability to make a constructive contribution. And let’s spend the

money we save on training.



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