The highs and lows of new business pitches

The highs and lows of new business pitches

The first few months every year are a busy time at most PR companies. Both our clients and prospects are putting the final touches to their marketing and communications plans for the financial year ahead, which can mean only one thing: it is pitching time.

Business pitches can be a game of cat and mouse. Both parties are trying to get a feel for each other, understand potential strengths and weaknesses and, ultimately, ascertain if they will be a good fit – both professionally and culturally.

When you are the incumbent PR agency there are also some added questions which you may find yourself asking. Why do they want us to re-pitch? Are they not happy with the results we have achieved together? Do they have a new agency in mind and are just ticking a box by having us involved?

However, having led quite a few agency pitches (and sat in on a few more when I was in-house), the reality is that pitching for business is a good thing.

For those of us in a PR company, it sharpens our minds and gives us a chance to focus and come up with new ways to make PR campaigns work for our clients; it gives us a fantastic opportunity to get in front of the most senior people in an organisation and wow them with some cracking campaign ideas; and it can help boost team morale as different departments come together to collaborate and generate new ideas that can have a real impact.

While most pitches come with a watertight brief, often what wins them is not a pragmatic approach, but one built on creativity, enthusiasm, and passion. Yes, clients and prospects want to see that you understand their brand and PR objectives, but they also want to be safe in the knowledge that you have the creative nous and expertise to deliver on what you say. In the PR world, there is nothing worse than over-promising and under-delivering.

Taking all that into consideration, preparing in-depth pitches does take a lot of time and energy to get right and places PR teams under enormous pressure at times. The client has demands that need to be met and then there is the elephant in the room – the fact that losing a pitch can (in the very worst cases) be the difference between growth and job losses.

There can often be a lot riding on the outcome.

Having just completed a pitch for a major consumer client, the process reminded me of three important things:

  1. Pitching can be fun when you have got a good team and a client who values honesty and creativity.
  2. There is enormous value in asking questions about a brief BEFORE you start on your pitch – that clarity will go a long way to helping you develop PR campaigns that actually deliver on business objectives.
  3. It is important to be yourself to know if you and the client are a perfect match. There is nothing worse than winning business and wishing you had not.

I have no idea if we were successful in our most recent new business endeavours, but I do know that, regardless of the outcome, the benefits for me and the team far outweigh the negatives…and we cannot wait for the next one. Bring it on!

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