So the post on Tuesday stirred up a neat little discussion. I was thinking that while it's obviously easy to sit back and say what might be broken with a process, it's also important to propose an alternative. So I thought I'd play client for half an hour, and try and work out how I'd go about selecting an agency in my perfect little theoretical world (though – and despite my flippant remark – you could do worse than read Gabbi's summary of the Winning Without Pitching Manifesto in the comments).
First off, for me to say that pitches should be banned was, of course, rather provocative. But I've found that being a bit provocative can be what encourages people to contribute… We need some way to sell ourselves, whether it's called a pitch or not. My issue is with what agencies are asked to pitch.
So, here we go. I'm a PR manager looking for a new agency. First off, I do my own research – speak to a few peers, perhaps, or journalists, contact an industry association, surf the web…you know the sort of thing. I reckon I should be able to narrow down a list of four that I'm going to ask to meet. Let's get in touch.
I'm the PR manager of Les Chapelles Holidays, and I'm looking for a new PR agency. I've drawn up a shortlist of four agencies and you're company is one of them. As such, I'd like to meet. This is what I'd like to propose:
1. I'll come to you if that's OK? I'd like to see your offices.
2. I'm only planning on meeting each agency once in the selection process, but would like a three hour meeting in the afternoon (the reasons for which will become clear a little later).
3. I'm presuming you'll do your research, so you'll be able find out lots about our business from our website, coverage search, social media analysis, etc etc. If you have any specific questions, however, feel free to drop me a line.
4. I'm not giving you a brief, because I'm not asking you to pitch me creative ideas and a communications strategy. I'm a forward-thinking guy, and (a) don't believe that you'll be able to get under our skin enough in the next fortnight to develop a decent strategy or associated tactics and (b) I respect that your strategic nouse and creativity are valuable, and I should really be paying for them.
5. When I come in, I'd like to meet the team of people that you would foresee working on the account. I think you'll be able to assess who those people might be from your research on our business, and our budget is currently about £10k a month, so I reckon I'll be meeting four or five people (and if there's more than one director in the room, I'll smell a rat). It'd be great if each of them could give me a five-minute precis of their experience, role and the piece of work of which they're most proud. I'd also like to know their favourite band and cocktail of choice.
6. I'd like you to present comprehensive agency credentials. Agency history, client base, key areas of expertise and anything else you feel would be relevant. I'd also like to see three case studies of work you've done for clients that you think are relevant to our business area. I'd expect these to include the business challenge, strategy you developed, tactics you implemented and the results generated. I'd also like the people in the room to have worked on the case studies, because I might have questions.
7. I'm going to test you guys out with an exercise that will take about an hour. It'll be challenging but fun, and will give me the chance to see how you guys work together (and with me).
8. I'd like to take contact details for three client references away with me.
9. After we've had the meeting, can we go to the pub for an hour or so? I'm buying.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Now, I'm sure I've missed a few things out – and would welcome suggestions for additions and tweaks – but how refreshing an email would that be to get? I think every agency contacted would be keen to win the business, I know I would. And I think I'll have gathered enough information about the agencies' expertise, resources, people, passion and abilities to make a decision.
Or am I wrong?