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Five tips to winning a PR pitch

When we buy anything in business, whether it’s outsourced HR, design, IT support or PR, there is usually a tendering process, which starts with “establishing a need” , and ends with “Make a decision based on a measured judgement of all the information”.

However, as seasoned practitioners will know, in the world of pitching for PR business it is rarely that straight forward, and the winning pitch usually consists of a mix skills, experience, knowing the right people, speaking the right language and a large pinch of luck.

We’ve won our fair share of pitches, and lost a few too. Naturally, the ones we win are down to talent, skill and being all-round good eggs (!) … The ones we lose? Well – there are many reasons for not winning a PR pitch.

It might be not having the right mix of skills and people. Perhaps, the result is a foregone conclusion, perhaps it’s simply decided on cost, or perhaps the agency just didn’t shine sparkly enough.

But there are always things to learn from winning … and even more from losing a bid.

So here are our five top tips to help agencies win the pitch

      1. Never assume clients know anything about PR. Take them right from the basics of what you do. You have a media database? Of course you do – we all do…but clients might not know that. You pass on coverage you see on Google alerts? Of course you do.. but clients are wowed by the agency which flags up their perceived media savviness.
      2. Realise that the selection of an agency might not be a rational decision. It can be prejudiced by people or events outside your knowledge. Do your research to find out who will be making the final decision, and how much sway does your own connection to the company have?
      3. If you are dealing with the finance team, try to use their language. There are still those who insist on referring to the totally discredited AVE (advertising value equivalents) – but a pitch situation is no place to be arguing that you’ll get drummed out of CIPR for even letting the word cross your lips. Find a way to demonstrate ROI.
      4. Find out exactly what the company wants. This of course sounds obvious, but don’t assume you are both talking the same language. For example, if they say they want ‘crisis PR’, then there is a real financial chasm if you take this to mean: a emergency PR plan, crisis document, template holding statements, internal identification of potential issues, cross site briefings and reviews of procedure… but in reality, they just want someone to direct the media to because “… we never have crises”. Clarify, clarify, clarify.
      5. Think about PR from the clients point of view. We know that PR, like all service sector roles, takes personal, as well as commercial investment. We want to work with people who appreciate and value that investment. But there are those clients who just want to tick a box, and get on with the next procurement. So field account handlers who are right for their business, who will engage using language your potential client understands.

Finally, sometimes, you have to take the decision not to pitch. Or even, to decline taking the process further after the pitch. Like any interview process – whether it is for a job or a contract, it is a two way fact-finder. If you don’t get a job, it’s probably because you either didn’t have the skills – or more likely, because they company felt you wouldn’t be a good ‘fit’ into the organisation. It’s the same with pitching. The ‘fit’ needs to be there. In which case, it’s better to find out sooner rather than later. If you have been honest to your values, then losing a pitch is certainly not the worst thing. Being untrue to your ethos is worse.

So if you are pitching for business, good luck. If you win it – congratulations… but if you don’t win it.. it might be a blessing in disguise

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