Earlier this week Mediacom COO Toby Jenner, suggested in Campaign magazine that clients are making pitches too long and complex, and tying agencies in knots with adversarial rules and cost management. He also suggested that clients asking agencies to pitch should consider paying them, which sounds great.
Where he completely lost me was with his warm welcome of clients handing out M&S vouchers to pitching teams. They aren’t kids competing for a school prize or peasants coming up to the kitchen window of the great house for a glass of mulled wine. If clients can’t pay for agencies to pitch, the best thing they can do is accord them the professional seriousness they deserve.
Just give them really sound, considered feedback on why they weren’t chosen and never mind about the lovely gestures.
From next month, the CIPR will be publishing a new client guide that contains some useful advice on how to select a PR agency. Here are some highlights:
- In a one-stage selection process, don’t invite more than three agencies to pitch. In a two-stage process, don’t invite more to the first stage and be ready to provide responses to questions and clarifications during the tender period.
- If possible, offer a time slot well before the deadline so agencies can come in, meet you and ask you questions. The more they understand you, the better their pitch will be.
- Have no more than four people on the panel choosing your agency. It is good to have someone external work to with you at this stage (whom the CIPR can recommend), with the right expertise to probe what the pitching agencies are capable of.
Finally, if clients really want to make a lovely gesture and send pitching teams a garden centre gift card, it’s best if they then don’t then taint it by stealing the ideas they pitched and using them for free. As Toby Jenner says, ‘good things really do happen to good people’.