Pitching for Public Relations is a man made disaster

We lost a PR pitch today! It hurts. It cost us  time and real money.  I came away thinking that the sales process is a complete waste of time. Prospects never really understand how much work and emotional commitment EASTWEST puts in to win their business. We really want to help them get noticed; it is what we love to do. The irony is that companies give precious little guidance and spend more time and money on hiring an external public relations agency than they do on recruiting an internal pr manager. Companies play games with agencies of the kind that they wouldn’t ever dream of doing with a new recruit. ‘Give us some creative ideas to build our brand,’ or in China especially, ‘what results can you guarantee?’. Sorry EASTWEST  doesn’t  pay for coverage. My favourite  line is, ‘we don’t have a budget, tell us how much it should cost.’ How many candidates are told to guarantee results for a fixed fee with a 30 day notice period? Of course this isn’t played with one agency. "We are reviewing 3-5 agencies" is the common refrain – this makes the agency feel really special about committing their time and money to winning the account. Amazingly this works – agencies rally round and provide strategy, media lists and budgets to a person who then has to sell the concept internally. According to Jeff Thull, author of Mastering the Complex Sale, 40% of all purchasing decisions just don’t get made.  "It indicates that your biggest competitor is not another firm, but customers deciding they don’t want to purchase a solution like yours from anyone. They just don’t see the value in what you do." That we got onto the pitch list means that we are doing our own pr just about right with Cogntion, our roundtables, and media relations,  but if a company doesn’t see value in what EASTWEST does, then we have failed to demonstrate the return on investment from communicating consistently with an integrated traditional and digital PR program. Sometimes I think being in an agency is the worst place to be, but then I look at our clients who face the same 40% indecision index and have made vast investments into software or infrastructure, and remember that everyone is competing for attention all the time, it’s just a fact of life. It is our role to help clients communicate the value of what they do, and also to position them as the best in class.  The beauty of being an agency is that we can innovate with the latest tools and techiques  like video releases, which we can then implement for our clients to help them reach their sales goals. For the financial services technology company which chose another agency today, I wish them luck. We received an enquiry from a company which wants to undertake a course on using social media for crisis management; as BP have shown,  a man made disaster definitely needs a good pitch.

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