I have worked in PR for more than 13 years and I must have pitched more than a hundred times, it’s one of the best bits of the job. Ask anyone who works in PR it’s tiring but brilliant. The thrill of coming up with new and interesting ideas and then trying to capture the marketers’ imagination.
Then there is the all important client phone call afterwards and you are told you have won the project! You all do the victory dance (maybe even a few whoop whoops) and the team is buzzing excitedly and then you suddenly realise that the client has chosen the one idea you put in, for creativity purposes, and now you have to make it actually work GULP! (Joking of course!)
So there are some pitches that go really really well and there are others that die on their back sides. I remember pitching to the Home Office for the launch of a big campaign at the COI many years ago. There was a six-strong team of us, including the chief executive of the agency, and we had been pitching for almost 90 minutes and we finished our passionate presentation and the chief executive ended it by saying: “So that’s our campaign ideas over with, do you have any questions?”
To which one of the main guys replied: “Not really, I just feel your campaign fundamentally lacks credibility”.
Now, I should point out that I remember that statement word for word as the words stuck and held in the air. In fact, I am sure time actually stood still for those few seconds. However, not to be beaten we somehow turned it around in the questions, and actually won the business, which just goes to show if you take criticism on the chin instead of defending an idea a client doesn’t like sometimes you can still come out on the winning side.
I saw a really interesting tweet yesterday from Leeds PR consultant Richard Rawlins who said he had lost a pitch and the client in question had then passed on his agency’s ideas and the winning agency would be using them. The full details of the conversation are enclosed in the image on the right have a read of them.
So that lead me to think a few things really. Firstly, what a total unethical thing to do to a great bunch of people who have worked their butts off to come up with these ideas, but I have to admit it has happened to me before.
Secondly, if we (PR Professionals) write copyright throughout our presentations does that mean they are our ideas and our intellectual property? So if a client does use our idea can we sue them or should they pay for our ideas if they wish to use them?
Personally, I can’t see a PR agency suing a client for it as it would look bad to any future clients. In public relations we all seem happy to pitch for free whereas in other marketing specialisms agencies are paid handsomely for their ideas. Are we moving with the times or should we (as an industry) start charging for pitches to stop this kind of thing from happening?
I welcome your thoughts.