Originally Published PR Week, March 4, 2011 (subscription access only)
I spent many years on the agency side - at Burson-Marsteller, Ketchum, and GCI Group - pitching business and always wondering what it would be like on the other side of the table.
Now I know.
My firm doesn't do a lot of agency search for our clients, but occasionally we're asked to help out. Coincidentally, we've been involved in a few situations just since the beginning of the year.
The process is enlightening. Here are some lessons learned that agencies would be well advised to consider.
Stand for something. During an RFI stage, particularly if the agency's information is being communicated only in writing, be sure you write your information in a concise, crisp manner - and absolutely be sure your firm stands for something. Have a point of view on measurement; articulate a client service model or an approach to audience insights that you believe works exceptionally well for your firm and for your clients.
Pure capabilities are only a starting point; why would having good capabilities mean you should win? Don't you think the client is only talking to firms with the requisite capabilities? And sell yourselves, don't sell against others. Selling against others is usually off-the-mark and is almost always unappealing.
Read the rules. When clients are considering a range of agencies, they're looking for reasons to either include or exclude firms from the next round. Don't give them easy reasons to exclude you. Sounds ridiculous, but in just a few situations, I've already seen firms respond to a request for two or three paragraphs on a subject with eight or nine paragraphs; with a request to provide a three-to-five page narrative on a client situation with a 19-page PowerPoint deck; with a request for certain insights into international market credentials with a link to the company's website. Don't make it so easy to cut your firm.