In the second part of this series of posts on hiring a public affairs consultancy I’m going to offer seven key pieces of advice on managing the pitch process.
Happily, being on the receiving end of a good pitch is a lot more fun than the bit where you are staring at lots of similar looking pitch documents with similar themes, ideas and some cheesy photos of your potential team.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy to make the right call!
Even the most seasoned old hand can be influenced by name-dropping, over-promising or any of the other sales techniques that sometimes find their way into even the best intentioned public affairs consultancy pitch.
That said, establishing the right environment and asking the right questions will leave you with the best possible chance of making the right decision.
Running the pitch for a public affairs consultancy
1) Make sure you sit down at the pitch with a clear idea of how you will judge how well the agency understands your organisation and your sector. Have they forgotten one of your key stakeholders? Do they seem confused about exactly what part of your organisation does? No pitch will be perfect, but some errors or omissions are clearly more forgivable than others!
2) Choose your ground – as the client, you should host the pitch, or at least be responsible for arranging a neutral venue. This will help maintain the dynamic of you as decision maker, and the agency as your support.
3) It should be clear what the organisational structure of the team will be from the pitch, but if not, clarify what the reporting lines will be, who will be responsible for the day to day management of the account, and how many hours per week you will be getting from each individual on the team. This will help to you to make a fair assessment of whether you are getting what you expected from your agency further down the line.
4) Make sure you have good answers to the questions the agency may ask – they will likely want to know, if they don’t already, how many other agencies you are talking to, who your key decision makers are, and what criteria you will use to judge their work. Don’t feel like you have to commit to anything, but give the answers some thought before the pitch.
5) Think carefully about how many agencies to see at pitch stage û four or five is a good rule of thumb, but the key thing is to make sure they have different strengths and weaknesses and you don’t waste time comparing very similar candidates
6) Get your panel right – you need to include whoever will be working most closely with the agency as well as any senior decision makers who need to be in the room. This should include the heads of communications and public affairs, if that isn’t you.
7) Find out about the individual backgrounds, skillsets and personalities of each and every member of the pitch team, especially the more junior members. Their senior colleagues are no doubt very impressive, but it is the junior members of the team who will likely be most hands on with your account and you should therefore be persuaded of their quality.
Anything we missed? Good advice to share on running a pitch process? Let us know in the comments!