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Searching for perfect pitch…

August 4, 2011

Now, if you’ve ever heard me sing, you’ll know this post isn’t about musical pitch. (Don’t ask  me about the time my song was cut from our high school musical).

I was part of a regional sales pitch this week, where a team from Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney presented to one of the world’s biggest tech companies. I have to say, it was pretty cool.

I was working with our global alliance partner, so it was great to see how another agency works at such close quarters. They also do a lot more competitive pitching than me, so I really enjoyed learning from them.

While pitching for a PR account is a fairly specific task, I took away quite a few lessons that can be applied to any presentation or sales pitch:

  1. A bit of theatre always helps. Apparently this gig was pretty low on theatre compared to some of their other pitches (one involved using a wheel of fortune). It did, however, involve allocating certain slides to everyone in the pitch (all 8 of us!) and running through it plenty of times. Oh, and there was a ‘meet the team’ poster as a leave-behind.
  2. It’s all about the visuals. The pitch team had the luxury of a real graphic designer to work on their PowerPoints, so it looked great – lots of images and graphics, colour and movement. Some slides were a bit wordy for my liking, but overall, you didn’t feel buried in text and the whole thing looked polished.
  3. You need a dry run with a tough audience. We spent a long time going over the first draft of the presentation, with a couple of very senior people from the team. One of them in particular didn’t say a lot, but when he did, it was an incisive and insightful critique which helped to refine our thinking. So, don’t be afraid to get a genuine critic on board.
  4. Explain what you do.  I often forget that nobody outside our industry really understands PR. Even within this game, we all work differently, especially between sectors (consumer and corporate are on different planets!). So a lot of the presentation was very detailed: this is exactly what we’ll do and how we’ll do it – and this is how you’ll know if we were successful.
  5. We all want to feel ‘understood’. The pitch team spent a crazy amount of time and resources getting to grips with the (potential) client’s situation. Media analysis, research into the company, narrative maps – the whole shebang. But they recognise that every client wants to know you ‘get’ them. You aren’t just serving up a formula – you’ve taken time to understand their needs; only then  can you provide their solution.

We don’t know yet whether we’ve been successful. But whatever happens, I know we’ve put in a damn fine performance.

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