We’re in the running for some dynamite new PR and social media business, so we’re assembling our teams and preparing presentations.
At my agency, Matter, we bring to the meeting only those who will work on the business, and we’ve always approached new business with this philosophy. We’ve found it makes for a better agency/client relationship in the long run.
Not everybody works that way, though. Here are three ways brand managers can avoid bait-and-switch tactics during an agency search:
although a PR and social media team needs a leader, it typically doesn’t need a small army of leaders. (There is some merit to leadership by committee, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.)
If you sit through an agency presentation and get the feeling that the other side of the table has too many senior people, I strongly suggest waving a red flag. Even if intentions are sincerely positive, the model at most agencies won’t allow for the regular and consistent contributions of several senior staff on every account. If the pitch team appears top heavy, it probably is. A balanced team is one best positioned for success.
if in the pitch meeting you ask the question, “Who’s my day-to-day contact?” and the response is anything but clear and immediate, then the assembled crowd probably isn’t sure how your business will be staffed.
It’s a glaringly obvious sign that some at the table are temporary additions—hired guns who won’t be part of the account team for the long term. That’s a bad sign. You want to make your agency decision based on who’s in the room at the time of the pitch, and who will be responsible for specific parts of your communication programs. Good agencies understand this and will put forth the people who will be doing the work.
if the senior representatives from the pitch team deliver the bulk of the presentation, it’s obvious you have a problem. The entire team should have a vested interest in the opportunity, and the agency should have the team dedicate time and energy toward the initiative.
Contributions during the pitch should come from all members of the assembled team, not just the senior crowd. As I mentioned in the last point, it should be clear who will handle each part of the program, and those people should speak to their assigned areas. Be certain the proposed account team members provide credible content about what they know and how they will contribute, or you could end up with unfulfilled expectations.
These three scenarios can help you determine whether you’re going to be the victim of an agency “bait and switch.” Am I missing other signs?
Scott Signore is the principal and CEO of Matter Communications. A version of this story first appeared on the agency's PR Whiteboard blog.