PR agencies typically have to earn the business they win by jumping through multiple hoops. Often we get an RFI (Request for Information) or an RFP (Request for Proposals) from the company looking to hire a new firm.
(Anyone who has completed these knows they’re laborious, time-sucking exercises that don’t accomplish much more than a half-hour phone call would—but that’s part of the gig, and a blog post for a different day.)
Now, if your PR firm is selected to advance to the next round, that typically means pulling together a comprehensive presentation that shows the prospect how your team thinks, what they’d actually do, and how much it would cost.
That’s a lot of work, right? And when you consider that PR agencies often go up against three-to-five competing firms, the odds are stacked against you from the get-go.
Here’s how you can make sure you have no chance to win the PR business, despite hours-upon-hours of work:
Fill the presentation with 20 slides about how wonderful your firm is, and about stellar work you’ve done for other companies. This will effectively alert the prospect to the fact that you’ve just regurgitated the contents of the RFP into slide form, and haven’t spent any time actually thinking about their unique business needs. Kiss the business goodbye.
Include boilerplate slides lifted from prior presentations that discuss PR basics like “thought leadership” and “byline articles” and “building momentum.” If you can simply switch the prospect’s name out for any other prospect, you aren’t fooling anyone except yourself, lazybones.
Bring five people to the pitch, including the principal of the firm and two vice presidents, none of whom will actually be working on the account for more than a few hours a month. Make sure the other two staffers in the room (both junior) remain silent until it’s their turn to clumsily talk through the one slide you made them practice in the mirror for five hours. The prospect will know who’s really going to be working the account. Pro tip: not your firm.
Make sure the pitch team doesn’t research the key bloggers and reporters that the prospect obviously cares about. Avoid researching competitors, analyst opinions, and current industry trends. Winning teams leap at the chance to discuss these in detail. Losing firms all look at each other uncomfortably during the meeting, eyes darting wildly, when prospects ask pointed questions. But, hey, you’ll have a funny “worst pitch ever” story to scare interns with.
Fudge the truth about services you offer, reporters you know, how many clients you work on, and your personal background—and do it unconvincingly. The key here is to leave as many question marks in the prospect’s head as possible, including: “How did these clowns get in here?”
Parry Headrick is vice president of marketing and communications at Matter Communications.
A version of this article first appeared on the company’s blog.