Tuesday 12 December 2017

Valuable lessons when you're not pitch-perfect

Any PR agency out to win new business needs to be aware of the danger of making assumptions about the client and the brief. Pertinent questions need to be asked to ensure clarity and those hiring need to do research on the pitching agencies' previous work, a Public Relations Institute of Ireland (PRII) seminar on selecting an agency heard.

A common mistake by agencies was to make assumptions as to why a competition was being run. A review is undertaken for various reasons. There may be internal procurement rules in place, there's more work doing the rounds or there's a desire to benchmark the existing agency. Agencies should never assume the process is a closed shop, especially with a public tender. Feedback is a major consideration too.

While the winning agency learns a lot from feedback, agencies that don't make the cut can learn even more. The difference between winning and losing an account in future may come down to finding out what went wrong in previous new business presentations. Yet there are times when agencies don't bother to be debriefed on what went right and wrong at a pitch.

PR agencies need to be selective in presenting for new business and avoid the temptation to go all-out for every tender. Each agency has its own strengths and weaknesses and finite resources. With the business climate so fraught in recent years, there was a tendency to go for every piece of work.

A lot of agency time goes into pitches for work that's unlikely to be won. Agencies need to think through big ideas. Ideas with the wow! factor are well and good, but only if they are properly thought out, realistic and relevant to the brief. Big ideas that don't stand up to scrutiny and are way off budget do more harm than good.

A less 'sexy' idea which is clearly understood by clients and can easily be played out can often win out. Selecting an agency consumes a lot of in-house resources and is not undertaken lightly. In evaluating pitches, an internal panel may include the CEO and other non-marketing/PR executives. So respect should always be shown for the in-house team.

The forum was held in the Clarence Hotel and chaired by pitch doctor Brian Sparks of Agency Assessments. Contributors to the debate were Darina Sexton of Vodafone, Electric Ireland's Lisa Browne, Paddy Hughes of Drury Porter Novelli, and WHPR's consumer director Sharon Murphy, pictured below, with Tanya Clarke, who heads up Diageo's Reserve spirits across Western Europe.

* While the date of the next general election remains guesswork, the Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland (IAPI) knows it will be sorting through ballot papers next month as they fill five board vacancies. McCannBlue chief executive Orlaith Blaney's term as IAPI president is not only up but she also plans to leave adland for good at the end of the year.

Ogilvy's Dave Smyth and OMD boss Tim Griffiths (left), will not be seeking re-election. While Core Media's Aidan Greene must step down due to IAPI rules, he hopes to stand for election again. Javelin's Toni McTaggart is stepping down as IAPI's Futureheads rep. Nominations close on October 28, with results revealed at IAPI's AGM on November 25.

* Expressions of interest in two commercial radio licences currently held by Communicorp's Newstalk and TXFM have been advertised by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). The two services relate to a quasi-national speech/news station and an alternative rock music station for Dublin city and county.

Newstalk's contract runs until the end of next September and TXFM - formerly Phantom - has a licence which expires at the end of next October. Interested parties will be publicised and have until the start of December to apply.

* Loyalty marketing doyenne Leanne Papaioannou has rebranded her business. Papaioannou has dropped 'marketing' from her company name, so from now on the agency will be known simply as Chilli Pepper. Former An Post marketer Amie Peters and Dynamo worked on the refresh. Chilli Pepper clients include Arnotts, Coty, Electric Ireland, Bank of Ireland Global Markets and Topaz.

* October is upon us and with it comes shelves of new Irish books for the Christmas market. Former Heneghan PR consultant Norman Freeman turns to his days as a sailor and Marconi radio officer for his second book, The Lure of Far-Away Places (Liffey Press).

Included in the 59 real life anecdotes is the story of the ship's Irish doctor who dreaded having to operate in mid-ocean, the temptation to jump overboard and the ship's dartboard which was bartered for sex. Some of the tales were told on RTE Radio 1's Seascapes.

As they say, The Lure of Far-Away Places is available from all good bookshops. Our photograph (top) shows Norman Freeman (in centre) with Captain Kieran O'Higgins (on left), former ship's master and head of marine operations at Irish Lights, and Seascapes producer Marcus Connaughton (right).

Michael Cullen is editor of Marketing.ie; cullen@marketing.ie

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