It seems we find ourselves living in a time where people are able to promise the Earth, without having a plan in place to deliver on those promises – to say whatever they want to win and grab centre stage and worry about the ‘how’ later.
This actually isn’t a commentary on modern politics but is an observation on how an increasing number of agencies appear to treat the pitch process.
You may have experienced it yourself, having your head turned by a maverick PR agency that comes to the pitch with some very bold promises about how they can elevate your predominantly trade brand and get you coverage in mainstream media you’ve never really considered before. It’s an intriguing thought and if you’re honest, regular coverage in the trade press doesn’t quite excite to the same degree, but you remain sensibly sceptical. When questioned, the agency stands by their claim in a cool-headed, confident manner so, taking them at their word, you award them the contract.
You plan to work with them for at least two years and the first meetings you have are an investment by both parties. Them - to learn all about you. You - pulling in resource, staff and training to get the agency up to speed so that they can really understand the ethos of your organisation.
It’s at that point they go off to try and put in place the grand plan that you have put your trust in them delivering. Of course, the grander the plan, the longer it will take to achieve and the sense of failure will be greater. But, you’re OK with that; they reassured you at the pitch that they can pull it off, so you go with it, knowing that it will take time.
A few months in and you start to notice that all the time spent working on trying to pull off the big idea, is having a detrimental impact on your day-to-day PR activity and your share of voice within your core trade press has slipped markedly.
In your mind, it’s a temporary price worth paying. They need time to get to grips with the trade press, whilst you ultimately have your eyes firmly set on the much bigger prize promised. You’re further reassured to learn of their plans to lobby and wine and dine key journalists on the nationals.
And yet still the day-to-day elements seem to be suffering.
It goes on, with each update meeting becoming more and more uncomfortable as many of the options, first outlined at the pitch, seem to have been shut down, as each of the journalists reports that ‘it isn’t really the type of thing’ they cover.
Enquiring at each update meeting about the core day-to-day communications that your board and sales team are asking you to report back on, you begin to lose patience with the agency that is still telling you to keep the faith. And on and on it goes, until you decide that, like the modern world around you – if the promise seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Big on promises, great on rhetoric but long on delivery, neglecting the day-to-day running of things…sound familiar?
So what do you learn from this process? That solid trade PR, while potentially not overly glamorous, is a fundamental requirement for anyone that wants to build or maintain their brand's standing in the industry and that the true test of an agency, their ability to deliver, is through the editorial contacts that they rely on and have built up over time.
Did the agency you gave the job to understand the nuance of B2B messaging, that positioning within your main market should never be overlooked, no matter what the bright shiny idea might have been? Scratch below the surface of the idea. What will it actually deliver for you in terms of credibility, visibility, traffic and leads?
Don’t abandon the basics of any communications campaign.
Perhaps the best advice is, always ask the editors that run the titles in your sector to recommend agencies first. It could save you the time, stress, hassle and actually deliver the project you set out to achieve in the first place.