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How to hold a


The anonymous PSMG soapbox

agency pitch

Institutional lateness I hate being late for an appointment. My husband thinks it is an obsession that I have to be everywhere on time, but I just think it is the height of bad manners to agree a time to meet and then just not turn-up or turn up late. I appreciate that there are times when turning up late is unavoidable – the car broke down, the babysitter didn’t turn-up, a client is having a crisis – but habitual lateness is annoying and quite frankly rude. It sends the message that you are not important.

10 minutes late, 20 minutes – well that is just bad manners. It is popular to call a habit or undesirable trait in business or public life ‘institutional’. Well I believe ‘institutional lateness’ is endemic in professional services and it really ought to be stamped out. If you say you’ll meet at 4pm, meet at 4pm.

Five minutes late might be fashionable and yes, as a partner or fee-earner, you are likely to be busy and can for the most part be excused. But 10 minutes late, 20 minutes – well that is just bad manners. There are always exceptions to the rule, but I suspect that many people do not see ‘internal meetings’ as important – and for the most part they are not matters of life and death, or with thousands or millions of pounds hanging on them. But they are meetings all the same – and you have agreed to participate. Fee-earners are not the only busy people in the office. In fact, it is probably fair to say that, as a result of the various redundancy rounds over the past few years everyone in the office is busier than ever. If you are late for my meeting that means I will invariable be late for my next appointment, or, worse, you will cut short our meeting leaving me needing to come back to you for the missing information. A very unscientific piece of research with our receptionists tells me that clients are not kept waiting for appointments. And where there is any significant delay a message always seems to find its way to the waiting client. So why is it we are not afforded the same treatment?

If you have anything you would like to get of your chest please do email the editor Matt Baldwin – All emails received in the strictest of confidence.

30 PSMG May/June 2012

GRAHAME JONES Soukias Jones Design

Firms have honed their approach to selecting agencies through the use of pitches. But the pitching process itself needs to be carefully managed to ensure a successful outcome, for both firm and agency, says Grahame Jones of Soukias Jones Design.

inding the right agency can be a minefield, so holding pitches has become a popular way of separating the wheat from the chaff. It is not a perfect model, because most agencies are wary of providing ideas if they are not being paid. But, if managed well, pitches can provide a gateway to finding a true creative partner to help you build a distinctive brand identity. Having spent the past 20 years on the agency side of the pitching process, here is a simple guide I have developed to help professional services firms get the most out of their pitches.


Developing your brief Consult with your wider team to decide precisely what type of help you need. Is it conceptual, for a website, brochure or campaign, or design/artwork support? Then write a full and comprehensive brief, making sure all your internal stakeholders sign it off. There is nothing worse than getting halfway through the process only for key members of the team to start creating ripples because they failed to provide input on the initial brief. It is also important to define the type of pitch you are going to hold. Some firms ask for a ‘creative pitch’, where the agency presents their pre-prepared ideas at the meeting. If you run a creative pitch, expect to pay for it – most agencies are small businesses and cannot afford to speculate and take all the risk. It is both unfair and unprofessional to ask them to give away their ideas (and their time) for nothing. Agree a fee with them – this also has the benefit of setting the tone for future relations. Alternatively, some firms hold ‘credential presentations’, where the agency presents previous projects that addressed similar challenges to those facing your firm, with the aim of demonstrating their suitability for the task ahead.

Selecting agencies

Scoring the agencies

There are a variety of sources for agencies: recommendations, websites, agency mailings and directories. Take the time to check what projects agencies have worked on, who they have worked for and what they can offer you. Conduct some initial meetings. If you have time, visiting them will tell you a lot about their operations and their pedigree. Establish criteria upfront for evaluating each agency. This will include things such as project experience, approach to work, size, culture, expertise and perceived chemistry. This will help you filter out any unsuitable agencies, leaving you with a top three to invite to officially participate. Don’t be tempted to go beyond three as it risks turning the process into something of a lottery.

Develop a score sheet to help your stakeholders evaluate each agency and make a final decision. This is likely to include areas such as: • demonstration of creative capability; • evaluation of the team personnel attending; • summary of their ideas or case-studies relevant to the brief; • their process for fulfilling the contract; • the questions and queries they raise; and • ability to meet deadlines and budgets.

Inviting more than three agencies to pitch, runs the risk of turning the process into a lottery. Pre-pitch briefing Before launching the pitch, ensure you have: • developed a full brief for the project; • compiled a shortlist of suitable agencies; • confirmed the selection criteria with the agencies; • agreed the dates of the presentation and attendees; • decided what type of pitch you require; and • given the agencies adequate time to prepare their responses.

Once a final decision is reached, set aside some time to give feedback to the unsuccessful agencies. This will help them improve their performance next time. Of course, the pitching process represents only the beginning of your relationship with the chosen agency. By setting some time aside to follow the simple steps outlined above, there is a good chance your pitch process will yield a profitable and successful long-term relationship – something that is in the interest of both parties. Grahame Jones is co-founder of Soukias Jones Design. We specialise in professional services; whether you are targeting clients, laterals, graduates or staff, we use creativity to help create clear and distinctive brand communications. View our work on

Top tips for successful pitches • Develop a clear brief for the works before starting • Agree the type of pitch – creative or credentials • Establish criteria upfront for pre-selecting agencies • Invite no more than three agencies to pitch • Develop a brief for the pitch itself • Develop score sheet to help in selecting the winner!

May/June 2012 PSMG 31

Holding creative pitches  

It is common practice for firms to hold pitches when selecting new agencies. Some do it well, others less so. This article provides useful g...