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01 February 2002

Pitching for PR advice

Choosing a creative consultancy - advertising, design or public relations - can be tough if you don't have referrals you can rely on.

Some clients ask for competing pitches. This is a good tactic with large advertising accounts, because the agency has the incentive to invest a lot of time and expense into its pitch. Also, with many brand marketing campaigns, creative is king.

With PR, the accounts are usually smaller and strategy is paramount. Creative comes later.

A good way to choose a PR consultancy is to ask the firms on your short-list to devise a strategy for a product promotion or an issue you need dealt with. Fully brief the contenders and offer to pay them for their work.

Payment clarifies the issue of who owns the intellectual property in the pitch document. If an unsuccessful agency has some good ideas which you decide to adopt, you have a free hand.

More importantly, it provides the agency with the incentive to research your activities and the environment within which you operate. In the process they will identify some key issues and be able to make some initial recommendations about the best way forward.

In the process you'll be able to assess the skills, operating methods and the personal qualities of the people you will be dealing with at the successful agency. Of course, you must be satisfied that the individuals from the consultancy who do the pitch will be the people who manage your account.

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