Hello, my friends in PR. Some of you have seen that I'm looking for a new agency, and a few of you have submitted responses to the RFI we sent out. I even met with some of you these past few weeks. I am excited to hear of your continued success, cheered to see that you continue to employ creative, passionate people, and heartened that in this challenging economy, you continue to be able to pay the rent on your trendy office locations, with hardwood floors and cute dogs running around and exotic bottled water.
So it is with the utmost respect and appreciation that I offer you these five tips for pitching marketers in the future:
1. Cut the bullshit.
While many marketing executives are guilty of hyper-inflating the NASCAR slide, you know, the one with all your customer logos on it, how many of you really did work for Apple? Or Sun? Or Google? Be aware that the community of marketing execs is small, and people talk, and if you feel confident enough to list a company as a client in your logo slide, be sure that we'll ring up our friends at the company and check on the work you did. Especially if you don't list them on your reference sheet.
Also, if you are claiming fantastic results year-over-year, congratulations! But please don't compare your work in a year when the company didn't have ANY PR representation, to the work you did getting ramped up.
If the only time I'm going to meet the fantastic founders who drove strategy for Edelman/Fleishman/Porter/etc. is at the pitch meeting, tell me. I'm going to ask anyway and you may as well come clean. Tell me if my retainer is too small to get the big brains on the account.
and speaking of retainers,
2. Knock it off with the retainers.
I do want to be able to predict my marketing budget, so paying you variable rates based on project work isn't the best option. But neither is writing regular checks to you every month, whether I have a big product launch you are working on, or it's December and not much pitching is happening. I believe you should get paid a fair rate for the work you do, but exactly what you're doing is so opaque to me, and so painful to get from you, that I constantly feel like I'm getting ripped off. I know you feel you're not, so let's come up with a system of billing that is transparent.
and transparency leads me to,
3. Invest in a way to track the work that your people perform.
In speaking with a lot of PR friends "unofficially," it's pretty clear that most agencies have a pretty lousy system for tracking exactly what their staffers are doing day-to-day. While I'm all for mid-day breaks for Guitar Hero, I also think you should be running your business like any professional services firm, and tracking your people's billable hours. And by the way, once you get that system set up, let me, your client, have access to the same data, so I can see who is working on my account, how long they are spending, and what they are doing with all that time.
and time reminds me of
4. The time you spend managing the account is at least as important as the time you spend servicing the account.
I don't like threats and I loathe intimidation tactics. Still, if your attention to my account spikes to feverish levels once I tell you I'm putting the account up for review, I'm going to view the delta between the number of phone calls I got before I gave you the news, and the number after, as evidence that I'm not getting the kind of attention I need. We should be having regular chats, not just about progress on the account, but about my industry, your industry, and long-term strategy. If the only time you head out for a power lunch is when our annual contract is up for renewal, that's an indication of how you manage relationships. And through the transitive property of PR, I'm going to suspect that your relationships with the press and the media are run in a similarly opportunistic way. I'll never argue your account management tactics with you, but I challenge you to develop a long term view of the agency/client relationship.
and by the way, you should remember to always
5. Challenge me.
I'm hiring you for your expertise, your accumulated time in the industry, your learnings from failures as well as successes. If I'm asking you to do something that you KNOW won't work because you've done it before, tell me. And stick to your guns. If I question your decision, hold fast. Don't do it because I tell you to do it, but explain to me all the reasons why your way is better. Or different. Or will generate better results.
In the end, it's all about results. That's how I'm measured and ultimately, it's how I will measure you. Be an honest, trustworthy, thoughtful adviser to me, and you'll be my agency for life, not just as this firm, but everywhere I'll go in the future.
And thanks for all the bottled water.