Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Glitch in the Pitch - It's Back to the Basics

Blogs should share deep insights, preferably on new/emerging topics. The more the writer breaks new insights, the greater the equity. Still, here I am writing the kindergarten stuff. What to do? I had a glitch week and instead of grumbling, I thought of sharing the notes I had scribbled.

I sat through a week of credentials and strategy presentations last month, by five PR agencies on behalf of a client, an international organization with ambitious plans for its India market. Here’s my experience.

The brief was inked. The agencies were invited and the stage was set for the credentials and strategy presentations by a select group of PR agencies.  One by one, they trooped in, loaded with their arsenal and determined to impress. But there were glitches along the way. 

 The Technical Glitch:

Most agencies arrived on dot or rushed in a minute or two later than the appointed hour. Of course, Murphy’s Law had to prevail. The projector sulked and threw a tantrum and simply refused to talk to the agency laptop. The Managing Director huffed and the Account Manager puffed, while the Account Executive frantically pulled and tugged at the wires. Finally, someone remembered and scurried to get that wonderful little device called the USB stick. The agency presentation was copied and the USB was stuck into the client laptop. Lo! The projector was happy to recognize a familiar client and beamed brightly.

Nothing much was lost, except 17 minutes on the clock and some points on the agency score card

The WYSIWYG glitch:

Anyway, time to move on. The introductions were made and the agency credentials rolled.

When the ‘Our Clients’ slide came up, we relaxed. The projector glitch was forgiven. It was such an impressive client portfolio. The Leaders, the Fast 50, the Top 100, the Game-Changers, the Innovators – they were all there.  Our confidence was reinforced. Then someone from the Client played spoil sport. The agency was asked to pick out the India vs. Global, Current vs. Past logos. When the exercise was done, the ‘Current-India’ client portfolio simply did not represent the ‘Global-Past-Present’ list.

What You See, Is What You (Don’t) Get!

 The WIIFM glitch:

We shook off the mild dissonance creeping in and resolved to pay attention to the rest of the credentials. In most cases, the credentials presentation was the standard cookie-cutter stuff. It began with an over-arching global slide with ‘geo-presence’ followed by the ‘global team’ slide that had people broadly grinning down from their frames. (I half expected them to wave. The Potter-effect… my bad, anyway…). The slides continued with methodology, client portfolio, strengths and so on.   I couldn’t shake off that feeling of Déjà vu. Ah! Now I remembered. The agency website had showcased all this really well. I made note to ask about the web agency that had designed their website. Good job.

The slides continue to fly in and zoom out. We waited in eager anticipation to see how their story would be aligned to us, our specific challenges, our goals and our requirements. But before we knew, the pitch had ended. “Thank you so much for giving us this opportunity…. We are really hungry to win this account…”

They promised to email the presentation.

The Mobile Glitch:  

The shortlisted agencies then returned to present their strategies. The client goals were ambitious and we leaned forward in anticipation.

There were some astute observations and interesting ideas. A favorable murmur went through the client team. An animated discussion was about to begin. Just then, a shiny, smart phone rattled and danced on the table, on vibration mode.  Sorry… the presenter punched the red button and pushed the phone in his pocket. Okay, so where were we? We went back to the discussion, determined not to be swayed by these minor distractions. Focus returned, but not for long. In just 10 minutes, another agency phone hopped madly again.

I decided that I preferred the Ring Tone to the Vibration Mode, when everyone could hear it anyway.

This takes the cake Glitch:

Ten days after getting a polite ‘No’ from us, we got a call from the agency headquarters. There had been a communication gap and the practice head was not aware of this pitch ….they had a practice team, with all the experience and expertise to fulfil our requirements….we should really give them another chance to present. Uh? Okay. We masked our disbelief… No problem. These things happen… but we really can’t be unfair to the other agencies. The credentials are done and the shortlisted agencies have been intimated. They persisted and so we relented.

We waited for the domain capability note - sharp, strategic, outlining high value. It arrived twelve days later by email.

It was the same presentation with just three new slides added.

What’s your pitch glitch story?

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