Whether you work at a boutique agency or one with an office in every country, pitching a potential new client to hire your team for their PR needs is hard work.
And although selling yourself to the leadership team is stressful, the real work begins far in advance. It often takes many weeks, or even months, to pull together a convincing business case to hire your PR firm, and the labor involved is a full-time job in and of itself.
Obvious steps in the prep work include grasping a good understanding of the prospect’s business, assigning talking points to the team and thinking of ideas to excite decision makers. However, after presenting in front of countless prospects over the years, I can tell you there are a few seemingly obvious but often overlooked steps in the prep work you shouldn’t forget.
Know the Website Like the Back of Your Hand
Of course you went to the prospect’s website, but did you just scan it, or did you really review its nooks and crannies? There’s nothing more terrifying than being in front of a chief marketing officer who asks, “What part of our website’s overall messaging has the most room for improvement?” or, “How do you feel about the trajectory of our blog topics over the last few months?”
You can’t walk into a boardroom and not know that website like the back of your hand. Answering one question incorrectly about the organization’s most visible asset will be the biggest red flag that you didn’t do your research.
Come with Real Opportunities, Not Just Ideas
Business pitches in the PR world are full of grand ideas. From the flashy logos of the publications you’ll be pitching, to fancy ideas for social media growth, it’s easy to get caught up in the dream.
To differentiate yourself from the pack, don’t just come with ideas; come with real opportunities. Reach out to a few trusted editors or social influencers and gauge their interest in a story about the prospect before your meeting. Have a couple of interns dig through editorial calendars and find a handful of upcoming topics to which the prospect could contribute.
Coming with those real opportunities in your back pocket will show you’re ready to hit the ground running.
Know What They Already Did
Anyone who’s pitched a prospective client has likely made this mistake. You confidently walk into the room, get to the slide about campaign ideas, and the PR and marketing team says, “We actually tried that last year, and it was a flop.”
Consider your high officially over.
Do your research on not only what you could do, but also about what they’ve already done. Use tools like Cision, TrendKite or Meltwater to audit their media coverage for at least the past two years and look for trends, sorting by common themes or big wins. Then you’ll know your ideas are actually original.
Know What Their Competitors Are Doing
While you’re doing step No. 3, also audit their main competitors’ last two years of coverage. Being able to say, “The media seems to be really interested when company XYZ does this” is a huge asset in these meetings. Plus, it gives you the names of a slew of reporters already covering their space.
Have at Least One Big Idea
It’s easy to leave big ideas out, because a client’s budget may not allow for them, but you have to come with one punchy idea to close the deal. Even if it’s outside the budget, it’s okay. The one big idea just shows you’re really thinking about reaching for the stars.
“We know this isn’t within the scope, but one idea we really thought would move the needle is…”
Leave them with an exciting idea to make an impression. It could be such a great idea that leadership budgets for the campaign the following year.
Be Confident You Can Execute
That said, make sure you can actually execute the big idea, or anything you propose, for that matter.
Did you just pitch the client a huge YouTube campaign, but don’t know the first thing about Final Cut Pro? Is it even legally possible to build an exact replica of the client’s mascot or product in Times Square as a PR stunt? Do your homework so you don’t look like an idiot when they actually hire you.