Most new business pitches done by B2B PR agencies like us require a lot of creative input and thinking. Usually a detailed brief is either prepared or gleaned from the potential client by the agency through meetings and calls prior to the pitch. This process helps us to understand the organisation’s requirements so that we can provide ideas and recommendations that fit their needs. Clients tend not to want ‘robots’ but an individual and well matched addition to their team.
Recently however we had an interesting experience at Skout, when we were asked to complete a formal tender for a potential piece of work. Admittedly there was public money involved so it was understandable that this was going be required. What was surprising though was the lack of specific brief and opportunity to ask for further information at all. We’ve entered public tenders before so we’re familiar with the difference in a procurement-led approach, but in all previous cases there has at least been something of a brief in it, or a chance to ask questions.
Although we gave it our best shot we were unsuccessful. Now that the sour grapes have been eaten, it does beg the question – can procurement really lead a creative purchase? Firstly, although generally PR agencies should possess a standard set of capabilities, the standards of those skills can vary significantly from one to the other. Without gaining more depth than a 600 word maximum written response on how you would run the PR programme I would say it is difficult to ascertain the level of skill the agency possesses. Secondly, you have no insight into the people and whether they are a good fit for the organisation and you will work well together.
It’s all a bit like marrying someone you’ve never met based purely on their CV!
We all know that spending public money has to be compliant and fair but does it have to be done blindly too? Certainly buying creative services is about buying into individuals, more akin to recruitment than procurement.