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Tall Stories at Pitch Time!

By: Firas Sleem, Managing Director, Virtue PR & Marketing Communications

I was having this discussion the other day with one of my colleagues in the PR industry who has switched to the client side after many years of being on the agency side. He said he was wondering how MDs of PR agencies can dedicate 10 percent of their time to more than 50 clients! 

Transparency, transparency and transparency! I believe this is the crucial element needed to win a new client. Clients won’t buy those tall claims of time percentage, and even if they do, they will figure out after a couple of weeks of working together that this MD is not giving them the amount of attention he promised. That is a sure way of losing one’s credibility. 

When an MD personally visits a new client, he makes sure to get an army of persons, whom the client may never see again, once the contract is signed! 

Ironically, these top agency guys talk and talk, leaving no room for the account service guy to present his credentials to the client to whom he would be dedicating 100 % of his time! 

Advice for clients 

Here are a few do’s and don’ts for clients to consider before they select an agency, be it boutique, medium or large. 

Before meeting a new PR agency for your business, put on paper your goals from a PR campaign by first assessing your PR requirements and also share with the new agency your experience of working with the last agency, as this will make them aware of what exactly you are expecting from a PR programme, strategically and tactically. 

Ask for the agency’s credentials, media relations competence, account management team, team leaders’ profiles, experiences in the industry and their list of clients. Understand the culture of the agency. Ask its clients about their experience with them. Remember, no one knows an agency more than an existing client. He knows them inside out, their expertise, their attitude, their assets, their customer servicing standards and deliverables. There’s no harm in asking a key industry journalist about the agency, as this would give an idea about their media relations capabilities. 

Campaign measurement tools 

Ask the new agency for their metrics of launching a campaign. Give them time to present their credentials and always focus on the profile, expertise, attitude and capabilities of the actual professionals who are going be handling the account, not those top guys at the agency. If they fail to present themselves in a convincing way, they will fail to present your messages amongst your key stakeholders, including media. 

Look into the chemistry between your team and theirs. Account handlers should be people who know the industry you work in deeply. 

Take the time to find out who will be the communications specialists and editors who will be writing your corporate and product materials. They too need to have experience within your industry. 

Mini workshop 

Invite the team that you will be working with to a mini workshop. Insist on the team appointed by the agency to handle the account, not the group of business development professionals they use in initial stages to sell the agency. 

Ask for the presentation to be presented as per the percentage of time that every member of the team will be allocated, so that you know better the team you will be working with. 

It will really help to organize a training workshop so that the PR team becomes hands-on with your services and products, competition and communications challenges you faced in the past, past share of voice, etc. 

Let the points of contacts from your company mingle with the agency’s account handlers. After all, it will depend on these two groups whether a PR campaign will be a success or not.


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Our mission is straightforward: Assist organizations and companies reach their true potential through communications. We are a full-service communications consultancy operating across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. 

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