Successful pitching – “juniors and giraffes”

Blog post by Adrian Wheeler, FPRCA – accredited PRCA trainer.

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In a pitch, clients look for evidence that they will get on with us. It’s all-important. No-one ever buys anything from someone they don’t like. In professional business services like PR, chemistry is very often the only reliable indicator.

Most clients, like the rest of us, try to rationalise this factor. ‘They speak our language’. ‘They are on the same page’. ‘They’re on our wavelength’. It means they feel happy to see us every other day for the coming year. Making the wrong choice is embarrassing and possibly career-threatening.

We have to come across as real, three-dimensional people in the brief time we are given for our pitch. If we’re charismatic geniuses, no problem. But what if we’re normal?

I suggest that a pitch should be planned and rehearsed like a play. Each ‘actor’ needs a part which they can perform to perfection. This might happen without planning and rehearsal, but it probably won’t: why take the chance? Don’t forget that smart clients ignore the brilliance of our senior people; they concentrate on the ‘juniors’, who they know will be doing the work.


The other kind of chemistry is what’s going on between members of our pitch team. Clients look for some kind of fizz or buzz. They don’t often see it but, when they do, they want it.

Maybe your pitch team displays sparkling interaction anyway. But why leave it to chance? One agency goes as far as scripting the jokes, interventions and teasing which will show their clients they are a creative hothouse. They win a lot of pitches.

An easier method is the ‘giraffe game’. On the way to the pitch, each team-member is given a word to use in their presentation. It has to be a word that would never normally appear in a new business pitch (like giraffe). The challenge is to use the word without the clients interrupting or laughing.

This game produces a kind of suppressed excitement which selection panels find intriguing. What’s going on? There’s obviously pretty good chemistry between these people…

The best-ever example was the word Jan gave to Sue on the way to pitch for IBM. It cannot be mentioned in a family newspaper, but if we meet at a PRCA event I’ll tell you how Sue managed it. She didn’t have to buy a single drink that evening.