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Why agencies should indeed charge a pitch fee

In a blog of early March, my colleague Sebastiaan Scheepers gave three reasons why agencies are better off not charging a pitch fee. I concur with his article for the most part. Yes, we do spend a lot of time on preparation. And, yes, time is money. But at the same time, as Sebastiaan puts it, a pitch is also an opportunity to further stir up the dynamics in your company, enthuse your staff, flaunt your creativity and talents, thus reeling in that nice new client.

However, from the perspective of a managing partner, things look somewhat different, which was confirmed to me at a plenary session on the theme during our last Worldcom meeting in Hong Kong.

Number crunching: part of the job?

We at Wisse are not entirely turnover driven. Thankfully, our agency is full of people who enjoy PR, being in touch with clients, making an impact on behalf of their clients and writing a fine piece of copy. But one does not exclude the other. In fact, watching the numbers a bit more closely only makes the job more challenging, in my opinion, as it becomes more comprehensive.

True PR people are word wizards, and word wizards don’t usually enjoy the rigidity of number crunching. This number crunching, however, is part of the deal for any full-fledged consultant. After all, your most creative ideas for your client are always developed within the budget, timeframe, geographical and communicative frameworks made available to you. This makes everyone at Wisse both word wizard and project manager to their clients, ‘unburdener’ even. Precisely this unburdening appears to be an important reason for clients to hire an agency like ours, instead of managing their own teams of copywriters, graphic designers and site builders and publishing the content via a news wire.

Pitching? Part of the job

What I am trying to say is: our clients primarily come to us because they know we create good content but also because we unburden them. Our process of monitoring, content creation and content distribution relies on good project management, to the enormous benefit of the client. So, the number crunching, planning and reporting is simply part of the job.

And so is pitching, as far as I am concerned. A pitch is the start of a partnership. The agency researches the company for which it pitches, performs competitor analyses, finds out which communication channels are already in use and which aren't yet, develops a timeline and a good campaign and is ready to start the day after the pitch. And many of our colleagues in the Worldcom network feel exactly the same way.

It is definitely not about the money that you get for the pitch. It actually pales compared to the retainer fee you receive when a pitch jury hires you on the basis of good preparation and creative ideas. The point is to get paid for the work that you do, just like any other professional. This video aptly illustrates that point.

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