Pitching to Potential Clients

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Apr 7, 2009 in PRSSA, Public Relations, Student-Run Firms

I recently had the opportunity to write for The Firm, PRSSA’s student-run firm newsletter. Here is my article about pitching to potential clients. Or, click here to read the entire newsletter.

Pitching to Potential Clients
The Firm, March 2009

Pitching potential clients is a good way to gain business for a student-run public relations firm. Before pitching a potential account, follow these three steps:

1. Research the account before the meeting.
Before you meet with a potential client, you should have a general idea of what type of work they do and who they serve. You also should be prepared to ask questions to further your knowledge about the account.

2. Research the industry and review competitors.
To come up with the best pitch, you should research the industry and the client’s competitors. Additionally, it is helpful to see what other businesses or organizations similar to the client are doing. This will give you competitive ideas.

3. Evaluate the client’s Web site, brochures, newsletters or other promotional material.
In addition to coming up with new ideas to help the potential client, you should tell them how you can help improve their current strategies and tactics.

The first meeting is very important. If possible, you should pitch the potential client face-to-face. This is when first impressions will be formed and the potential client will decide whether to work with your student-run firm. To sell your firm and services, follow these four steps:

1. Present yourself as a professional.
Although you are a student, you also are representing your firm as a professional. This not only means you should dress nice, but you also need to be prepared and act professional.

2. Be ready to explain exactly what public relations is.
Some businesses or organizations might think public relations is advertising or marketing. Have an explanation ready for the client about what public relations is and how it is valuable.

3. Bring a portfolio.
Have samples of work ready to show to the client. This will help you explain your ideas on how you can help.

4. Find out the client’s problems and areas of concern.
By asking questions and finding out problems and concerns, you can find ways to best help the client.

After the meeting, your job isn’t over. To show that you are proactive, you need to go beyond meeting the client and discussing ideas. The next four steps can help you bring in the client and build a solid reputation for your firm:

1. Send a thank you note.
Write a short, thoughtful note to thank the potential client for taking the time to listen to your pitch.

2. Brainstorm more ideas on what you can do for the account.
After mulling it over, you may come up with new ideas. Brainstorming will help you find more ways to help the account and will create a strong image for your firm.

3. Research strategies on solving the client’s problems.
If the account has a specific problem, researching how other businesses or organizations have solved it can be helpful. For example, if the account needs to increase awareness, find out how similar businesses or organizations have done this successfully.

4. Prepare a proposal.
Whether you’ve gotten the account or they are still on the fence, a proposal should be created to outline the exact strategies and tactics you would complete on a specific timeline. If you’ve gotten the account, then they will be impressed that you prepared a proposal quickly. If not, the proposal will be an additional piece of information to help the potential client decide if your firm is right for them.

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Victim of a Bad Pitch

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Feb 18, 2009 in Public Relations, Story Pitching, Uncategorized

Call the police. I’ve been a victim of a bad pitch.

I’ve often heard or read that the common complaint among journalists is the bad pitch.

BadPitch: When a public relations professional sends an off-target pitch completely unrelated to the writer’s niche in an attempt to get media coverage. See ineffective.

I received this e-mail from a “PR professional”:

“I represent a client that’s offering a new look at healthcare by offering an affordable alternative to traditional insurance options.

His client’s name here is connecting patients with board certified physicians that will see, test, and take care of preventative healthcare needs for a one-time prepaid annual membership fee. No deductibles, no co-pays, no premiums.

Why the his client’s name here: (He goes on to list five reasons why his client is so great…)

The client’s name here sees the future as, pay for a catastrophic insurance policy and buy an NIC preventative care membership save money and receive more care.

I would be happy to connect you with the company director, participating doctors and even patients for interviews and to learn more about the network.

After visiting his Web site (which was way too overdone with bold text and blinking banners), I replied:

As a public relations professional, I am wondering why you sent me this. It is not targeted towards me at all. It has absolutely no relation to the “healthcare crisis story” you tried to relate it to in the subject line.
My blog post was about the “Motrin Moms” crisis, not health care or insurance. The post was about public relations, communication and social media.
I feel like the e-mail you sent is borderline spam. I’m not sure how long you have been in the PR industry, but I strongly suggest reevaluating your pitching techniques. Some bloggers will put you on a blacklist for this sort of thing. I simply will ask you to remove my name and e-mail from your mailing list.

Rachel M. Esterline

According to his Web site, he graduated college before I was even born. He supposedly has more than 20 years experience. So maybe he doesn’t realize that bad pitches to bloggers is not an acceptable practice. Or maybe he doesn’t realize that he could be blacklisted.

Knowing what it’s like to be the victim of a bad pitch will help me know what not to do in my career.

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Six Things I’ve Learned In Advertising This Month

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Feb 9, 2009 in Advertising, CM Life

I’ve been working at CM Life as an account executive for almost a month now. Even in this short amount of time, I’ve learned a lot.

  1. Cold calls. You’ll have the good, the bad and the worse. I made a few cold calls last Friday. One place said they were interested in advertising and I set up a time to go in. The next place said the person I could talk to was out, so I left a message and sent a fax with the information. Another place wasn’t sold on advertising, but was nice enough to humor me through my pitch and let me stop by with information. The last place I called said no. Don’t let the no’s get you down.
  2. Appearance matters. Most days I head to class and work with my boots on (even when wearing my dress pants since I have classes on opposite sides of campus). The boots are warm and they keep the snow out of my shoes. But, I keep two pairs of nice heels in my back seat and put them on before seeing the clients who I know will judge me by my shoes (like that really expensive salon!).
  3. Yes versus no. It’s harder for people to say no or treat you rudely in person. Whenever possible, I like to meet with clients in person as soon as possible. Which leads me to the next point…
  4. Building relationships. My job isn’t about selling. It’s about the relationships I build. If they don’t like me, they aren’t going to buy from me. It’s a college town and they will still get business even if they don’t advertise.
  5. Phone skills are important. Before this job, my phone skills were decent. Now, I am in the habit of answering the phone with “Hello, this is Rachel.” I also take interest in others and ask people how they are doing (refer back to No. 4).

Another point I’d like to make is that you should be nice (or at least decent) to telephone sales pitches. Before this job, I would just hang up on them. Now, I let them do their pitch and let them down easily by explaining that I just don’t have the money.

I now know how it feels to be treated rudely on the phone. I am the one, of course, who had a person listen to me say “I’m from CM Life” and then she started saying, “No English! No English!”

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How working in advertising can help a PR career

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Jan 5, 2009 in Advertising, Career, CM Life, Public Relations

Today was my first day as an account executive at CM Life. It was overwhelming at first. I started cold-calling from my list of assigned clients. A few wanted to talk to me, some didn’t seem to care and one pretended not to speak English.

But I already see how being an advertising representative can help me in my public relations career. Below are five ways working in advertising helps a career in public relations.

1. Cold-calling clients will prepare you for cold-calling reporters. Some automatically tried to turn me away without listening and some were actually be interested.

2. The pitch needs be be well-tailored. Why should a business run an ad? Why should a reporter write a story?

3. Stay positive. Just because the first ten clients (or reporters) turn you down, it doesn’t mean you don’t have something good. Refer to number 2.

4. Make it easy. I’ve pulled ads that have already been run and calculated the pricing for my meetings with clients because I want to make getting an ad easy for them. Using press releases, fact sheets and reliable sources, you can make writing a story easier for a reporter.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. The people who are working beside you were new once too. They probably asked the same questions you want to ask them and they are very willing to answer them for you.

For those of you who have worked in advertising, how has it helped your career?

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