Guest Column: Media pitch management a corporate Swayamvara: Prabhakar Tiwari, The MargDarshak
Is the media pitch really necessary at this time? Why are we reviewing the media relationship in the first place? Have we checked the media contract for notice period and termination? Should we do the pitch before a major campaign for creating a sense of urgency for the incumbent agency and new suitors? Do we have a clear pitch brief? How will we manage our internal dynamics between marketing, business and sourcing units? What will be the criteria for a fair and transparent process?
Many such questions arise when companies decide to go for the media pitch process. The closest analogy for capturing the various complexities and moods governing media pitch management comes from the ancient practice of a Swayamvara. Here, a young and beautiful princess chooses her groom from a group of invited deserving princes, if one of the them clears the carefully designed qualifying task. Essentially, media pitch management is like a corporate Swayamvara, where the task of managing media spends (the princess) goes to a deserving media agency (the prince) once they perform against the qualifying criteria laid down and judged by marketing, sourcing and business units.
Having made a point here for the elaborate media pitch, we would also like to point out that sometimes, workshops and trial projects are also effective methods of choosing an agency; but Swayamvara is a more grand and definite way of doing it.
Media pitch management specialist agencies bring to the table an in-depth understanding of media services landscape, processes and media agency’s underlying revenue motives. As a primer for your media pitch management process, we propose a five-step framework to capture a clear intentioned, outcome-led and transparent process.
1. Snapshot of current media services landscape
An essential part of the pitch management process would be a keen understanding of the current media services landscape. All media agencies go through the churn of fortunes with changing times. At a specific time period, when the client is planning a media pitch process, some agencies might be enjoying their golden period and some others might be withering away. An insider view gives you a huge advantage in terms of inviting the right suitors, choosing one and exacting from them a commitment towards your business.
Remember your princess (the precious media spends) deserves the most skilled and respected prince (winner media agency) among all suitors. Hence, be doubly sure on who you invite for the Corporate Swayamvara (Media Pitch).
2. Documented deliverables and unwritten expectations
It’s important to thoroughly design the Pitch Document, taking inputs from all stakeholders including the marketing team, business head and sourcing team. Pitch document alignment is the single most important step. It’s probably the most rational part of the entire process before emotions and other complex issues kick in, once the pitch process is underway.
One way to manage the pitch briefing process would be to hold team chemistry meetings and sign a confidentiality agreement. While it’s theoretically possible to capture all rational requirements in terms of deliverables at the beginning itself, the challenging part arises during and after the process towards unwritten expectations of responsible partnership and camaraderie between client and agency side professionals.
In the Swayamvara, the king’s counsel could design the toughest task to gauge the professional expertise of the prince which could resemble targeting a fish’s eye with its reflection on an oil surface. But, this skill alone won’t be sufficient for the princess’ happily ever after with the prince post-wedding. There’s more!
3. Process compliance
It’s important to lay down a proper process flow with full understanding and commitment of both the participating media agencies and assessors from the client side. In such cases, there’s a process momentum, which has to be maintained for eventual success and a desirable outcome. All stakeholders should align towards following a defined start date and planned end date for the media pitch process. The situation will evolve rapidly, once you start the process. Thus, it’s important that the time and process commitments are absolute from all participants. In absence of such commitments, a back and forth movement would keep swaying the process flow, resulting in wasted time, energy and enthusiasm of all involved. The most astute Pitch process management would have deviation and escalation matrix in place for countering any wasteful occurrences.
As a thumb rule, no more than six agencies should be asked to prepare extended credentials or ‘think-piece’ presentations before shortlisting. During such preparatory phase, you should be willing to share background data, interpretation and clarification with confidential terms.
Finally, you should invite up to three agencies to pitch (or four, if incumbent is involved.) There’s an external and internal dynamics to any big Swayamvara. The sulking princes that didn’t get the invitation will wait on the sidelines to jeopardize the proceedings along with internal ‘cloak and dagger’ wielders, with their own set of hidden agendas. It’s important for king’s counsel to plan for all eventualities to ensure a desirable outcome from the Swayamvara.
4. Evaluation system
While the evaluation system is a critical lynchpin for a fair and transparent process, this system also serves a larger purpose in terms of guiding the pitch presentations and ensuing discussion.
Once the process starts; irritation, apathy and anticipation start their mind games. Process participants can’t afford to get distracted or misguided by possible trivialities. That’s where the evaluation system captures all relevant views in a transparent rating criteria.
While in a very broad sense, an evaluation system will revolve around agency reputations, track record, business acumen, creativity and personal chemistry, we are suggesting a simplified five buckets process for a robust evaluation system:
1. Marketing Strategy Fit: Do they understand our market and business?
Understanding of your industry/ category/ business construct
Creativity quotient with robust planning inputs
Capacity and interest in meeting your objectives/ deadlines
2. Fit with Corporate Strategy: Is there an alignment at the highest possible level?
Buy-in from top bosses of both sides
Intent and capability to form strategic partnership with the client
Global and regional tie-ups in case of MNCs
3. Fit with your culture: Is there a powerful context for collaboration?
Softer side of cultural norms and working styles
Look at personalities and egos involved for ‘comfort levels’
4. Cost Structure: Are they an affordable and RoI led partner for the given budget size?
Lowest rate card doesn’t mean cheapest
Commitment towards a competitive and value-added negotiation on client’s behalf
Assess based on the specific media spends the impact your budgets
5. Differentiators: What’s the Wow factor here?
Any proprietary media tool which can offer competitive advantages
Excellent recent track record of agency side team with awards etc.
Finally, you can put three to five questions with rating points (suggest a five-point rating scale) under each of above five buckets (with their weightage totaling 100%). Once you calculate the weighted score for all agencies in the media pitch, you would have a winner agency with the highest score to do business with. Such an approach would make it a more objective scoring mechanism and probably stand up to auditing and defending, if necessary.
The king and his counsel are concerned with the Princess’ long-term welfare and are responsible for it. These royals are aware of the fallouts of the Swayamvara process gone wrong. Hence, it’s only natural to allow them to have a say in the design of any evaluation system and recording their inputs.
5. Declare the process completion
All pitch participants need to be managed with understanding and respect towards the end of process as well. A formal feedback should be shared either in writing or face to face or both. Remember, in the usual course of business, you would undertake such pitch process in future too. It pays to not burn the bridges and keep a comfortable relationship for future business possibilities.
Swayamvara by design will give an outcome of one selection and a much bigger number of rejections. If a proper post-pitch process management is not followed, such rejected and bruised egos would surely hurt the interest of the host kingdom sooner or later.
In conclusion, the above was a relatively simplified framework structure for such pitch management processes. The dynamics within client business and current media agency-client relationship play an important role during the pitch management. Companies should involve specialist agencies to design a tailor-made process to ensure a timeline compliance and proper resource allocation for the process. Finally, the pitch management specialist agency would also help thresh out the contractual and remuneration terms post pitch process.
And God willing, the princess and the prince will live happily ever after.
(The author Prabhakar Tiwari is Founder and CEO of The MargDarshak Inc.)
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent theviews of exchange4media.com
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