John Brown - Communications Professional | The ‘B word’ — six things to improve the budget chat
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The ‘B word’ — six things to improve the budget chat

The ‘B word’ — six things to improve the budget chat

Ever seen a confident agency comms professional in a pitch? We leap like gazelles around a board room, staring CEOs in the eye and hitting them with emotive monologues that leave them audibly moaning with joy.

And that’s just during the introductions.

However, if you want to quickly bring a deafening silence to proceedings, then move the subject along to price and budget. PR professionals go from sturdy oaks to shrinking violets at the thought of discussing how much their glorious ideas cost.

Equally, our beloved clients with whom we’ve spent hours, days or perhaps years developing transparent relationships with, suddenly morph into Alan Sugar shopping at the Grand Bazaar for knock-off Nike t-shirts. Yet we don’t do this gig for free right? How else are we going to maintain our costly vegan diets and mid-afternoon Grenson polishing sessions if we don’t get paid for our work?

We need to get better and talking about cash. Here’s where I think we need to fundamentally improve.

First, from the agency professional side:

  • Get in early: If you’re leaving your budget talks to the bitter end then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a question of affordability as part of your opening discussion — it sets useful parameters for the proposal
  • Have some pride: If you don’t value your work then neither will the people you’re selling to (yes you’re selling — sorry about that). Let’s start getting a bit braver with what we include as part of a reasonable proposal and what’s simply giving things away for free. Stop the latter
  • Actually do some costing: I’ve fallen foul to the ‘finger in the air’ quote before. It’s not helpful for anyone. If you’ve properly costed a project then quote the figure, if not then don’t. If you must then provide a realistic but comfortable range

And for the clients:

  • Be open: Whilst it may be satisfying to say ‘you give me a price first’ to me it either means you’re lazy or have no idea about what you want — both scenarios are not conducive to a healthy relationship. Have budget parameters in mind and share them.
  • Shortlist effectively: If you own a garage in Wimbledon and are looking to get some PR advice then chances are you don’t need a global agency to service your needs. Be realistic about who you invite to pitch. Ring round, do the research, get some example fees and select accordingly
  • Write a specific brief: I know, the temptation to re-use a brief from four years ago is great, but you’ll get out of date responses for where you are today. Writing a brief from scratch clarifies your needs in your mind and provides the agency with the right direction with which to respond and, importantly, accurately cost
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