Communicating in a ‘Pitch’

pitchThere was a TV show on last spring called The Pitch.  Basically it was a reality show that each week followed two different ad agencies around for a full week, as they developed an ad campaign for a prospective client.  At the end of the show, each company would pitch the client their ideas and hope to win the account.

What was interesting about the show, from a communications point of view, was grasping an understanding of the customer – but who exactly was the real customer?  Was the customer the retail buyer, so it was important to understand the customer that would buy the product and the ad campaign needed to be geared to the consumer?  Or, was the real customer the CEO, the decision maker who would decide if the ad idea was to his liking?

Watching the show with dual viewpoints was most interesting, especially when the ad agency had a good understanding of the core customer and how to appeal to the consumer, but the CEO didn’t agree with the direction.  So – should the ad agency work to please the decision maker to win the account, but deliver what they consider to be an inferior product?  Or should the ad agency stick by their guns and argue for the better idea, in hopes of proving value with stronger retail results, but risk alienating the CEO and not getting the client?

This happens more often than is realized, in different contexts.   You may think you know who you are pitching, but in reality that isn’t the real customer.  Part of clear communication is not only expressing ideas clearly and succinctly for good understanding, but also having a clear recognition of who you should be dealing with.  Often much time is wasted explaining our position to the wrong person.  This can be avoided by thinking to clarify the right person up front; simply taking the time to do so.

But when emotions run high, clear thinking and clear communication can go out the window.  We lash at whoever is closest and seems potentially responsible, because it’s the easy route, which can later be regretted when it turns out that we have unleashed a torrent of nasty words on a largely if not wholly innocent.

Or what if we find ourselves in a similar dilemma as the ad agency above – right person, but our action may result in an undesirable consequence.  What to do?  While that answer does depend largely on what’s at stake, if it is assumed that high stakes are high, most people show their character at times like these.

COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY:  When communicating with others, an often overlooked consideration is who the real ‘customer’ is in a transaction.  When exercising good communication be clear on this point – or time, energy, and resources will be wasted.  Another consideration – when the real customer is accurately determined, but the message is undesirable – should you taper your communication accordingly (assuming high stakes)?  Can you really serve two masters?

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