It's all gone according to plan so far.

You have put together a great brief and whittled down your agencies to just three for the final pitch. Then all the agencies give brilliant presentations and there is really nothing to choose between them.

Problem. Which one do you go for?

The danger is that you end up making an emotional, irrational decision and select the wrong agency on the day. You start citing things like personal chemistry, confidence of the pitch team, the quality of their PowerPoint slides as the basis of your final choice. But what do any of those things really matter? Very little when it comes down to the reality of running a PR campaign over time.

The problem tends to stem from the need to make a decision at a specific time. The selection team members have convinced each other that they MUST choose the winning agency on the day of the final pitches and that’s that.

It’s crucial to take some time out in these circumstances. Each member of the panel should go through all the presentations privately the day after the final pitches and re-evaluate them according to the following:

Quality of the account team (points out of 10)

Check back over the people who have been put up to handle your account. Is there a good mix of managers and executives? Are you getting access to senior people? Is there enough resource overall?

Experience (points out of 5)

How does the team’s experience measure up? No matter how good their ideas may be, they will not be able to deliver them effectively unless they have the right experience and media contacts in your market.

Approach and strategy (points out of 10)

Bit of a grey area. But how confident are you about each agency’s strategy for maximising the effectiveness of their campaign? What about their overall approach to implementation? Is there too much fresh air between their ideas and how they would make them happen?

Quality of ideas (points out of 5)

This is where a lot of clients go wrong. Agencies are good at putting together great ideas. Sometimes they can be quite stunning. But be careful not to be too seduced by creativity. All ideas must be practical or they are worthless.

Commercial offer (points out of 10)

Some agencies just take a stab at a budget. Others put forward really attractive commercial models, offering discounts, performance related fees and so on. Take a careful look at what is being proposed.

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