The Art of the Virtual Pitch, Part 2: Prepping the Creative Brief and Getting to Work
This is Part 2 of a four-part series on The Art of the Virtual Pitch. In Part 1, I laid out some strategies to help you cut through all the virtual noise and stand out to potential clients. Now let’s cover what happens after you’ve accepted the RFP, and need to develop your pitch without the benefit of in-person meetings. There are two guiding principles to live by when drafting a creative brief to get all members of your team ready to brainstorm:
Principle No. 1: Invest Your Time in Organizing
Now that you don’t have the luxury to kick things off in person, it’s critical to have documents to keep people aligned. You need to spell out roles and responsibilities, and create a work plan with clear owners and assignments for each deliverable. You’ll also need a new way to handle onboarding a bunch of different folks.
Instead of picking up the phone again and again to launch into your onboarding spiel, devote your time to developing a robust creative brief. In one document, you lay out:
- all the relevant research,
- the problems you’re trying to solve,
- the details of the RFP, and
- anything else you don’t want to find yourself repeating ad nauseam.
This briefing document becomes the foundation for briefing people moving forward and gives you the landscape analysis you need to craft the insight that will be the jumping-off point for your strategy.
A thorough creative brief gets everyone marching in the right direction, but the toughest element of pitch development to pull off in an all-remote setting is brainstorming, which brings me to my second principle.
Principle No. 2: Don’t Treat Virtual Meetings Like In-Person Meetings
We’ve all been at brainstorming sessions when many or all attendees are calling in to a conference line. The remote brainstorm is nothing new. It’s just that actually doing them effectively and ensuring participation is still really difficult.
Leverage that creative brief you already worked on! Everyone should have it well in advance, and they need to be held accountable for really knowing it. This isn’t just another email attachment in a meeting invite. It’s what everyone will be working from, and it’s absolutely required reading for every meeting.
In fact, successful virtual brainstorming generally requires the team to put more time than usual into meeting prep. Exercises that you’d normally depend on teams to do together in meetings, you might now have to have people do in advance. To help quickly ideate on a bunch of different things, give people two to three action items to brainstorm against on their own. They can present those ideas in a conference call, and the team can build from there instead of starting the call from the ground up.
Also consider assigning more structured brainstorming exercises in advance. One of my personal favorites is called “Pass It Along.” Here’s how it works: When I’m working on those big multi-million dollar pitches, I set up four to five teams consisting of four to five people each, and they have their own mini brainstorm.
First, one person writes down the germ of an idea. Then the second person builds on it, making it even bigger. The third person goes wild, making it so big they could get fired. Then, the last person brings the idea back down to being realistic. This approach forces the big, bold thinking you need. Later, the groups can present their hero idea to the larger group, which jumpstarts your process.
Adjust your brainstorming process to follow my two principles for virtual pitch development and you’ll have a winning deck in no time.
Next time, I want to discuss the finer points of presenting online and helping your team’s chemistry shine through. If you have questions about the art of the virtual pitch, tweet me @RumEkhtiar.
Rum Ekhtiar, founder of Rum and Co, is focused on brand strategies that work, ideas that are creative, new businesses pitches that win, and teams who work toward a common goal. With over 20 years of experience, he's worked with companies like Novartis, Citi, MetLife, and others, helping them transform their business, their story, and their engagement model. In this blog, he'll advise marketers on ways to break through creative and strategic blocks, methods to navigate client relationships, and how to ultimately realize the full potential of their capabilities. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and connect with him on LinkedIn.