Looking for a Public Relations Agency? Use our Free matching service to find the right agency for you.

User login

Five words that will win you new business

New business should be a priority for everyone these days.

But for PR agencies, new business is a thorny subject much of which goes against the normal methods of the discipline.

It relies on things like CRM, cold outreach, account-based marketing, cadence and closing.

The PR skill set is much more attuned to nuance, subtlety, psychology and creativity.

The five words that I’m going to give you were given to me by one of the greatest business-winning pitch men in the advertising industry and subsequently, on my podcast – Fuel - dozens of creative agency leaders have said something similar.

First, let’s set the scene.

There are three sources of new business. All need attention, but in quantities that vary over time and busyness.

Referrals and recommendations. This is the good stuff. It’s your bread and butter. It’s low-friction and relies on your splendid account management and client direction to nurture. The downside is that you never have any control over when it happens, and simply speaking it’s usually more of what got you famous in the first place.

Lukewarm lead gen. These are prospects that look like your existing clients but don’t know you. They might be a similar size, or have similar problems to solve, or work in the same sector, so the work in your portfolio is something that will resonate with them. This is a huge area of opportunity, but you need data, time, research and time. It’s an investment but it’s always worth it and the impact of not doing any of it at any time is obvious. You miss 100% of the shots you never take.

Cold outreach. This is you dictating where your agency is going to be in three to five years’ time. You need to plot your new business strategy in reverse. Look at where you want to be and then fill in all the gaps on the way there. It might involve a bit of content marketing, thought leadership, a podcast, a webinar, social media campaign, influencer marketing – however you decide to do it, this part of the puzzle is vital for setting the direction of travel of your agency.

What tools do you need?

Obviously, having rich, accurate data that gets you to the front of the line is one thing.

What gets their attention is quite another.

The most common example I have discovered comes from my many interviews with successful creative communications agencies. It’s simply a portfolio of great creative work.

Do good work and it will become part of your new business arsenal.

Good work speaks for itself. It’s your best new business tool. CMOs and CEOs buy into agencies because they identify with the work and their desire and expectations are already set.

These leaders don’t pitch their agencies with a 50-page creds deck; they put on a showreel of their best work and talk around that.

Buyers these days have already done most of the homework and research that many agencies pad their presentations with.

The main focus of your initial new business meeting is to relate and identify the issues that you can solve.

Those five words

There are many variants of this theory but you don’t often hear it mentioned in any conversation about new business, and yet it’s the one thing we all hear our internal voices ask.

When applied, it gives you a direction for your opening proposition in any meeting.

Rather than, as soon as the pleasantries are over, you barrel into why your agency is the right choice, just put yourself in your prospect’s shoes and ask:

“What’s in it for me?”

There’s not a transaction that you make in your life that does not consider this question. It could be an emotional dose of dopamine or it could be the feeling of enhanced social or business status.

By outlining to the prospect, the benefits of your plan they will experience, you’ll begin the meeting by making it all about them.

I know we all like to think that we’re “great in a one-to-one situation” but here’s three extra words to help you win that prospect over.

Research, rehearse, revise.

Make new business a regular part of your operations and you’ll never regret it.



PRCA recently announced a new collaboration with dedicated agency new business platform, The Advertist. Everything you need to get started in new business, including trade news, a powerful GDPR-compliant contact database, daily People Moves, Tenders, M&A and freshly funded intel.

As a PRCA member, you get 25% off the annual subscription. To take a free trial email and mention your PRCA membership.