Thursday, 19 March 2009

"We were going to do that": protecting pitch ideas

This piece from PR Week started me thinking about the issue of IP in PR pitches. It’s almost impossible to copyright an idea or concept – as Graham Goodkind points out, it’s easy for the client to say that the winning agency also had the same idea. And indeed they might have done.

I think expecting the PRCA to ‘do something about it’ is a bit ridiculous. If we insist on giving away ideas for free at the pitch stage, then we can’t expect them not to be copied. Of course, we could build in pre-pitch contracts that state we own the IP, and put the onus on the prospective client to prove the other agency had the idea (by showing original pitch documents, for example). But if a prospect isn't put off by that, they could get round it. It's a bit heavy handed, too – and in this market, I'll bet agencies won't do it, for fear of getting struck of the pitch list, now or in the future. I suspect this is a bit of PRCA-bashing, because individual agencies can’t work out how to manage the issue themselves, and want (shock) a bit of press coverage.

The problem is deeper than a rather petulant “they nicked our idea”. If we’re offering prospects something that anyone else can do, we’re not really differentiating ourselves, nor are we demonstrating the value that we could bring implementing that idea. Until we can do that, there’s not much the PRCA or anyone else, can do to help.


James said...

We recently lost a pitch, despite the client citing us as "the most creative, innovative and passionate" about the subject. Apparently the winning agency talked a good talk on the policy side of things and that had swayed the decision makers. Interestingly the client then came back to us to ask if they could purchase one of our ideas from us. This was a pleasant surprise and all credit to the client for not just stealing it. Unfortunately we have yet progress the discussion at this point. Mergers may have put an end to the whole project.

I agree wholeheartedly with your last statement - it is not just the idea, it is the whole package a client buys, it is our job to show that us+idea=success, clearly we need to up our game if the above example is anything to go by!

twt. @jamesharper

Richard Houghton said...

Kate you are bang on. Please stop whining and giving away the valuable stuff for free. As Mr Goodkind is only too well aware - a good idea doesn't mind where its home is!

Kate Hartley said...

That's really interesting, James - perhaps we should give prospects the option of buying ideas from us at the pitch stage? It would make them think that we were serious about not letting them go for free.

Kate Hartley said...

Richard - quite.