Your Ideas Are Bad & You Should Feel Bad: Letting Clients Down Gently

13 Mar Your Ideas Are Bad & You Should Feel Bad: Letting Clients Down Gently

We’ve all been there – a client comes to you with a “ground-breaking” pitch idea that they want you to see to completion.  It is so incredibly, so incredibly newsworthy, that nothing short of Wired/NY Times/Time would make them happy.  What is this pitch idea, you ask?

It’s a product point release.  Or a standard marketing campaign.  Or a mid-level new hire.

The actual pitch ideas themselves change from client to client, but the cold fact remains that this awesome news is mediocre at best.  Obviously, you’re not going to tell your client that their idea sucks or, worse, laugh in their face, but talking them off a ledge like this can be incredibly tricky.

So what strategies should you employ when clients latch onto a not-so-great pitch idea?

Pick Out the Importance

First and foremost, you need to put yourself in your client’s shoes – why do they want this “news” to go out in the first place?  What’s the importance to them?  More than likely there is pressure from higher up for this innocuous announcement to become a big deal or there’s a budget emphasis in play.  Once you discern where this sense of importance is coming from, you can better advise your client on alternative ways to help achieve their goals with this announcement, rather than high-level pitch campaign that will likely fall short.


Another method to talk a client out of a bad pitch is to merge their idea with one that you feel will be more successful.  For example, if a marketing campaign is on the table for a pitch effort, then try to use the theme/language from the campaign in a wider, more media-friendly pitch.  It’s likely that your client is more interested in getting the theme of their news out to the masses rather than the actual news itself, so adapting more successful pitch efforts to reflect the client’s preferred focus can help defuse the situation.

Enhance.  Enhance.  ENHANCE.

Just because you are tasked with pitching a boring piece of news doesn’t mean that your pitch effort has to be boring.  What other trends can you tie into the point release?  Does a marketing campaign reflect a wider industry problem?  Does the new mid-level hire have a specific expertise that you can run with?  Before completely decrying a client’s desire for a specific announcement, find out everything you can about the topic – maybe there’s a way to package this pitch idea that you hadn’t thought of before.

So that’s my take on handling uninteresting pitch topics handed down by clients – what about you? Do you have your own strategies for making boring pitches more…punchy?

–John Terrill

John Terrill
No Comments

Post A Comment

Where'd we go? Speakerbox is now REQ. Find our new, awesome content here.