Tag Archives: pitch defeat

Lessons from Nick Clegg.

Many, including me, tipped Nick Clegg to win the debate. After all, as the ousider with less to lose and the fresher face he had everything going for him. None however anticipated the scale of his victory which was down to performance not policies.

There are many things he got right in front of the cameras  but two in particular stand out and are pointers to all who pitch or interview. 


1.Be charming

All three no doubt can be charming company but only Clegg charmed on air. He resisted the temptation to say too much under pressure of the clock, he did not rush to answer as if in a race, he paused to think, he listened-and was seen to listen- to questioners whose names he remembered.

He, more than his rivals, realised that in this debate viewers would not find it easy to take in, let alone evaluate, the content. So less worried about what to say, he made certain that we liked the way he said it. His relaxed body language and his easy eye contact with the camera/viewer set him apart.

” Nonchalantly hands in his pockets and with his humanity beautifully rehearsed and turned up to the max”. This is how the MoS summed it up.

2. A great opening.

Clegg  made that old adage work for him, ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression.’   He knew that a strong opening not only gets the audience on side it makes you feel good, boosting your confidence from word go. It worked and put the others on the back foot.


A cleverly worded opener, which he wrote himself, positioned him as if above his squabbling rivals. “Don’t let anyone tell you that the only choice is the old politics.  We can do something different this time.”

From the start his words and his manner, calm, fresh and engaging meant he came across as different and better. Not a bad outcome which must have pleased John Starkey his campaign director. When at Saatchi his mantra for assessing communication was how is it different, how is it better?

Getting positive about defeat.

The London pitch is resolved.  Boris won and Ken lost, the situation that anyone who pitches will find themselves in more often than not. After all, if any company won , consistently over time, the majority of competitive pitches they would become a virtual monopoly.

So, how should we make the best out of losing?

Immediately, in the aftermath, sulk, cry, moan ‘not fair ref’, drink,  rationalise ‘ they were not our kind of people’, whatever, then get over it ,fast. Next get positive.

Review as a team, not a ‘mea culpa’ what we did wrong session but one of  positive learning, what we will do better next time. Get better insight to the decision takers, manage time more effectively, answer the brief,  review casting and chemistry, improve the theatre and so on. Every pitch is unique so you can always learn.

Then follow up with the rejecting client. Usually they cannot give you useful criticism, partly because they don’t want to offend , partly because they don’t want to say that your faces didn’t fit. Your real purpose should be one of making certain that you are the first company called on for the next oppportunity . Sometimes this can be sooner than expected if the winner screws up!

Ken, I feel is giving an object lesson in turning defeat to advantage . Handling interviews with grace, a good loser, he is aready paving the way to his next career, wooing us as readers of the book and as viewers of his inevitable television apperarances.

Years ago, Iain  Johnstone, writer, broadcaster, filmmaker, was being attacked in a radio interview over his latest film, subject of bad reviews. Rather than get defensive, Iain gave a classic reponse on the lines of ” in Chinese the word for crisis and opportunity are  one and the same”