Getting Your Idea Approved

We’ll be sharing notes from some of the most useful South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Conference sessions I attended, so you can live and learn vicariously – and save yourself the big price tag!

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As independent PR and social media consultants, we’re frequently in the position of proposing big ideas – we just need the green light from clients to work our magic. At the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Conference, marketing executives from some big name companies offered tips on “Getting Your Breakthrough Idea Approved by Decision Makers.”

According to Fara Howard, of Dell, using repetitive messaging each time you talk about a particular proposed project can help it resonate with executives (interesting that this works for internal audiences, as well as external). She raised another important point: be sure to listen to the client during the pitch and don’t focus too much on what you want to say. Listening to their questions, and providing thoughtful responses, is key to getting their buy-in.

It’s important to remember, “If a business tomorrow only does what it did yesterday, it’s not going to survive and flourish.” Helping your client understand and embrace change is an important part of our role as PR counselors, and will help us realize better success for them.

Andrew Runyon, of Walt Disney, brought up the importance of tying in your idea with organizational goals, and making sure what you’re proposing is measureable. If your pitch includes information on how you’ll measure success with real, quantifiable data, you’re more likely to get approval.

Another tactic, recommended by Nicole Cochran, of Chili’s Grill & Bar, is to run a pilot program “on the sly,” and then use the results as proof that your idea will work when you propose its use it in a broader context. Obviously, Solo PR Pros shouldn’t do this without the express buy-in and consent of a client point person, but it may be worth suggesting to your internal contact who needs help convincing higher-ups.

What are some of your top tips for getting approval on big ideas? Have you found some proven methods for getting to yes?

Thanks to Jennifer Spivak for contributing to this post.

  • Kellye and Jennifer –

    Thanks for sharing the recap.

    One tip that works well is taking the time to think through the challenges or holes your idea involves. It's so easy to get excited about the idea that we forget to step back and look at it objectively. Does the client have the resources to pull it off? Will it involve a change in their internal processes that could prove difficult? How is it different than that project they tried two years ago that didn't work?

    Objectively thinking through potential client questions and challenges ahead of time gives you the opportunity to improve the idea and provide well thought-out responses that can help make the client more comfortable with the proposal.

  • That's an excellent reminder, David! Sometimes an idea just isn't going to work for a particular client — no matter how grand. Giving yourself a reality check before proposing it can save you headaches, and if you do decide to move forward it can help you anticipate and respond to any resistance.