Perfect Pitch Jon Steel
the Jon Steel page
Jon Steel at the APG
review of Perfect pitch
interview with jon steel about his book Perfect Pitch when I spoke to Jon in 2007. Its a podcast 50 minutes in length –
the man entrusted with improving the quality of the planning across WPP talks about Perfect Pitch, Truth Lies and advertising,
how he got into planning. why he went to America, how to train planners,
how to get a job in WPP and whether you can learn planning by blogging (well everyone else has taken a stance so why shouldn’t he?)
Russell Davies podcasted an interview with Jon Steel on Nov 17, 2006 –
but that link seems to have been taken down now so you will have to chase Russell for that.
at the time I tried to ensure there was no duplication of content
buy Perfect Pitch (I have written a review below)
Extracts from the Jon Steel APG presentation on Jan 16th 2007
The following audio clips are extracts from the presentation.
The figures attached to the questions give an indication of file size –
about 1 megabyte per minute as a guideline. Click on the icons to hear the mp3 files play back.
If you want to hear the full presentation (there is plenty more) then you should be able to get it from the APG website.
Review of Perfect Pitch
This is a great book – yup lets start with the outcome and work forwards – which is pretty much the core insight at the heart of this book about the pitching process. Its a great book because it is written by a novelist who hasn’t found someone to publish his novels so has poured a love of storytelling, precise observation and careful structure into a business book, when by his own admission he doesn’t like business books and doesn’t read them. Another reason it is such a great read is that the thinking about how to pitch successfully is something that is relevant to just about everybody in business – and further afield as well so it deserves much wider circulation than adland and even on marketer’s bookshelves. The last reason is that the writer draws on examples of successful persuasion which don’t involve advertising: the OJ Simpson defence, Churchill’s 1941 fight them on the beaches speech to the House of commons in 19841. So this really is a universal primer in how to make your case and make it successfully.
Here’s why. Firstly Jon Steel is a planner – he is paid to strategise. Most books about presentations and pitching steer away from the content – how can you advise on that? More peculiarly the point of making presentations is to achieve the outcome the presenter wants. And this doesn’t often get talked about. Perfect pitch goes straight for the jugular. This book explains how to plan to win pitches – I’ve never read a book like it – I suspect this is the first of its kind.
Secondly, Steel has been working in the USA as a partner in Goodby Berlin Silverstein and leading pitches to some of the world’s most successful corporations. According to the book his success rate has been 9 out of 10 pitches. While he was a Goodby Belin Silverstein the agencies billings grew from some 35 million dollars to over 700 million. Pitches aren’t won by individuals but if you want to find out what a winning formula looks like – you’re more likely to find it here.
So what have we got? Well the book covers the bases – how to lose how to write presentations, how to avoid death by Powerpoint, how to lead a team – but it flows so well it isn’t the usual business book swing from topic tree to topic tree – which allows Steel to go into some surprising territory. There’s a whole chapter about making enough space for creative thinking before ever sitting down and firing up presentation software – this means switching your blackberry off or taking a sledgehammer to it as the author eventually did. There’s an brilliant chapter about follow through – the pitch is the journey – pitches can be won afterwards by what is left behind – by what the agency does next. Another demonstration that if you want to compete at the top level you can’t allow the outcome to depend on a two hour meeting dominated by a screen with words on it. Probably the most memorable part of the book is the framing devices – the use of the OJ trial to show how presentations can be lost as well as won, the use of the Churchill speech to show how to dazzle without needing Powerpoint slides – if you want a flavour of this then check out the audio above from the APG event where Steel satirizes the Powerpoint version of the speech. I’m only sorry I can’t include the Powerpoint slides he used to make it even funnier but it still makes hilarious listening. The final coup is a dissection of the successsful British bid to host the 2012 Olympics. Steel spent 2 days with Magliano who led the Olympic bid presentation who took him through the 45 minutes beat by beat.
What Steel shows beyond doubt is that most agencies are playing at new business. No agency could sustain pitches of this intensity and run a pitch or two every week. It turns out that the Goodby Berlin and Silverstein winning streak came from pitching at most 4 times a year and spending as much time deciding if they wanted to pitch and if the client was worth working with as pitching for the business itself. If there is a flaw in this perfect account of the art of ‘high’ pitching it is that if this book is only read by the foot soldiers in a rare moment between being orderered out of the trenches into another yet another ill conceived charge across no man’s land, then little is going to change. If agency managers pay attention and if any have the courage of Steel’s convictions then perhaps the quality of pitching can be raise. But it needs discipline. As Steel says in the interview – the key to successful pitching is resisting the instincts which if given their head are wreck pitches every single time. But after this eloquent and passionate account they can’t say he didn’t make his case.
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