The worst job pitches?

Our CEO received an annoying email today. I know this because she forwarded it on and said it had annoyed her.

The email contained an attachment – a critique of the St John Ambulance Life Lost campaign. Now, we’ve had quite a few critiques and some have been very useful and insightful. This was neither. It made certain assumptions about the campaign’s strategic objectives – assumptions which rather suggested that the writer had never worked in (a) marketing or (b) a charity. Yet the writer claimed to be a charity marketing consultant. The covering email was, frankly, awkward.

I don’t know what the consultant thought Sue was going to do on receipt of the email. But if he thought that the brilliance of his analysis would bring him our business, he seriously misjudged. Which doesn’t sound like terrific marketing.

If this sounds a little churlish and graceless, perhaps it’s because we’ve received some quite good cold pitches recently, even though we’re not looking to move any of our PR business. When people take the trouble to show that they’ve seen our latest campaign and then link their service to fulfilling our objectives, then it works.

Here’s another one that didn’t work, which I received the day after we achieved record coverage:

Caller: Hello, I’m from [insert name of well known PR agency]. We were just wondering if you had any campaigns you wanted some help with.

Me: Well we’re quite busy at the moment. I don’t know if you’ve seen our new campaign that launched yesterday. It was, ooh, everywhere and there’s a Times leader about it. Did you see any of it?

Caller: No, I hadn’t seen any of that. So you don’t need any help then?

Me: Not from you, no, but thanks for the call.

OK, I know we can get over-excited about the coverage we get, but had they not thought to Google the organisation they were about to pitch to?

Job interviews are no different. The well prepared candidate comes along with some questions that mark them out. The poor candidate comes along with ones that are badly thought through and which lead to bizarre exchanges. Here’s the worst I’ve so far encountered:

Me: OK, thank you, and that’s the end of my questions, so now it’s your turn – do you have anything you’d like to ask?

Candidate: I was just wondering whether [insert name] is still involved with the organisation?

Me: Oh yes, she is. She works quite closely with our team. (Conversationally:) Do you know her?

Candidate (surprised by the follow up): Not really, no.

Me (puzzled): But you know something of her work, for other organisations maybe?

Candidate (brightly): Oh no, I’ve never heard of her.

Me (confused): I don’t understand…

Candidate (sure she is about to make a killer point): You see, there is a picture of her in your annual review.

As a way of proving that she’d done her homework and could remember the name of a complete stranger from our annual review, it was of course a brilliant question. But on many other levels, the worst question I’ve ever heard. I hope the candidate has found subsequent success, but we did not invite her to join our organisation.

What do you think?

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