By Clare Gurton

Once you have made a shortlist of no more than five agencies, ask each of them to present themselves and/or ‘pitch’ for a particular project. This is your chance to pick the right agency for the job, based on what you see and what you hear.

It makes no sense to attempt to outwit an agency or withhold information at this stage. Be sure to tell each agency everything that you can and be as honest and straightforward as possible. Be clear about what you need and any time or budget limitations you have. If possible, provide a full written brief of the job/project; its aims and objectives and how you want the agency to work with you. Make sure you give each agency enough time to prepare fully before coming in to present; often this may include interrogating the brief, so you should make yourself available to do this.

Try to book enough time for each agency to present properly and, if possible, avoid seeing all agencies on the same day – this will give you time to reflect on each presentation. It will also avoid agencies tripping over one another as they come to your offices.

Before each presentation be clear about what you are looking for – what’s essential and what’s important – a check-list may help. During the presentation, ask questions and make sure you are satisfied with the answers and that you fully understand what is being proposed. Ask who you would be working with and how communications would be maintained – remember to be realistic about any personality clashes. It doesn’t matter how good an idea is if you feel you might have problems with the account executive or project manager.

After you’ve heard all the presentations, let things settle for a day or two before you make a decision. If you need to ask further questions, or need more information, ask the agency during this time. But make a final decision within a week while the prospective agencies’ presentations are still clear in your mind.