EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION
WHEN, a few years ago my old friend John Gough (the Obi-Wan Kenobi of media) - asked me to become an Entertainment Masterclass trainer — we were on a huge boat in Cannes at the time, obligatory glass of champagne in hand — I was hugely flattered to be asked to join a faculty that includes such TV legends as Peter Bazalgette, David Liddiment and Paul Jackson.
But I was also pleased for another, less self-serving reason — namely my belief that the entertainment industry is in real need of more, and better, education. Far too few people in the film, television and advertising business understand the value of training or are prepared to invest in it. There is not nearly enough emphasis placed on mentoring and coaching, let alone the psychological truths that underpin all our interactions, from the commercial to the creative. And yet, in today's brutal media market, education has never been more important.
And of all the tools in the modern executive's bag of tricks, pitching — the art and science of persuading people to give you, rather than your competitor, their business — is arguably the most important. Strange, then, that pitching is also one of the least understood disciplines. All too often the process is rushed, the participants are unprepared and the outcome is unsatisfactory.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: it's not always the best companies or the most innovative formats that are the most successful; it's the best pitched. That may not be fair, and it may reflect badly on the creative judgement of the industry, but it's the truth. And smart people get over it.
But I've discovered over 20 years in business that it's a double bind: those same smart people — the one's who are already investing in training — know this already. The less smart people don't realise they need to know it. They think it's all smoke and mirrors, and airy-fairy psychology. They think that when they lose, it was down to something else. The client was blind. The competitors pulled some dirty tricks. The creative people let them down.
Yes, the business case has to be right. Yes, the product or format has to work, but if you've ever seen a product, a TV show or anything else and thought, "That should never have made it..." then you know that product or format superiority is highly subjective, at best.
This is a people-driven business and you ignore that fact at your peril.