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How can PR pros engage the RFP process and live to tell about it? Robert spends some quality time this week with two experts on RFPs: Robert Udowitz and Steve Drake.
Responding to a PR request for proposals (RFP) can be stressful, time consuming, and sometimes futile. But it’s also necessary, as RFPs are a staple of agency business development efforts.
So how can PR pros engage the RFP process and live to tell about it? Robert spends some quality time this week with two experts on RFPs: Robert Udowitz and Steve Drake, principals of RFP Associates, based here in the Washington, D.C. metro area. They examine the pitfalls of the process and share some tips that will help us master our next RFP response.
- Steve Drake & Robert Udowitz
Our Silicon Valley client’s brief was clear. The fast-growing firm with an impressive roster of well-known clients worldwide wanted and needed the services of a global public relations firm with demonstrated experience managing multi-market, multi-national accounts -- one that could show itself to be a good steward of a respectable budget for a thought leadership and branding program in key markets in North America, Europe and Asia.
On paper, the candidate agencies we identified and helped our client evaluate were well-qualified. Each had company-owned and/or affiliate offices in all the requisite markets, and were armed with case studies that trumpeted impressive experience in at least some of those. But as the RFP process moved from proposals, to presentations and client reference interviews, deficiencies and flaws among the agencies surfaced. Chief among them: (1) weak examples of managing truly global, multi-market accounts; and (2) an inability, or unwillingness (or both) to be creative with a budget which in this case was set in the high six figures.
Multi-market account coordination and budget management.
To listen to executives of both PR agencies and client organizations tell it, the request-for-proposal (RFP) process is hopelessly dysfunctional, and frequently dead on arrival.
Agencies point to an array of worries and concerns about RFPs. Among them: a complex and redundant process featuring tight deadlines, outsized expectations, a vague scope of work and an incomplete or completely missing budget. Many believe “the fix is in,” that the client organization knows precisely which agency it intends to hire and issues an RFP simply to satisfy a mandate by top management or the procurement department.
Meantime, hiring organizations cite their own concerns over what can be a daunting, time-consuming process,
PR agencies should and can improve their RFP response “batting average” by asking questions and pushing for complete information up front, avoiding the cookie cutter approach, looking inward before responding outward, and being prepared to put their best foot forward during the proposal and presentation process.
Those were the recommendations we shared with more than 50 firms when RFP Associates presented to mid-sized PR agency heads and senior executives last month during the PRSA Counselors Academy conference in California.
It was part of our launch and introduction of our newest offering, “RFP Response Ready,” a customized suite of services for PR agencies eager to improve their new business acumen and approach to the RFP response process.
Top Concerns of Agencies Responding to RFPs
Why Organizations Dread the RFP Process
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