Looking for a new agency? Make sure your RFP is relevant Lately, I've had the opportunity to share lunch, drinks or dinner with several colleagues in the PR industry. We each represent different types of firms of varying sizes. Interestingly (well, to me anyway), a topic that has come up repeatedly has to do with RFPs (Requests for Proposal). These are documents companies and government entities send to start the process of selecting an agency, either as a long term partner or for a specific project. To the person, we have expressed amazement - and, frankly, irritation - over what is required of agencies just to get in the game. Here are some of the things my friends and I have seen companies require in their RFPs: > Sample press releases that demonstrate the agency's ability to make an "appropriate announcement of news"; > Several examples of specific pitches. (One RFP required the agency to develop four different angles about an upcoming servicet that was outlined in the RFP summary and write a pitch for consumer media, trade media, the business press and analysts.); > Actual graphic comps of suggested logos, including applications such as letterhead and business cards; > Examples of editorial calendars, with specific pitches for X number of potential calendar opportunities. It is not uncommon for it to take several agency people a week or two to respond to some RFPs. It can cost the agency thousands of dollars to prepare answers to questions just to see if they get selected to present even more ideas. Meanwhile, companies often decide up front to issue RFPs to X number of agencies with the intent of inviting only 3 (or some other arbitrary number) in to do a presentation. My friends and I have traded stories about situations where we have invested heavily in RFPs and new business pitches, only to see the company stay with their existing agency or decide they want to do everything in-house. That is certainly their perogative and I'm not a sore loser. But the fact is by going through the RFP process they are also now in possession of some great new ideas and even some specific angles and pitches. Some of my friends have even suggested that was the intention all along. ALL agencies that have been in business more than a couple of years can write a decent press release. Who can't connect the dots between editorial calendars and pitches? Truth is, procurement's due diligence process should be able to ferret out the contenders easily. So what's the solution? Make the RFP process relevant by asking questions that really matter. For years I hired agencies when I was on the client side. What I cared about - and still do - is this: how do the people in the agency THINK? What processes do they use? What relationships do they have that will benefit my company? What experience do they have in my industry? How do they provide complementary services, such as market research, consulting and advertising? How have they been recognized in their industry? In my industry? How long have their clients been with them? In what ways do they contribute to the community? How do they resolve conflict? How accessible are they? What expectations do they have of their clients? The answers to these questions will tell you what you really need to know about whether the agency is a match for your organization. Don't get me wrong - good agencies love to be challenged. We look for opportunities to strut our stuff. We want to share great ideas. We welcome tough questions. But we hate to waste time - ours or yours - wallowing in minutia that isn't really meaningful. So if you're an organization that uses the RFP process to find the companies that service you, give some thought to what it is you really need to know.
Are you relevant? Here's how to know: if you're absolutely certain what you offer really matters and you've won the mindshare and heartshare of your clients and potential clients, you "get" the SPUD Factor. SPUD stands for Strategic, Proactive, Universal, and Dynamic. If you aren't sure how relevant you are, or you fear becoming a SPUD Dud, this blog's for you. Find out what it takes to remain relevant in the face of change. Learn from good - and bad - examples how relevancy drives longevity.