In the PR consulting business, we get many RFPs (Request for Proposals). Sometimes they are called an RFQ (Request for Qualifications). In either event, the process is simple. An organization is seeking the right PR/marketing firm and wants preliminary information before either making a decision, or taking it to the next step.
We are always happy to be considered to represent an organization. When we receive an RFP we first read the document carefully and look at the organization’s website to determine whether we are the right PR firm for them. We do a lot of things, but we are not right for every organization. Most, but not each one.
It is clear that much thought goes into the creation of the RFP. Most are comprehensive and ask the right questions. But sometimes one comes across our desk that we wish we could have written. Not because we’d skew it toward our abilities, but because it misses some of the questions that are most important, and places emphasis on areas that are least important.
For example, we get RFPs from nonprofits wanting to know our nonprofit experience. Being one of our specialties, that is a no-brainer for us. But not all nonprofits are created equal nor do they all work in the same area. Just because a PR firm has represented nonprofits, that doesn’t mean they understand every cause. So it’s important to find out if the firm has ever worked in the area the organization works.
The way this is often done is to ask the firm to describe a similar situation and the outcomes. Often there have been similar campaigns that a PR firm has undertaken, but every campaign is unique. If a marketing firm has done the exact campaign for another agency, then what you’ll get is the same campaign that’s been done before. Don’t you want original thinking? Why not ask what is the firm’s approach to problem solving a situation, rather than show that they’ve done it before successfully so it can be copied?
The other area that we believe often needs work is that organizations seeking a PR firm want the firm to create and deliver the entire PR plan — with monthly budgeting — before they are on-board. To ask a PR firm to create the plan without the benefit of knowing more about the client; objectives, is like asking a lawyer to defend a client without meeting them. Campaigns are created with clients; and without their input it is just something off the shelf.
Last is budget. It is totally understandable that an organization wants to know the fees a PR firm charges before they hire them. Or, whether they can create and implement a campaign within the available budget. But it is difficult to predict to the penny how much time a PR campaign will cost and how the expenses will run. It is best to speak in terms of time, campaign objectives and so forth that is tied to budget, rather than ask for a budget for a campaign that has yet to be created.
These are just some of the tips we’d like to put out there if you’re considering creating an RFP.
And if you do, we hope you’ll include us in your search.