Texas Utility Commission ignites statewide melee with dollars 36m RFP

HOUSTON: An RFP issued by the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) for its dollars 36 million campaign to build awareness of retail electric competition has instigated a PR free-for-all among regional and national agencies.

HOUSTON: An RFP issued by the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) for its dollars 36 million campaign to build awareness of retail electric competition has instigated a PR free-for-all among regional and national agencies.

HOUSTON: An RFP issued by the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC)

for its dollars 36 million campaign to build awareness of retail

electric competition has instigated a PR free-for-all among regional and

national agencies.



PR and ad firms across the state began touting their qualifications

almost immediately after the commission distributed 150 copies of the

RFP to likely suitors on July 21. Among the agencies expressing keen

interest were Burson-Marsteller, Fleishman-Hillard, TateAustin and

Dallas’ Allyn & Co.



The RFP calls for a broad, four-year integrated campaign with emphasis

on community outreach, media relations and printed materials. PR will

precede paid advertising and lead all communication efforts.



According to PUC customer education liaison Bob Bartels, bidders are

allowed to allocate funds among communication disciplines as they see

fit. The PUC, which budgeted dollars 11.5 million for the campaign’s

first year, expects the winning candidate to approach the project as a

new-product launch.



’We want to put responsibility on potential bidders to pull together the

implementation team,’ Bartels said. Citing state regulations and the

need to reach non-English-speaking audiences, Bartels added that the PUC

strongly encourages the use of subcontractors that qualify as

historically underutilized businesses.



New Hampshire utility specialists High Point Communications and Gregory

S. Franklin Associates won a dollars 360,000 contract last fall to

conduct preliminary research and develop a communication plan upon which

the current RFP is based. The complete text of the RFP and the High

Point/Franklin plan can be viewed at

www.puc.state.tx.us/whatsnew.cfm.



More than 30 PR and advertising firms sent representatives to a November

bidders’ conference, but many bowed out of the initial planning phase

because it would have disqualified them from going after the more

lucrative implementation work, Bartels said. A second bidders’

conference is scheduled in Austin for August 11, while notices of intent

are due August 18 and proposals must be submitted by September 18. The

PUC’s three-member commission is tentatively scheduled to select a

winner on October 5.



Burson is among the national agencies that have been following the RFP

process for months.



’We expect to be competitive based on our experience implementing a

successful campaign in Pennsylvania,’ said Michael Lake, managing

director of Burson’s Dallas outpost. Rob Allyn of Allyn & Co. and Janise

Murphy, president of Fleishman’s Texas operations, also noted their

agencies’ experience with electric deregulation issues.



Murphy said Fleishman/Texas would work with the firm’s DC office to

develop a bid, while TateAustin CEO Kerry Tate said her agency would

likely team with a statewide network of firms to compete for the

contract.



Bartels joined the PUC last November from Weber’s Atlanta office, where

he had worked on a natural gas deregulation campaign.



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