Clear communications are needed in the RFP process

Every week, PRWeek reports on new account wins, RFIs, RFPs, and other agency-client relationships. Lately, though, agency executives are complaining more about that process.

Every week, PRWeek reports on new account wins, RFIs, RFPs, and other agency-client relationships. Lately, though, agency executives are complaining more about that process. One agency MD recently told the PRWeek staff that in the past 18 months, prospective clients and their search firms expect PR agencies to "jump through more hoops," yet no feedback is offered at the conclusion. Your company is simply hired, or not, there is no explanation, he said, adding, well, "It's a 'buyers' market."

Another leader criticized the fact that sometimes the client or procurement firm only wants to see the bottom line of costs, instead of first explaining what it's looking for and taking into account what will be the most effective strategy. While another complained of "chemistry checks" between an agency and search firm and deplored, "Please put the client in the room."

Agencies often put significant effort into compiling information for an RFP, and then make a leap of faith that its ideas will be considered seriously and not end up in someone else's planner. Although it is ultimately the client's money being spent, a more two-sided process would ease the strain on both sides of the aisle, and possibly even remove "post-procurement stress syndrome" from the lexicon.

Ironically, better communication would go far to repair the relationship. Corporations should tell firms specifically why they won or lost an account. Also, being honest about the expected budget allows the agency to prepare a realistic pitch.

Corporations need PR firms, so they should want to make the relationship better. Explaining why certain information is necessary during an RFI will likely put an agency's mind at ease and start both groups off on the right foot. In many ways, agencies are not only business partners, but also customers. A better reputation should be the main goal.

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