PR bosses slam public sector procurement 'guessing game'

PR professionals have hit out at public sector procurement processes and called for a two-way educational process to improve pitches.

Roundtable: PRCA members discuss procurement problems
Roundtable: PRCA members discuss procurement problems

At a roundtable discussion held at the offices of Grayling, PRCA members complained about procurement managers handling too much of the process, despite their limited understanding of professional communications.

Quantum PR managing director Charlie Vavasour led the attack, deriding the public sector procurement processes as 'a guessing game'.

Grayling UK public affairs MD Tanya Joseph said: 'When it goes badly, it is usually because it is not the right people handling it. It's probably someone who is not doing comms on a day-to-day basis.'

Flagship director of new business Julia Woodcock added: 'The problem starts when you have a procurement team trying to judge a creative idea.'

Clarion Communications head of new business Debbie Jackson suggested the PRCA should facilitate a dialogue between agencies and clients to improve the process.

The roundtable also found that some public sector bodies failed to secure funding before going out to pitch. Vavasour said: 'Budgets should be set beforehand, so you're not going in blind. Often they say "we expect you to tell us how much it will cost".'

The assembled PROs also voiced a general opinion that briefs were often underdeveloped and poorly researched. Joseph said: 'Sometimes the brief you answer is not the brief they really wanted. Once we answered a UK brief, I went through the pitch process, then the body came back and said "the ideas were great, but we wanted a global agency".'

The roundtable also argued too many bodies did not allow personal contact between pitch teams and potential clients. 'The e-procurement process takes away personal interaction. If you have contact, you're likely to have a better idea of the brief,' said Vavasour.

HOW I SEE IT - Tanya Joseph, Public affairs MD, Grayling UK

One local authority wanted us to take over its whole comms function, but we weren't allowed to speak to them.

At that point I had to say: 'Although we are interested in this, I have no idea what we're signing up for, so I can't possibly do this.' They ended up not appointing.

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