If your technology company finds itself in need of the services of a PR firm, whether for the first time or as a replacement of your existing one, you may find it useful to fill out an RFP to manage the process. For those not in the know, an RFP stands for ‘request for proposal’ and is used by purchasing managers in larger organizations or department managers overseeing the review and hiring of a key product or services supplier.

Pursuing an RFP involves creating a document that explains 1) the particular needs of your company, 2) the capabilities you expect from a PR firm, 3) the timeline of the review process, and 4) a budget limit or range you prefer the firms to observe. There is more to an RFP, to be sure, and some can be fairly stout in size, but those are the main points.

At the end of the day, the purpose of an RFP is to ensure that any PR firms you invite to submit a proposal understand exactly what you need and comply with the guidelines you set forth.

Depending upon who you ask, however, using an RFP is not always worth the amount of effort required to do one the right way.

Here are some Pros and Cons to consider before you commit to using an RFP to find your next PR firm:

Pro — Comparable

The RFP process forces PR firms to conform to your approach, format, and timeline. It makes the review process easier and makes the firms more readily comparable: apples to apples, oranges to oranges.

Con  Flexible

An RFP represents what you think your service requirements are at a moment in time. It won’t know what you need six months from now. If something changes in terms of your strategy or key objectives during the process it could render the RFPs obsolete overnight.

Pro— Agreement

You get to force your key stakeholders to agree to a set of goals and clear objectives for your tech company to ensure the new PR firm has a clear path forward.

Con — Challenging 

Getting key stakeholders, mostly executives, can be the equivalent of herding cats in the middle of a hurricane. Still, if you succeed, you’ve got your mandate for action.

Pro  Accountable

A good RFP will go far toward charting a course for success and even specify some initial engagement objectives, although some may not be knowable until a PR firm is brought on board. Having measurable objectives in place at the start of the engagement will hold the eventual winner more accountable.

Con — Time

Building the RFP can be nothing short of a major task involving multiple meetings with key stakeholders, researching PR firms to invite, answering questions from PR firms, reviewing submissions, etc. The entire process could run as much as three months from start to finish.

Pro — Competitve

If done right, you end up with the best candidate to meet your needs at the budget you allotted. It’s hard to argue with that kind of outcome. 

Con — Underrepresented

An RFP involves a lot of work for the PR firm as well, so it’s entirely possible some firms may not choose to participate if they feel like the work required is onerous or the number of firms participating is large. Result? You may have far fewer firms playing the RFP lottery to win your business.

Wherever you end up on the argument of whether to do an RFP, the process of finding a PR firm should at the very least include some kind of competitive review. The key is to get proposals from the best PR firms that match your needs and budget and interview each one. Only then can you pick the best-qualified firm to help chart and execute your company’s ambitious PR goals for the upcoming year.

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