I’m a little angered and disappointed by the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms.
According to Joseph Thornley’s blog, they’re calling for a Media Monitoring RFP to ask media monitoring companies, especially those who provide social media services, to fill out an RFP so they can “propose the most comprehensive set of offerings they are capable of.”
From there, they want to identify who has the best offerings, and then use that to compare costs to find the provider who offers them “the best value.”
We find ourselves dealing with a monitoring industry that has adjusted to the new environment in different ways and at different speeds. Following what’s going on has become a complex process that can involve setting up dashboards with several different suppliers. And each provides us with a unique view of different things.
Multiple offerings. Multiple methodologies. Increased complexity. Increased cost.
Thornley is the CEO of Thornley Falls, a Canadian PR firm, that combines PR with social media and word of mouth advertising. He’s also the president of the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms (CCPRF). So, I’m sure he’s a smart guy. (And he’s Canadian. I love Canada.)
Which is why I’m disappointed in the CCPRF.
I’m not a big fan of RFPs. I think they’re mostly a waste of time, and an incorrect way to evaluate whether a company is good enough to do a project. In most RFPs, the vendor is not allowed to speak with the client, which means they may miss out on an important point that makes or breaks a proposal. (I’ve been on RFP committees. They were awful.)
RFPs force the vendor to start selling on price, not on value. I don’t know of a single large PR firm that will try to match the pricing of a small boutique firm. But if they offer the same services on paper, then the temptation of the client is to assume the quality and scope of work is exactly the same. Yet, this is what RFPs do to vendors who can’t demonstrate value over price, because they can’t speak with the client.
Finally, the companies submitting RFPs have no way of knowing if the client even knows what they truly want. I’ve known companies that actually spoke to the client, and found they not only put the wrong specs in the RFP, the client didn’t know enough about the problem to know what to ask for. Again, a simple meeting would allow a vendor to educate the client, and could make the whole process much easier.
So it sounds like the CCPRF wants to be educated, since they don’t know what the different media monitoring services can do. But it also sounds like they’re not sure what’s most important, since they’re dealing with different offerings, methodologies, and complexities.
I’m morally opposed to RFPs on general principles, but this almost seems a bad practice.
(Having said all that, the really smart media monitoring agencies will do whatever they can to educate the different PR firms about what “good” media monitoring looks like. And if they haven’t, they’re a big part of the reason this is happening at all.)
It sounds like the CCPRF is just information gathering. There’s no chance of winning a project. There’s no definite work that’s going to come out of it. It’s just hours of work that doesn’t really educate, answer questions, or teach people about what that particular company does. The agencies will put in several hours of work for which they will not be paid, only have an outside possibility of getting deals out of it, and the CCPRF is getting the benefits of the work for free.
If the CCPRF wants to learn more about media monitoring, they need to do it on their own time, or invite the media monitoring agencies to an educational session, webinar, conference, or white paper on what their particular agency does. And the CCPRF needs to pay for it.
CCPRF, you know how frustrating it is to spend time and money on projects and RFPs only to have them not make the final cut. You’re asking people to put time and money that will essentially be an RFP to another RFP, which you may or may not submit in the future.
Joseph Thornley says this RFP is an industry first. I hope it’s the last too.