Canadian Council of Public Relation Firms Shouldn’t Ask for Media Monitoring RFPs

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.

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    About Erik Deckers

    Erik Deckers is the President of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing and social media marketing agency in Indianapolis, IN. He co-authored three social media books, including No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls (2011, Que Biz-Tech), and Branding Yourself with Kyle Lacy (2nd ed., 2012; Que Biz-Tech), and The Owned Media Doctrine (2013, Archway Publishing). Erik has written a weekly newspaper humor column for 10 papers around Indiana since 1995. He was also the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, FL.

    Comments

    1. Hi Joseph,

      Thank you for clearing that up about the contracts. I didn’t understand that this was what you were doing. I’ll actually do a blog post about it to update that, so it’s not just buried in the comments.

      Erik

    2. Hi Erik,
      My post may have left you with the wrong impression. I’m talking about why we’re asking for proposals. But we are asking for proposals and we are planning to issue contracts at the end of the process. You can download the actual RFP from the link in the first paragraph of my post.
      .-= Joseph Thornley´s last blog ..Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms issues Media Monitoring RFP =-.

    3. Joseph,

      I’m really glad you responded. Thank you.

      I guess my question is, if you DO know what you want, why are you gathering the information via RFP? Why not a database, a survey, or even a sample hypothetical project? Why not a 3 page white paper based on a few different scenarios?

      “Client A is a nonprofit charged with providing information to the public about etc. etc.”

      And then the agencies would talk about how they would do the monitoring, and the tools they would use?

      Of course, if that’s what your RFP looks like, then forget everything I just said.

      Erik

    4. Hi Erik,

      I too agree that RFPs should not be used as education tools. Companies and organizations should know what they want before they issue the RFP and they should be committed to awarding business at the end of the process.

      Both of these conditions are met in the case of the CCPRF’s RFP.

      The CEOs of the CCPRF member firms have discussed this at length. We do know what we are looking for – we want existing suppliers to offer us better service at a more reasonable price. And we want them to modernize their service to reflect the changing media landscape. If a supplier gives us all of this, that supplier will get our business.
      .-= Joseph Thornley´s last blog ..Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms issues Media Monitoring RFP =-.

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