Why My PR Agency Doesn't Respond to RFPs


An RFP (Request for Proposal) is a structured, preliminary bidding process to identify and compare potential business providers and assure that suppliers meet defined standards, are qualified and that the hiring process is transparent and fair.  RFPs are mandated by many governmental, educational and community agencies as part of a selection process that must control costs. RFPs are often used by businesses and nonprofits to find the right agency or consultant for the job. In reality, the RFP process is too often flawed and fails to find the best provider to meet the client's needs. Our agency is honoured to be invited to submit an RFP, we're proud of our work and happy to demonstrate the quality of our projects and the capabilities of our team.

Why Alchemy PR Doesn't Respond to RFPs

1. RFPs are unsuited for creative projects

An RFP has defined requirements and deliverables for a specific project. For creative projects, such as a fundraising or marketing campaign or a rebranding strategy, the client often hasn't fully defined the project- often because the client knows what their goal is, but doesn't have the inhouse resources to design and deliver a campaign to achieve that goal. Asa result, too often what the client specifically requests in an RFP is in fact not what the client wants or needs to achieve their goal. The client may be following a structured process that is not designed to harvest the best creative minds, and in fact stifles the creative process. At Alchemy our strategy is to consult and collaborate with the client to deliver a product better than they could ever conceive!

2. We do not submit work 'on spec'

Many RFPs require a detailed submission of the campaign an agency will provide, to the point of actually designing a campaign and artwork. We are confident in the work Alchemy does and are happy to pitch ideas and strategies to a prospective client. However, I do not believe it is beneficial to require that a campaign be designed as part of an RFP process, compared to other RFPs, and then chosen or declined without an opportunity to interact with the potential client.  This system might work on basic services or measurable deliverables such as hard materials, but asking an agency to deliver work in hopes of being awarded the contract is often not fair to the agency or the client.

It typically costs agency more than $3,018 per campaign in labor to perform the RFP process, which is often passed along to the advertiser with a markup. Sellers collectively spend at least as much bringing the total to more than $6,000 per campaign.

~ Bionic Advertising Systems

3. RFPs can be used to justify an agency selection that has already been made

RFPs can be imprecise, arbitrary or even deliberately misleading. Many vendors invited to submit RFPS aren't qualified to deliver the service, making the RFP process longer, costly and more frustrating for both sides. In other cases the business has already been awarded, and the RFP is intended to demonstrate transparency, and the unknowing agencies invest resources in proposals they have no hope to gain.

More than $300 million in contracts were awarded improperly to advertising firms - all using RFP's - by the government of Canada during what is referred to as the Sponsorship Scandal.

~ Cal Harrison

Alchemy takes care to fully understand the scope, intent and timeframe for your campaign and propose a solution that delivers - on time and on budget.

 4. RFPs often replace face-to-face client / agency meetings

Chemistry is a critical component for any partnership between a client and agency - if the two groups don't work well together, the project is nearly certain to fail. RFPs should be extended to agencies the client has interviewed and is confident they can work with. I'm proud of the relationships Alchemy has built with our clients, and the referrals, testimonials and recommendations they make on our behalf. Meeting 1:1 with a potential client is the best way I know to show you who Alchemy is, and what we can do.

Alchemy Communications welcomes opportunities to present proposals, pitch a new client or discuss your business needs. We want to help you build your brand and your reputation!

Idea, Meet Your Market! Contact Kathryn today: kathryn@alchemycommunications.ca

For More Information on Issues with RFPs
Harrison, Cal: Beyond Referrals & Fixing the Professional Services RFP
Advancing Philanthropy: Fall 2014 What About Using RFPs When Looking to Hire a Consultant?