How to Write a Request for Proposal (RFP)
by Joe Connelly
by Joe Connelly
With summer coming to an end and Q4 looming, organizations are creating their 2021 budgets and communications plans. Many will be evaluating their need for an agency to support their strategic communications, public relations, public affairs, or digital marketing efforts and putting out requests for proposals (RFPs). By putting out an RFP, a company can determine the best partner in terms of strategy, expertise, skill, budget, culture, or any other number of factors.
At Clyde Group we submit responses to RFPs on a nearly weekly basis. Based on that experience, we want to highlight several keys to a successful RFP that ensure your organization receives strong proposals that align with your goals.
Outline a detailed scope with clear goals.
Clearly outline what you hope to achieve and what the scope of that engagement will look like. Be specific about what type of proposal you are requesting: a short-term project, a longer campaign, or a search for a new agency of record. That being said, avoid being overly prescriptive. Good RFPs provide clarity, but there should still be some wiggle room for the submitting agency to be creative.
Provide a budget.
The budget should be a range rather than a specific number, but you should still give vendors an idea of what your budget is so they can create a proposal tailored to your financial needs.
Include background about your organization, its values, and its culture.
Cultural fit is an oft-overlooked, yet incredibly important, component of your organization’s relationship with an agency. While you can get a better sense of culture compatibility when meeting for an in-person (or virtual) presentation, it’s a good idea to outline your organization’s culture and values in an RFP, so responding agencies can address that in their proposal or decide whether or not they want to pursue the opportunity in the first place.
Create a checklist of the required elements.
This ensures your organization receives complete proposals that address your needs and objectives. If you are looking for a strategy that includes both traditional PR elements and digital tactics, make that clear. If you want bios for each of the team members who will be contributing to the project, ask for it. But, like any job posting, you can clarify what is a must-have and what would be a helpful bonus. If agencies don’t address every required element, they probably aren’t the best partner to deliver for you in the long term.
Provide evaluation/selection criteria.
Clear evaluation criteria make the process simpler and, as an added bonus, will result in some early self-selection. Some agencies will determine they are not a good fit and, as a result, will not submit a proposal. Some criteria to consider are: experience or proven success in a certain industry; examples of past clients/work; technical skills specific to the project; and diversity preferences (e.g. women-owned or minority-owned business).
List contacts and submission instructions.
It’s always a good idea to provide the contact information of someone who can answer questions about your RFP. By offering an outlet for agencies to ask questions, you should receive more detailed proposals that better address your needs. And to avoid confusion or late submissions, clearly detail where, and how, you would like to receive proposals.
Give specific deadlines and a selection schedule.
From a logistical standpoint, it’s important to outline dates and deadlines for submitting organizations to meet. Be sure to include a deadline for questions and the final due date for the proposal, when agencies should expect to hear if they will be asked to present, and when the final selection will be made. By providing these clear expectations—and sticking to them—you can reduce the number of unnecessary follow-ups and ensure you find an agency partner who you know will meet your deadlines.
If you follow these guidelines when crafting your RFP, you should receive thoughtful, comprehensive and strategic proposals that address your organization’s needs, and will be well on your way to finding a new agency partner.
We hope this quick guide was helpful in developing your RFP! Should you have any questions or are interested in working with Clyde Group, you can always contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to speak with you about your communications, public affairs, or digital needs.
Interested in learning how Clyde Group can help you and your organization? Send us a message through the contact form below and we’ll be in touch!