Considering putting out an RFP? Stop and read this blog first. It could save you a lot of hassle. Over the years, countless dollars and hours have been spent conducting searches for PR firms with an RFP. We think there’s a better way: the Request for Information (RFI).
The Difference Between an RFP and an RFI
A Request for Proposal (RFP) is, generally speaking, a complex document that not only outlines your company’s specific selection criteria for a PR firm but also locks you in to a lengthy — often frustrating and expensive — process of collecting, evaluating, and selecting a PR firm based on RFP responses. By comparison, an RFI is a relatively simple request. It also has many benefits when used in place of an RFP, including:
- Speed: An RFI is easier to produce and respond to, saving everyone valuable time. You won’t have to spend hours constructing a complex RFP, and a potential PR partner will be able to respond without overcommitting resources. The latter is especially important because it means firms will not have to weigh the costs of devoting time and resources to an RFP response against the odds of winning the business. A PR firm will instead be able to respond to the RFI with greater efficiency.
- Cost savings: As they say, time is money, and every hour you spend evaluating RFP responses and filling out scoring tables is an hour that could be used elsewhere in your business. An RFI can also help avoid the cost of hiring a consultant to conduct an RFP process, thus offering additional savings.
- Better results: RFPs are notorious for being complex documents, but that doesn’t mean they’re very precise documents. Often, the biggest problem with an RFP is not the time and money but the vague language and lack of specific requirements. Without those, PR firms will not fully understand your specific needs or be able to respond appropriately, so you will not get the kind of responses you need to make a final selection.
- More options: More PR firms are willing to respond to an RFI than an RFP, which gives you more options when narrowing down your choices for a PR firm. Your perfect PR firm may not respond to an RFP, and by issuing one you may be missing out on an amazing partnership opportunity.
How to Put Together an RFI
A good RFI does a few things and does them all extremely well. First, it introduces you and your PR needs by providing some basic information (including whether or not this info is confidential or proprietary). Next, it asks key questions that will help determine if the PR firm can meet your specific requirements. If you don’t know what those are yet, check out our blog about narrowing your search for a PR firm, which includes identifying what types of services you want and what kind of PR firm you need.
Want an example of an RFI? Feel free to use our template.
We understand the desire to rely on traditional tools like the RFP, but in our experience the RFI is more likely to result in a quality shortlist of PR firms to consider. A lower price of entry allows more talent to compete at this early stage, giving you more options in the long run. However, if you want to use an RFP, we recommend issuing an RFI first and then inviting a shortlist of PR firms whose responses you liked to pitch you based on your RFP requirements. That way, you can still use an RFP while enjoying the benefits of a streamlined RFI process. In the end, when you’re ready to invest in PR, you can be confident that you have considered all the options and made the right choice in a PR partner.
RH Strategic is a Seattle and D.C.-based communications firm with a nationwide presence and additional global reach via membership in the Worldcom Public Relations Group. We provide strategic public relations for innovators in the technology, government and healthcare markets.