Public Relations RFPs – Ending the Circus

It’s time to stop RFPs from becoming a circus and to adopt a streamlined process that respects agency and client time. 


RFP Public Relations


In a new article, PR Agency RFPs: From Circus to Streamlined Process for, co-authored with Robert Udowitz and Steven Drake of RFP Associates, we outline the steps required to run RFPs like a military (not beauty) parade. This means “Agencies are chosen because the client has conducted due-diligence and identified a limited number of firms with demonstrated experience in the client’s sector and/or with the issue or program envisioned by the client.”

We explain why, as former clients and PR agency executives who have managed and responded to RFPs, that the efficient, disciplined, streamlined path we have developed should be the industry standard. 

The article highlights three key steps:

  • Cast a wide net to identify qualified candidates based on industry and communications expertise, location and size, and other criteria important to the project and client. CommunicationsMatch has 6,000 agency and professional profiles on the platform which clients use to search for qualified firms at no cost. Then, adding referrals and relationship agencies provides a comprehensive starting point for a search.   
  • Shortlist candidates with a focused, quick-to-complete, confidential request for qualifications (RFQ) questionnaire. An RFQ provides a way to pinpoint relevant agency experience, expertise, and potential conflicts of interest.     
  • Only send RFPs to a limited number of agencies with the capabilities and experience that match needs, that have demonstrated interest in the assignment, and that you actually want to participate. By doing this under a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) there is no public announcement of the RFP, no self-invitations from outside PR firms, no circus.

As we note, although the goal is not to make the search public, the RFP process must be transparent and fair for participating agencies. It is essential in a well-run process to provide a clear scope of work, budget, measures of success, and the opportunity for agencies to share their thinking and relevant case studies. 

It should be no surprise this approach is built into our Agency Select™ tools and search consulting work with leading companies and associations. It is designed to ensure candidates compete on a level playing field and enable clients to review agency responses side-by-side. And, ensure the work associated with each step of the RFP is commensurate with the level of research and client interest in hiring agencies or consultants as potential communications partners. It is built around a fundamental respect for agency and client time.  

The research we have conducted into agency search highlights the key benefits of a disciplined agency search process: better results and longer-lasting client/agency relationships. 

With the experience of numerous agency searches, we know first-hand that clients and the agencies they hire succeed, not by being “circus ringleaders and performers, but through a carefully managed, disciplined search, selection, and hiring process that delivers long-term results.”

Read the full-length article on CommPRO. 


Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO, CommunicationsMatch™, developed and launched CommunicationsMatch, an agency search and engagement platform with 6,000 listed firms and professionals in 12 countries, to help companies find and engage agencies, consultants and freelancers that match needs. A founder of communications agencies and startups, he previously headed communications functions at Prudential Financial, Morgan Stanley, and Deutsche Bank. 


Steve Drake and Robert Udowitz founded RFP Associates in 2011 after observing the agency selection process from “both sides of the aisle” and recognizing the need to streamline and improve the way searches are made and agencies selected from an honest, unbiased approach. Over the course of their careers Robert and Steve have worked at agencies, corporations, and trade associations in New York, Washington, and, for Steve, in Beijing, China, where he opened Fleishman-Hillard's first Asian office. In recent years they have also been sole practitioners for a variety of clients seeking media, crisis, and strategic counsel. 



This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse CommunicationsMatch, you accept the use of cookies. Learn more ACCEPT