Saturday, May 9, 2009

Change the RFPs

Public relations colleagues have long complained about the complexity and investment of submitting a response to a public Request for Proposal.

Now, it gets worse.

In the current economy, some public agencies have cancelled bids AFTER the deadline to submit.

I experienced this situation not once, but twice. One with a California water agency, the other with a state north of California. In both cases, the agencies woke up suddenly and realized they would not have the money to pay for the services due to the recession. At least, that's what we were led to believe because the agencies did not disclose the reasons for suddenly cancelling the bids. Just a dry statement - "Cancelled. No rebid."

Sure, it's understandable that a public agency suddenly realizes the economy is screeching to a halt, revenues are declining and it's time to eliminate projects. But how these situations are being handled pose two problems.

First, be open and honest. If you are going to cancel a bid, tell us why. Actually, we will understand that "hiring a PR firm" when revenues are down and you're cutting services may create complications. We get it. Public perceptions about PR agencies working for government are tough enough in a good economy.

Secondly, try to make this decision BEFORE we spend considerable time and money in preparing a bid. A down economy hurts us, too. To take time away from paying work - or the search for work and our own desperate marketing efforts - hurts our pocketbook, too.

Now, let's look to the future. In this down economy, one can assume there are fewer bids being prepared. With some extra time on your hands, this is a perfect time for the contract departments to review the bid process and make it more business friendly. The lengthy process actually discourages some of the best and brightest from submitting. We know you have heard this before, but give us a call. We'll give you some constructive suggestions.

And, let's use this "down time" to have open and honest discussions about the value of using public relations services.

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