How to submit a strong RFP response

  • The procurement process is dreaded by many agencies, which fear that creativity and chemistry will be over ridden and discounted as everything comes down to cost. However, cost is only one consideration that procurement takes into account in the Request for Proposal (RFP) process, and factors such as relevant experience and demonstrating an understanding of the client organisation’s culture are equally valued.


    • Think about the audience and objectives of the proposal

    Ensure you have a clear understanding of the objectives of the brief and its audience, and tailor your proposal accordingly. Ask questions during the process to ensure your proposal is aligned with the client’s requirements. Try to find out what worked well and not so well with the incumbent agency so you can build on successes and avoid pitfalls.


    • Price doesn’t have as much weighting as people think

    However, value for money is essential. A strong proposal that addresses business requirements and adds value to the client, at a competitive price, is more likely to be shortlisted than a low or high cost proposal that does not meet, or grossly exceeds the client’s requirements. Misunderstandings on price can quickly sour relationships, so ensure your proposal is crystal clear in regards to retainer fees, campaign fees and any other costs; including admin fees, commission research etc.


    • Make sure you include numbers – justify the value of your proposal in terms of costs and benefits

    Quantify what success looks like for the client. Where possible highlight forecasted tangible return on investment and how this will be measured. Propose a method for measuring the baseline and movement of that baseline, including defining what will be measured. Considerations may include; market share/activity, market exposure, crisis management and activities that may aid the internal PR team.


    • Don’t forget to focus as much on the non-cost factors being considered

    Achieving effective PR solutions is the most important outcome of an agency selection process. Utilise your proposal to demonstrate how you can meet the client’s requirements via your industry experience and understanding of the client’s organisational culture. If the client is considering working with an agency under a retainer structure, look for opportunities to demonstrate how you envisage your teams interacting; could you be viewed as an extension to the in-house PR team? The fear of not enjoying a productive working relationship is often a key concern for companies who are considering agencies they have no history with. Think about how you can address this concern; including KPIs or regular reviews with a representative of the company who’s not involved in the day to day running of the account.


    • Focus on the specific brief, but don’t be afraid so show creativity

    Don’t underestimate the importance of specific questions asked by the client, and provide relevant responses and illustrate with examples where appropriate.

    But also remember that RFP questions are often only a starting point to understanding a firm’s capabilities. If you feel that you could meet their expectation in an alternative way then request to be able to provide an additional alternative proposal. Keep any alternative proposal succinct and bespoke to the client to help ensure it is given due consideration.





    Finally, after your proposal, if you have not been successful, ask for feedback on why. Sometimes the feedback can be difficult to attain or remedy, such as poor chemistry, but you may pick up useful feedback and improve your chances in the future.


    Catherine has been involved in procuring PR services in the UK and across Europe and can be contacted at