We all know the drill: Everything moves at warp speed, everyone’s time is limited and for PR, things seem even more dramatic.
Things move a gazillion times faster than they once did. Lead times are nonexistent, mailings are nearly extinct, and press releases are being replaced by tweets.
Welcome to the new normal.
In recent months I’ve noticed yet another PR tradition—the request for proposals—going out the window. For time immemorial it seems, the RFP has been the tried-and-true path to signing new clients. The RFP lets companies get the word out that they’re looking for an agency, details the specific requirements and goals for the project, and announces that the company is officially in the market for ideas and strategies.
What happened? I’m not saying that the occasional RFP doesn’t end up in my inbox, but more and more I notice that the standard RFP email seems to be replaced by a quick, off-the-cuff conversation that ends with the line, “OK, send me a proposal.”
Is this the best way to conduct business? Perhaps not.
There’s no way you can provide a comprehensive PR strategy stemming from a 10-minute conversation—especially given that a big chunk of this short exchange winds up being getting-to-know-you banter. So the question is: How do you proceed when you don’t have the kind of specific information you’d get from an RFP? You could always ask for formal briefing, a tissue session, follow-up documents—and you could lose the momentum, the interest, and the business.
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I was initially reluctant to accept this style of presentation, but I’ve come to embrace it. Sure it’s more challenging (not a bad thing), but it speeds up the process and provides more time for the actual work as opposed to the protocol of formality for its own sake.
Here are my three tips for making the new normal work:
1. Don’t lose momentum. You’re in a courtship period, and they’ve expressed interest in you. Keep their attention by hitting the ball back over the net with your proposal. Don’t balk, and don’t wait till you have all the information and things are “perfect.” That time may never come.
Ed James is president/co-founder of Cornerstone PR. You can follow him on Twitter @edwjames.
2. Do the best job possible. Even though you don’t have the details, make the proposal thoughtful, strategic, and professional. Do your due diligence to research the company, and make it as specific as possible given the circumstances. Ultimately, they might call upon you to revise it; if so, that’s a good thing.
3. Showcase your agency. This is an opportunity to shine a light on your agency, how your team thinks and approaches a PR campaign. So even if you’re ultimately on the wrong track, let them know your agency has creative ideas and great execution and can turn out a well-crafted proposal.