Should companies pay PR firms for the ideas in their RFPs?

Firms spend massive amounts of time on viable proposals for which they usually are not compensated. Maybe there’s another way to go about it.

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When a request for proposals (RFP) comes in the door, anyone who’s worked in PR or advertising knows the drill: Firms spend valuable hours researching the prospective client, provide relevant media targets, compile thoughtful communications plans with timelines, etc. There are frequently several rounds of pitches to narrow the field, and finally the company selects its top choice.

What if a company was just fishing for free ideas and never intended to hire an agency in the first place? Of course, there’s no way to know anyone’s intentions, but the question remains: Why is the system set up so that competing agencies are not compensated for their time, efforts, and ideas?

Pitching a business prospect is like interviewing for a job. Most companies don’t compensate job candidates for their time if they don’t end up hiring them. It stands to reason that new business prospects shouldn’t have to compensate firms for their time. There’s one major difference: Unsuccessful job candidates don’t leave behind turnkey programs that companies can implement once they’re out the door. Agencies do.

Why must agencies go unpaid for the bright ideas they deliver? Is it unreasonable to ask companies to provide remuneration to agencies competing for their business?

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