Unraveling Social Media RFPs: 4 Steps to Finding the Right Digital PR Agency Partner

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the words “competitive agency shoot-out,” I think of blood and bodies on the floor. And when I hear the words “RFP,” I think of sunk costs.

The bottom line? Whether you are a B2B corporation or a digital PR firm, the RFP (Request for Proposal) process is expensive and time consuming.  Now there’s a new twist to make it even more complicated – the “social media RFP.”

Our firm has received many requests to participate in social media RFPs. This makes sense, given the perceived requirement for companies in every B2B sector to quickly establish and build social outposts. (That doesn’t mean it is right for your company, but that’s another post.)

However, it’s a messy (bloody?) process. No one is sure what it should cost, how to evaluate agencies/vendors or what success looks like.

I appreciate common sense thinkers like Michael Brito who are attempting to add some clarity to the chaos. In his new book “Smart Business, Social Business,” Michael offers clear and practical ways to incorporate social media into your marketing programs.  But his section on “Choosing the Right Social Media/Digital Agency” is particularly good.

Michael (@britopian on Twitter) offers some valuable RFP advice for prospective clients searching for a social partner, including using a systematic approach to agency selection:

  • Research the agency:
    • “If an agency truly is a social media agency, examining the website closely should validate it”
    • “Investing in a conversational audit will provide more granular insight about the agency”
  • Listen to what they are saying
    • “If an agency believes social media should be more promotional than conversational, that…might not be the right fit”
    • “Is the agency providing any thought leadership in the industry, or is it simply recycling others’ content?
  • Act personally
    • Be as specific as possible about proposal requirements, including your need for company background, industry data, target audience and competitors. The more specific you are, the more specific the firm can be.
    • Before you send the RFP, get agreement from all internal stakeholders on the RFP, proposed responsibilities and the selection criteria.
  • Evaluate and make a decision – key questions
    • Does the agency understand the business value of social media?
    • Is this a metrics-driven agency?
    • Is the agency creative or simply recycling old ideas?
    • Does the agency have any thought leaders on staff?

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll share some corporate selection perspectives from Michael’s book, including advice from corporate “RFP survivors” Adobe, Intel and Cisco.

Until then, tell us more about your own RFP experiences. Have you participated in a digital PR RFP recently? What do you think are the key success factors?


To connect with Elizabeth:

Phone: 212.840.0017
Email: elizabeth@blisspr.com
Twitter: @elizabethsosnow
LinkedIn: Elizabeth Sosnow