There are few things that cause quite as much internal groaning in the PR world as the RFP (request for proposal) process. I’ve written previously about how the RFP process should be seen as a hiring process rather than a procurement process, particularly when a company is looking for a partner—a team of people—as opposed to finding the best proposal to produce branded business cards, or a printer/scanner.
The RFP process for media monitoring software exists somewhere in between these two. If you’re looking for a media monitoring platform—a daily software tool that will be used on a regular basis by people in your office—you’ll need some support, so the team of people on the software side does matter.
But they aren’t going to be planning your strategy or working with your customers. So, a company that provides a media monitoring tool will need to “be there” for you more than the company that you purchase business cards from, but you won’t need as much interaction with them as you have with your accounting firm.
Why does this matter? It matters because it will help to define the parameters of the scope of the RFP.
What an RFP template for media monitoring should contain:
- Introductory information and guidelines. A brief “about” section, guidelines, and anything specific or noteworthy that your organization requires. For example, if the company requires leadership signatures or the disclosure of different rate structures such as corporate or government rates, be upfront about it and make it clear these are requirements.
- Contact information. Even the best-written RFP might raise questions, so there should be a point of contact listed (preferably with both an email and a phone number listed).
- The scope of services. This is probably the part of RFPs that causes media monitoring vendors the most heartburn, and for good reason. What is most important to include is what you know you will need from a data and information perspective, and what you expect to be able to do with the tool and/or the data. Prioritize, and examine how you use the information. If there are “must-haves,” list them. Include “nice-to-haves” separately.
- Contract period, if possible. Generally speaking, the RFP process is used for an ongoing engagement so a contract period is listed, but if it’s just for the duration of a specific campaign that will last a set time (whether it’s three months or three years), that detail should be included.
- I know many are reluctant to put actual numbers down on paper, but please consider it if at all possible. Different tools have different capabilities, and different price points.
- Details on how the RFP will be evaluated (if available). If your firm weights the experience and longevity of the vendor at 15 percent, quality of the data at 20 percent, availability of human support at 25 percent, and so on, include that information—it can be worthwhile to making certain you are getting the right fit from your vendor.
- If it’s a hard and fast deadline, mention that—or, sometimes a request can remain open if not enough responses are received.
More on the scope of services
Having read through a fair number of RFPs, there are three categories of RFPs that can cause real angst on the part of a responding vendor:
- Those where it is clear they are unhappy with their current vendor, resulting in a scope that lists as requirements everything they have been disappointed by;
- Those where it is clear they are happy with their current vendor, resulting in a scope that is so narrowly defined that only that vendor can meet the requirements;
- Those where it appears as though multiple people have contributed to what they each want in a vendor, resulting in an almost comically complex (and sometimes contradictory) list of mandatory minimum requirements. (An example: one RFP I reviewed listed as a requirement access to an up-to-date list of reporters and bloggers in a very specific industry. Later in the RFP, it was stated that the company would be using the monitoring tool to build an up-to-date list of reporters and bloggers in the industry. This may or may not be contradictory, but it certainly was confusing to read.)
These categories aren’t uncommon, and most vendors are aware that these issues exist. However, it can be difficult to respond to proposals that aren’t clear about what is expected of the tool, and how it is needed to perform.
If certain media outlets, publications, or journals are absolutely required to be included sources, this should be noted. Some publications exist only in print form, such as industry journals. If there are make-or-break items, mention them—it will save you time in the long run, and if a vendor can’t meet your needs, they can focus on projects where they do fit the bill.
The RFP process should be one that matches a client’s needs with a vendor who can meet those needs. Being clear about what you want a monitoring tool to do, what you expect it to produce, and what is required of the vendor will help ensure a good match.