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9 Steps to Great RFP Response

The Firm Voice, the Council on Public Relations house organ has a 9-step program for responding to RFPs in a way that wins business–despite the quality of the RFP–without giving away the store.

Top PR thinker Jerry Swerling, director of the Strategic PR Center at the Annenberg School for Communication at USC says that it’s a risk worth taking. If you don’t offer a strategic vision, you lose your ticket to the rodeo.

This article caught our eye in light of the survey we covered in April, revealing 90% of our U.K. brethren found ideas within their proposals stolen by potential clients.

Some of the points may seem obvious, yet are pervasive in agency work, such as avoiding typos and boilerplate proposals. A summary of the CoPR’s nine step program are after the jump:


1. Don’t hold out—offer real, strategic insights.

Don’t give away the store but you must offer real vision. Swerling says a single insight or point of view about the client’s business can set you apart. “Without that, the client has nothing.”

2. Eschew agency-speak—think like the client. Swerling advises demonstrating empathy and bridging the gap between agency speak and client speak.

3. Tailor and target—don’t rely on generic clips or case studies.

4. Ensure quality control—avoid sloppy mistakes. Avoid typos and gaffes.

Lisa Tener, author of The Ultimate Guide to Transforming Anger received four responses to her RFP. “More than one firm sent us a boilerplate that still had the name of another book listed in certain places.”

5. Banish the boilerplate—templates get tossed.

6. Add value—but don’t rewrite the RFP. Swerling says add value to stand out and guard against coming off as arrogant. Don’t suggest they didn’t craft or execute the RFP correctly.

7. Talk ROI, not just PR outputs. What can the client expect in the first month? The first quarter?

8. Who’s on the front line? Don’t sell the management and deliver the B-team–a common complaint.

9. Interact and engage—attend to the entire process. Ask questions and engage the potential client, show you’re thinking about them and that they can work with you.

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