Sunday, August 29, 2010

The RFP Process is Not a Test Kitchen

This is a rant so if you don’t want to read it then leave this blog. This is a post for every organization out there that outsources public relations or other services and conducts an RFP process. When you ask an individual consultant with a small or virtual firm to submit a proposal for your company, and put them through a proposal process, it’s not some mid-level executive’s expense account that you are using.

It is funds that go into feeding their children and paying their mortgages. If you give them the idea that they really have a chance at your business, then they will drop everything and go after it. That’s not a small thing for a small firm. At a larger firm, they take a proposal template, throw a 23 year-old on Google and say enough that they sound smart about your industry.

Or maybe they know your industry. That doesn’t mean you are going to get the best thinking they have. The creative people who would do the work were promoted to a level where they started spending all their time pitching new business, years ago.

So my message to all of you is don’t use my company as a sounding board so you can go out and hire within your comfort zone. If your CEO wants a brand name agency, then ask brand name agencies to pitch. If you want a firm that knows your market and works in it right now, then ask those firms to pitch. If your marketing director isn’t a risk taker, or wants someone with the exact experience you need, because they have worked for one of your competitors, then ask those firms to pitch.

Don’t ask me to be part of the RFP process if you don't know what you want. I'm not a test kitchen. My time is money and it also belongs to my family.

I’ve heard a lot of independents complain lately about how they’ve put enormous time and effort into proposals because they were given the impression they are a serious contender for the business. And then the organization that issues the RFP hires someone the chairman’s wife recommended or they just take your ideas and give them to someone they hire to do the work. That’s just plain wrong.

Again, if you’re an agency with overhead and staff, you can write that time and funding off. Independents can’t. We pay our bills – no one else does.

Independents also don’t use formulas. We figure out what you need to do and offer you salient advice on it. There are some that won’t do anything without a legal document, but the rest of us don’t have that luxury. We treat your RFP like it’s the first week we’re working for you. That’s how we get business. And it’s also how we get screwed.

Every minute that I spend writing a proposal and researching your organization takes time that I could spend raising my children and finding funds to pay for them. It’s hard enough to find time to spend with my kids and run a business. I’m a single parent. My life is packed with other peoples’ needs.

My children’s father writes an embarassingly small check every month and takes them on vacation for a week or two in the summer. The rest of the time, I raise them. If you ask me to write a proposal and I have to miss the class play to do it, and I really need the money, I will probably miss the class play. Don’t put me in that position.

I don’t know, maybe I’m different than most consultants. I saw a proposal recently from a firm we compete with often in one business segment, and their winning proposal was a formula that they had taken off someone else’s web site and didn’t even bother to change the name of. I Googled their “proprietary model” and found it in less than five seconds with someone else’s name on it. Yet, they beat us. Why?

Well it wasn’t on merit. Our proposal was far stronger, contained original thought, and didn’t promise things we could not deliver. I assume because the other firm had close ties to the organization that put out the RFP, they were a shoe-in to begin with.

Then just give your buddies the business or don’t ask me to pitch it in the first place. If you need to stay within your comfort zone figure that out before, not after or during the RFP process.

I'm not talking about the people who really genuinely consider you and decide to choose someone else. That's the way business works and it happens all the time. Chemistry matters. Budget matters. What your CEO wants matters. And you have to do what's best for you too.

I understand that in recessionary times, if you hire a brand name agency and they do a lousy job, you can always say but we hired So and So, the brand name agency. And it won’t cost you your job. We know that you have a family to feed too.

I take comfort in one thing I really do believe in. Good people raise good kids. Bad people raise bad kids. I see this all the time - the neurotic parent ends ups with neurotic children. The parent who is not paying attention ends up with kids who do things their parents don't want them to do just to get their attention. The parents who do their kids' homework for them end up with kids who don't learn anything. It all comes back to haunt you eventually.

I am a good parent and a good person. At the very least my kids, even if I blow half of our vacation on a proposal for a project I never stood a chance at, will not grow up to be awful. That makes me feel better. But not right after I find out that you just wasted a week of my time.

So just to make sure I’m completely clear here. Marketing people – if you’re not going to seriously consider my firm for a job, don’t ask us to compete for it. Ask the people you really will end up hiring. You may not sleep better at night. But I know I will.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Death of Traditional Journalism - Not Yet

There's a new resource on what journalists think of the media's future a ""Digital Journalism Study 2010" from the Oriella PR Network. Some really good information is available in the study which is free and can be downloaded at

About 350 journalists across Europe and another 300 plus in the US and Brazil participated. The study is annual so what I'm highlighting shows changes from 2009 to 2010.

Print media will continue to shrink - 44% agreed in 2009, 59% agreed in 2010

Editorial quality will continue to erode because of lack of resources - 43% agreed in 2009, 54% agreed in 2010

Dependence on PR for news will continue due to cuts in staff, etc - 34% in 2009 agreed, 41% agreed in 2010

Blogs will continue to lead the new media landscape - 40% agreed in 2009 and 46% agreed in 2010

Percentage of companies using Twitter feeds - 35% in 2009, 43% in 2010

People will return to reliable media brands because of "opinion-driven" journalism (they basically mean media for sale and/or Fox News) - 29% agreed in 2009, 42% agreed in 2010.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

New Twitter Features that Can Stem Overload

Marketing Profs which always has interesting info came up with something today that I thought would be useful to all. It explains how to spend less time on Twitter and get more value from it.

Tweet Adder. This desktop application, used with care, can be great for marketers who need to grow followers fast, and who repeatedly promote deals or services:

Here's stuff you can do under this application -

Auto-load tweets promoting deals/services/blog posts, and set your publication times. Example: Schedule tweets for publication every 90-120 minutes. Limit the amount of auto-tweets sent in a day.

Run searches for keywords of interest, say "basketball" or "birthday gifts." Tweet Adder provides a list of matching profiles you can follow or save for review. You can find, then research, potential clients/heavy tweeters who could become evangelists for you.

Use conversion (follower:followee) tracking. People look at your follower:followee ratio. Don't get obsessed, but avoid following hundreds more users than those following you. Better to let your followers develop organically - at least I think so. If what you say is useful they will find you.

Access and save current/historical trends. Track what's hot on Twitter and compare it with times past to find patterns in user sentiment.

For more:

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Lesson from the Marketing Scams

I really can't help it - I am absolutely fascinated by these letters I get from third world countries and people in dire need of getting my banking information in order to give me millions of dollars.

What I don't get is how on earth people fall for them? But they must because otherwise why bother doing it.

So I had to share this one because it's better and the reason why is immediacy. Not only does this person have all of this money that they want to transfer to my bank account but the person writing to me from Spain is dying so he must give me the money NOW.

One of the biggest mistakes people who don't really understand marketing make is they don't come up with a reason why you have to immediately respond to their offer. A good marketer comes up with reasons not just why you need what they are selling but why you need it immediately.

Good PR people do the same thing. I can tell a journalist or producer about a product I'm pitching but if it doesn't have a news peg or some immediacy you go into a file and never come out - if you get that far. The "WHY NOW" is the second half of your sales pitch.

This happened with an event ad I saw recently - the ad was focused on the event but not on why you should go to it. This happens sometimes when we're so involved with our brand we think everyone feels the same way about it we do. But of course they don't, it's your job to make them.

The writer of this scam email which is below has done a few things others don't do - he's linked the money to a real plane crash which I looked up and he even got the date right. What he got wrong is that David Learmount was a writer who covered the crash, not on the plane and so leaving me his fortune. Yes I can Google too.

So for what it's worth here's the latest of these emails I've gotten.

Dear X -

I am writing to introduce you to a prospective mutual venture regarding an unclaimed deceased client`s portfolio that i have been in charge of for over 18years. My client; Late Mr. David Learmount died on 14th of August 2005 on the ill-fated Cypriot Helios Airways Flight 522, that crashed over Greece. I have since searched for any of his known relatives to fill-in as his next of kin to claim inheritance, but all to no avail to this date as he did not name any in his file until his sudden death.

The said portfolio will be liquidated and returned as unclaimed if I don't name someone to inherit it before the end of this month(August 2010), hence why I have contacted you. I got to you through my massive web search for his relatives, now i need you to stand as someone who shall work with me to be named as the next of kin. I had earlier contracted this search/case to a junior colleague in the UK since i was diagnosed of esophageal cancer early this year.
My condition is no longer stable at my present age of 70years, to the point that i can hardly speak well now and i want this matter wrapped up before the deadline at the end of next month or anything happens to me.

Please send your response urgently with your Names Address, Telephone etc) for more information on the value of the said portfolio, procedure, etc via this email:[ ]

Note that time is of the essence and i implore your strong assurance and strict confidentiality on these matters.

Remain yours

De Faustino Ramon Elias (Esq.)
Madrid, Spain.