The Un-RFP and Its Unexpected Benefits

Photo by zetson, via flickrI thought I’d update you about a topic I wrote earlier this year, when we began a search process to hire a new communications consultant. I had written that I solicited expressions of interest via an RFP, and how the very term “RFP” give consultants the same reaction that “Niagara Falls” gave the Three Stooges.

Clearly, RFPs have gotten a bad rap, because there are so many bad ones out there. My posts attracted many great comments, and the resulting “un-RFP” we wrote benefited from that great feedback.

So what happened? We put together a team of eight people to review the proposals and select a consultant. They came from communications, education, membership and IT. Twenty consultants and agencies responded to the first RFP. We selected eight of them to make a one-hour webinar presentation, and answer our questions.  From the eight, we selected three to come to our offices for a 90-minute presentation. From the three finalists, we selected Ignite Social Media, a group from Cary, N.C.

What did we learn?

  • There are a lot of people out there doing great work in social media, producing impressive results for their clients.
  • There are a lot of great specialists in this area, but a smaller number had a compelling vision of how to incorporate social media into an organization’s total communications footprint.
  • Despite this, many agencies and consultants understood the challenge we were presenting them. We felt we couldn’t go wrong with any of the finalists, so it was a matter of selecting the best fit among some really, really good professionals. It was hard to say no to those we didn’t select.
  • Finally, one awesome, unexpected benefit. I deliberately created a diverse team – not just in job function, but in their attitudes towards social media. Some were believers, others were skeptics. In our selection meetings, I spoke last, so I didn’t skew the result. I had hoped that the diversity would keep each others’ extreme viewpoints in check, and we did get that.
    • And we got more. What I didn’t expect was how everyone – even the skeptics – began to appreciate the potentially world-changing nature of social media. It didn’t require a bit of selling on my part, just a willingness to step back and let the process do its magic.
    • So I learned that this process is a great way to organically grow the conversation about anything new in an organization, not just social media.

Lots of people in our business are trying to figure out the same thing. So as we embark on our exciting journey, I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.


2 thoughts on “The Un-RFP and Its Unexpected Benefits

  1. Frank,

    We’re excited to be chosen, of course! But I was interested in the diversity of the group we spoke with. Much more far ranging than most.

    And as we went through this, of course we didn’t know all the behind the scenes. Had no idea that 20 agencies were involved first round! Wow.


Comments are closed.