A well-conceived RFP or request for proposal is necessary for finding the right media intelligence partner and CARMA Asia’s Charles Cheung explains how it can be thoughtfully crafted and managed.

Anyone working in the communications field will appreciate how indispensable data and analytics have become in the industry. Being equipped with necessary and timely intelligence is imperative to making informed decisions and demonstrating the value you are bringing to the organisation.

While the media provides a rich source of information, communicators often find it an obstacle navigating a vast and highly fragmented landscape. Tapping into the data to distil meaningful and impactful insights is undeniably another challenge that communicators face.

Working with a media monitoring and measurement partner helps to overcome these challenges and can be one of the critical building blocks of a successful communications strategy. To find the right media intelligence partner, you will need a well-conceived RFP (request for proposal) that not only meets your requirements but one that is also well-executed.

Getting started

So, where do you start? As you get cracking on the RFP process, it is important to keep in mind three key things to help you get the best outcome from this exercise:

  • First, ensure that the right stakeholders are involved in collectively determining the objectives from the outset. RFPs can be a long and daunting process that will take up a considerable amount of time for both parties. Achieving your desired outcome will require everyone who has a stake in it, from decision-makers to end-users, to align with the goals.
  • Second, be discerning with the agencies you are inviting to participate in the RFP. Casting a wide net does not maximise your chances of getting quality responses and can result in you losing focus. Before delivering the complete brief, conduct internet research, ask colleagues and peers for advice on agencies, and initiate phone conversations to prequalify and shortlist several solid prospects.
  • Most importantly, remember that the most successful agency-client partnership is consultative and collaborative, rather than a one-way relationship. Encourage communication between you and the prospective agencies, and be transparent about your expectations. If necessary, issue a confidentiality agreement. While technology is essential for crunching data, a great media intelligence solution requires skilled human analysts to provide meaningful and actionable insights.

Don’t forget to schedule time for face-to-face meetings (or conference calls) with prospective agencies. You must meet the client servicing and analyst teams, not just the sales team. Ultimately, it’s the chemistry and how you engage with your partner of choice that matters, rather than the nuts and bolts of their offerings.

Preparing the brief

Now, you are ready to write the brief. When documenting requirements and budget, try to balance being too generic and too specific. Be clear about what you want to achieve from the monitoring and measurement service without falling into the trap of being too prescriptive on how they are completed. Remember to be open to listening to suggestions from the agencies and allow for creative inputs.

For ease of scaling your analysis, it is worth tiering the markets, media outlets and competitors by importance. State your needs regarding countries, languages, media types and any other mandatory requirements. Sharing how you intend to use the measurement reports and who will receive them will also help the agencies get a clearer picture of your requirements. If possible, provide a budget range to align expectations and ensure you have responses that are all viable options.

Be transparent with your evaluation criteria. For example, do you weigh technical capabilities heavier in importance than pricing? In terms of format, make use of prescriptive response formats. Tick boxes are helpful in some instances but they do not allow for the creativity that will bring your campaign to life.

Instead of listing the metrics you use currently, ask the agency about outcome-based measurements and include open questions – how, what, when, why, describe – that allow you to assess the agency’s expertise. If you’re concerned about receiving too much waffle and buzzwords, consider placing a word-count limit on the responses to focus on critical points.

Timeline is always one concern in most RFPs. Every purchase process is unique but one that is rushed works for no one.

  • Ensure that you allow sufficient time for every potential partner to do their best work.
  • Cater at least four weeks for the entire RFP process, with five to seven days for agencies to review the brief and submit any questions by email afterwards. A prompt response will help keep things moving.
  • Issue a single answer to all participants to ensure everyone receives the same information and clarifications (but don’t share who asked the question!).

Be mindful that after the contract is awarded, there will be a set-up period followed by a period of collaborative adjustment before the service is up and running. Take this into consideration in your implementation timeline and request an implementation plan as part of the RFP.

Finally, even if there is one stand-out winner from the RFP process, we always suggest a presentation to meet with the top two contenders to discuss and compare their approaches. It will help you make a more informed decision that works for everyone.

Potential challenges when working with partner agencies

Well-written RFPs are a delight to work on because they force agencies to think, allow for innovative ideas and ultimately provide the best work for clients.

Always request a standard “Terms and Conditions” of the contract in advance to avoid being caught by unexpected contractual terms. Don’t forget to read the fine print and look out for probable auto-renewals. If you need flexibility, ask vendors what contract terms they will work to and what notice period is required.

The best partnerships aren’t built on price but trust and understanding. We always encourage keeping an open dialogue with your partner to achieve the best business outcomes. When it comes to finding the right media monitoring and measurement partner, it is both an art and a science.

Your journey will require an understanding of media intelligence that goes way beyond putting out a tender. But you are not alone, and there is a wide range of RFP resources available on CARMA’s RFP Hub. But by having a thoughtfully crafted and managed RFP, you will be on the right track to securing the best match without breaking the bank.