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Should Chip stop blindly hating RFPs for agencies?

In this episode of Chats with Chip, Simon Erskine Locke of CommunicationsMatch joins for a discussion about agencies and RFPs.

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In this episode of Chats with Chip, Simon Erskine Locke of CommunicationsMatch joins for a discussion about agencies and RFPs.

Regular listeners know that Chip doesn’t disguise how much he despises the RFP process that many agencies subject themselves to. He has argued that agency leaders should simply hit the delete key whenever an RFP shows up in their inbox.

Simon takes a more nuanced view of RFPs and explains how they can be done better. He also suggests that if an agency does its due diligence before responding, they might be able to more strategically evaluate each opportunity instead of blindly hitting delete.

Listen in to the conversation and see if it helps clarify your own view of the role of RFPs in your agency’s growth plans.

Key takeaways

  • Chip Griffin: “An RFP is kind of like putting an ad in the paper about the spouse that you want and inviting people to respond. And I don’t know many people who would get married that way.”
  • Simon Erskine Locke: “In a perfect world you would not need an RFP from an agency perspective. But from a client perspective, the RFP fulfills an important role.”
  • Chip Griffin: “You need to actually ask questions of the issuer and if they won’t answer any questions, that’s a red flag. Run.”
  • Simon Erskine Locke: “Any way we describe it, this is a human business.”


About Simon Erskine Locke

Simon Erskine Locke is a communicator, entrepreneur, and writer on communications and marketing issues. As founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatch™ he developed the agency, professional and freelancer search and hiring platform, as well as its integrated RFP tools. CommunicationsMatch powers PRSA’s Find a Firm and Capitol Communicators’ Sourcebook. He is a founder of agencies and a former head of corporate communications functions at Prudential Financial, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank.

He is vice president of the Foreign Press Association of the United States and a founding partner of University Innovations Global. He has lived in seven countries. In Japan, he co-founded “FIT For Charity” – an annual financial industry charity run that has raised millions of dollars for under-served charitable organizations. He currently resides in New York.


The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.

Chip Griffin: Hello and welcome to Chats with Chip. I’m your host, Chip Griffin, the founder of SAGA, the Small Agency Growth Alliance, and I am delighted to have with me Simon Locke, the founder and CEO of CommunicationsMatch. Welcome to the show, Simon.

Simon Erskine Locke: Chip, it is a great pleasure to be here and thanks for having me.

Chip Griffin: I, yeah, I am really excited to have you here because we’re gonna try to have you talk me out of, or maybe convince me that I should have a more nuanced view of RFPs rather than just constantly hating on them blindly. And I know you’re not, you’re not gonna advocate for RFPs in all cases, but.

I think you, I think it’s fair to say you don’t think I should just blindly hate on them and tell everybody to forget about them. So before we do that though, before we do that, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and CommunicationsMatch?

Simon Erskine Locke: So, you know, I’m a founder of agencies. I have worked for big agencies.

I was the head of communications for large companies at Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, Prudential. In various places around the world. And then I found CommunicationsMatch now about 7 years ago with this basic goal of how do you, how to, how to help agencies be found when clients are looking and basically how to help clients find agencies with the specific skillsets that they were looking for.

And the reality is, is that when I was in my corporate role, You know, we would go, I need someone to do this very specific thing. And, and you would go, where do we go to actually find that person? And then when I had my own agency and, and I, I still do some consulting, you know, the reality was how do I make sure that, you know, the companies that should be coming to me because I’ve got this particular area of expertise, are actually able to, to find me.

And that was the genesis of CommunicationsMatch.

Chip Griffin: Well, and, and, and I love both the purpose and the name because I often describe agency business development as matchmaking and not selling. And I, I think that’s an area where a lot of agency folks lose sight and they start to think about, you know, I just, I want, I don’t want to deal with this.

I, you know, sales and funnels and all those kinds of things. I don’t wanna be a used car salesman, and that’s not what it is, right? To, to build good agency client relationships, you need to think of it as matchmaking and finding the right fit for both the client and for the agency. And I guess for me, that’s part of why I don’t really love the RFP process because to me an RFP is, is kind of like, you know, putting an ad in the paper about the spouse that you want and inviting people to respond.

And I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many people who would get married that way.

Simon Erskine Locke: No. Look, I think I would, I would start with. Matchmaking in itself is actually kind of to some extent sort of a flawed concept of what we’re actually, what we actually do. Because I think it implies this idea of, you know, that we at CommunicationsMatch kind of go out generally and specifically choose firms, and there are people who have this business model and it’s like, here are the three firms that may have paid me money

to get to the top of the list and to go, and here are the three people you should hire as a company and, and as a former head of communications, I would never want that as the model. I don’t want someone else to tell me who to hire, even if it’s three firms. What I want to be able to do, in my perspective and is to go give me the tools that allow me to find maybe it’s three, maybe it’s five agencies with the specific skill sets that match my needs. So we are not a match maker in the sense of going, you know hire us and I will tell you, you know, who, who to, who to hire. Or we have a lead generation model that is designed to go, you know, here are the three people who paid the most and you should work with them.

We are basically providing the tools and, and this is built by communicators for communicators. We’ve built the tools to be able to help the client find the firms that are the best fit. And I think –

Chip Griffin: But that opens the door to an initial conversation, ideally, right?

Simon Erskine Locke: Yeah. Look, my view has always been that the path should be that the clients are smart, they know what they’re looking for, and, and they, them, they’re in the place to be able to go.

Tell me who the right people, you know, let, let me use your CommunicationsMatch search tools or, or how, whatever the process is to, to get down to that short list. And that then is the starting point for a conversation. Because this is in all shapes, any way we describe it, it is a human business, right?

You know, at the end of the day, this is about, you know, you can have skillsets. You can be, I can be the top, you know, financial communications firm with specialization in asset management, but I need to sit down with the agency or the person I’m gonna be working with and go, you know, number one, do they to validate, do they have that skillset?

Really? Do they get my company and can I work with them? I, I think, is this a good fit? And that is also very much for the agency. The agency has to sit down with the clients and go, do I wanna work with these guys? You know, is this gonna be a productive relationship? And that, I think is, is at the heart of, you know, I’ve always looked at technology as kind of being the ability to take from a maybe a list of, we have around 6,000 agencies and, and individuals profiles on the platform to get to maybe that small number.

That is then the starting point for the for that human conversation. So it’s sort of technology enabling human connections.

Chip Griffin: Well, and that human connection is, is so important. And I think that, you know, what you’ve said just really resonates with me. I, I just had a conversation with a client of mine in, in the last hour where I was talking about how logos don’t buy from other logos.

Right? And so we need to remember that, you know, Coca-Cola isn’t hiring Edelman. Someone at Coca-Cola is hiring someone at Edelman. And, and so that’s a critical part of finding those matches, that human component. And I guess for me that that’s one of the reasons why I do admittedly blindly hate on RFPs because it at at, in most cases, at best, it pushes off the human interaction until after all sorts of other work has been put in, and I’ve seen so many agencies of all sizes waste so much time on RFPs that are, are going nowhere, and they either didn’t know it or just didn’t realize it.

Simon Erskine Locke: Look, I don’t love RFPs. I’ve been on the other end of RFPs, I’ve been through, through the process, but you know, it’s like one of those things in a, in a perfect world what would happen is and, and it does sometimes happen, right? The client knows that you have the skillsets to be able to do the assignment. They call you up and I’m thinking about like with an agency hat on. They call you up, they sit down and then they say the magic words, which have happened to me a couple of times in, in my career, which is, you’ve got me at hello and you, and you realize that the point there is to go, wow.

The world aligned and I really didn’t have to spend a lot of time, I wasn’t in competition with anyone else. And you know, they recognized just how good I was and the skillsets that we brought to the table. And then, you know, I was so convincing that, that they hired me straight away. That is the perfect world, but we are not in a perfect world.

I think we all know from the different perspectives that we, we have as communicators is that you know, all too often when I was on the agency side, you, you would sometimes scratch our head and go, why did this client not reach out to us when they were looking to hire? Because, you know, the reality is we as human beings, we can only know so many, you know, clients, so many people who actually do stuff.

So you could go to conferences. We can. All the things that we’ve expected to, you can, you should have a, you know, a new business funnel that has you reaching out to call it firms that are a good match. But there will always be opportunities out there where you go the, the client’s gonna need the tool to kind of find me, or, or that is a way to generate additional business.

Now, in the perfect world, you know, you would not need an RFP from an agency perspective. Now from a client perspective, in a perfect world, the RFP fulfills an important role. It’s like, well, now I’ve got this tool that I can use to take a list of maybe, you know, five or 10 qualified agencies, narrow it down to the two or three that I actually want to have interviews with and and speak to.

You know, that simplified my process. I got a better search result. You know, I was able to hire them and there was a long lasting relationship. That is the, the perfect world for the clients that, you know, may actually have to be has a responsibility to the purchasing department because they’ve been told they’ve got to go through these types of processes.

The problem is, I think, a lot, this is where, you know, again, imperfection. The reality is, is the process has been broken for a long time. Bell ends of the, you know, curve in, in the search process. There are horror stories of that, exactly what you described, Chip. You know, there are companies out there that don’t know or, or will put out an RFP when they’re not genuinely looking.

They may not have a budget. Maybe they don’t provide the information and, and it becomes the sort of classic beauty parade, which is frankly a waste of time for all involved.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, I, I think, I think part of the problem is that a lot of these RFPs, you know, they don’t set about to be intentionally dishonest, but they may be being done because as you say, the, the purchasing or procurement department says you have to do these, but perhaps they’ve already decided who they want.

They just have to go through this process before they can hire. To me, that’s unfair to all of the other agencies that you’re asking to do it because while it’s theoretically possible that you might talk them out of where they’re already inclined to go. Your odds are insanely low, and unfortunately, the RFP process requires far too much work on the part of the agency of a speculative nature. And beyond what’s required.

Almost every agency I know goes well above and beyond what they’re actually told they have to do because they think that they can somehow break through. Because they, maybe they’ve listened, you know, to us where we say things like this, like, you know, your odds may not be great. And so that they figure I can stack the odds in my favor by doing an extra 20 hours of work and giving them something on spec and showing them this or that, and it’s just not true.

And, and to me, that’s what pains me in the process. And I don’t think that’s good for the client either. I mean, I think that it, it wastes the client’s time to go through those processes, whether they’re mandated by, by procurement, or they’re just, Hey, you know, we’re probably gonna renew with the incumbent.

We’re just kind of curious. We wanna see what’s out there. I mean, that’s just, it’s not a good use of anyone’s time.

Simon Erskine Locke: But, but, but it, you know, it reminds me of it’s an apocryphal story, right? And it does happen. The client is, you know, frankly dumb enough to spend a huge amount of time going through a process where they don’t really want to kind of hire the agency.

It’s, it’s, and, and having been on the corporate communication side of things for a long time, I never went down that path in my entire career. You know, the story is a great story and it’s reality. It does happen, but the question you have to ask is, Is that what everyone is doing all the time? You have to ask the question of going, well, look, you know, the, it is a waste of time.

So most clients are smart enough not, not to do it. There’s, but there’s two sides of the coin as well. One, the clients really should not be, should not, should never put an agency through that process unless they’re actually genuinely, genuinely interested. Flip side of that coin is an agency should never put itself in the, you know, that, that sort of process where they don’t know that the client actually is genuinely interested in hiring them.

You know, they, they haven’t done the due diligence of checking whether or not, you know, it is a genuine opportunity and most important, because I think this is the heart of the behavioral aspect of, of RFPs. You know, I, I wrote a piece little while ago called Tunnels and Funnels. And the idea was that as human beings we tend to kind of, you know, are, are we, we narrow our focus on opportunities on, and the principal on the idea of scarcity and financial scarcity is one of those things.

It’s why we make generally bad financial decisions, but behavioral drivers, as you see something and say, oh, there’s a $200,000 contract out there. You know, let me let, let me just go for it. And, and it’s, it’s a natural thing to kind of do, right? But it’s actually a reflex that has to be avoided at all costs. I, I, I, there’s, there’s one thing I’ve always, I, I’ve written this many times in the past and, and I believe it to my core.

It’s like, you know, you either pitch for what you’re qualified or qualify yourself for what you pitch. And, and the key responsibility of the agency is to take a very hard look in the mirror and go, is this am I truly, and I wouldn’t use a high benchmark for it, and the benchmark would be if I know my competitors, I see this piece of business, would I be one of the top three choices period out there for this piece of business.

If they look at it from the client side of the side of things and go, look, if it’s a top three chance, then you will. It is worth spending the time to be able to do it. If you are truly qualified for something. And if you’ve done the due diligence in terms of knowing, you know, what is this about, you know, are, is this something that is worth the opportunity?

So, you know, from a CommunicationsMatch standpoint, one of the key things that we do as we, we built our, our, our own RFP process is basically to go, clients have to choose agencies. They do research and then go, these are the firms that actually want to complete something. A and I want you to, I’ll, we, we should talk a little bit more about the time factor.

But let, let me kind of stop talking and let you kind of weigh in. Cause time is really important.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, so I, I mean, I, you know, you, you mentioned due diligence and I think that is incredibly important. Yeah. If you’re even giving a passing thought to doing an RFP response, you need to start by doing due diligence.

You need to actually ask questions of the issuer if they won’t answer any questions at. That’s a red flag. Run. Yes. Yes. Right. I mean, I, I don’t care if they say, well, it’s our policy. We don’t answer question. No, you, you just go away if they won’t answer a question. And some of the key questions you need to have answered are things like, is there an incumbent?

Is the incumbent actually submitting expected to submit an an RFP response themselves? Because if so, your odds are pretty poor. Yes. Unless they indicate in that Yes, but we hate them. Yes. Which usually doesn’t happen. Usually they won’t be that forthcoming, but if there’s an incumbent and they’re, and they’re trying to, to win it back, you know, that’s a, that, that’s a much higher hurdle to clear.

You need to get them to answer how many people have been invited to respond to the RFP? Because if this is a, you know, we’re casting a net to two dozen agencies, why play, right? Yeah. I mean, if it’s, if it’s three to five, okay. I mean, You know, still that’s only like a one in three, one in five chance that you win it, assuming that it is a truly level playing field.

And I, I like what you said about, you know, be realistic about yourself, whether you’re one of the top three competitors in, in that space. But I’ll be honest with you, Simon, I think most agencies think that they are. I, I, I know very fewagencies… most, most agencies aren’t gonna say yeah. We’re just, we’re just not up to it.

You know? That’s, that’s not the common reaction. So I, I agree with you that that would be a, a good, realistic conversation to have with yourself, but also probably unrealistic of us to expect that they will. So, but, but absolutely do your diligence before you even think about it, because otherwise you will just be straight up wasting your time 99% of the time.

But let’s talk about time now since, since that’s the next piece.

Simon Erskine Locke: Yeah. Well look the The, the, the issue of time is, it’s like anything like, you know, I, I’m a, I’m a business owner. You know, I run CommunicationsMatch I, every day I have to kind of make decisions in terms of what’s a good use of time, what’s not a good use of time.

It’s what we all have to do and like, particularly what agencies, small agencies have to do. The decision about making time is to go, you know, it’s, it’s return on investment, right? What is the best return for the time that I have. Now, if you’re a small agency and there is more work knocking on the door than you can actually possibly cope with, why would you go down the process of responding to an RFP that that may not actually be something, where’s a real opportunity?

Now, on the other hand, if you, if you’ve got you know, it looks like a good opportunity. You, you’ve done your due diligence, you qualify and you start, and I think this is important. You have to start with the idea that in most cases, this is the bell curve item. In most cases, clients do not want to waste their time.

Now, that would be most cases. There are also clients who don’t know enough about communications or PR who, who don’t actually know enough to know whether or not they’re wasting any anyone’s time. Who may look at, you know, PI agencies as like the vendors and go, oh, it’s not really a big deal. It’s kind of what they do.

And again, those are clients that you have to be very careful of and weed out from a due diligence standpoint. If they’re not serious, you know, not giving a budget, not answering the questions. They’re these as, as you said, they’re all red flags. So when you look at return on investment. Investments for, for us in, in this industry is primarily time.

You know, every billed hour, that hour that you cannot bill because you we’re putting on doing it, focus on a new business or another opportunity may actually be, you can put a value on it and say, well, look, I spent this time doing it. Is it a good use of time? One of the problems with the, with, you know, the, the way RFPs and have been done in the past is, or an RFQ, is that the process may just take too much time.

There are, particularly if you are using kind of corporate purchasing developed RFP tools that, you know, may ask, you know, like your, your DNA history, how many generations of, you know, Lockes have there been that have been involved in the industry, or, you know when, when were your employees born? You know, there are questions that can be asked that are just

plain dumb, inappropriate and don’t belong in the process of choosing an agency. So one of the things that we did in terms of as we built into CommunicationsMatch, we, you know, we built an RFP option, not because I love RFPs, but because clients, when they’re doing the search process, there are a subset that want to be able to use an RFP.

So looking at this as a problem to to be solved and the time thing, we said, well, look, what we really need to do is you just need core questions. Make the process simple, lightweight. So for us, you know, someone sends an RFQ, it’s based on genuine interest, and to respond to, it may take 15 to 20 minutes. To give the client enough information to know, okay, there’s a, there’s it’s worth now going to the next question, which is the RFP and even our RFPs, very short, very concise, all filled out online so that that process is condensed. You made actually an interesting point, which is the desire of the agency to kind of conquer, you know, go over and above in terms of filling out the, you know, more information that, that was absolutely necessary.

I, I can say that, you know, definitively as the client, I don’t want that. It actually is generally a complete waste of time. What I’m looking for as the client and, and we’ve surveyed clients in this space, is that you go give me the information, and this is a friend of mine who’s the head of communications with one of the big financial firms said this to me, very clearly said, I want the information, I need to be able to decide to set up a meeting. You know, the fanciness of the presentation, the volumes of maybe non-relevant case studies. It’s what I need to know is give me enough to be able to kind of set up that meeting. And, and I think you know, my focus has actually been to go look for a specific number of clients and types of clients, and they may not act, they’re generally the larger clients, right?

So we may actually be having a conversation about RFPs when we’re dealing with small clients, and in fact in general for the smaller clients and the smaller agencies rFP is actually not really that important a part of what it is they do. Because the smaller client is gonna go, they might do the research on the, on the platform and then have some conversations, set up a meeting and then you, through the higher up process. RFPs generally are gonna be more for bigger assignments that clients really need to think about, but they need to be lightweight, they need to be focused and efficient.

And then from a return on investment standpoint, if you’re an agency and you look at it and say, it’ll take me 10. 15, 20 minutes to complete an RFQ with basic information that may actually be worth spending the time to be able to do if the client specifically wants you to participate.

Chip Griffin: Yeah. See, to me, I, I would still rather see a 30 minute conversation between a human on both sides of that conversation.

I, I mean, I, I agree, I understand the, the desire that some folks have to, you know, to turn this into, to that kind of a process. But I just, to me, I would, I would still rather see a human conversation and, and I, I really don’t understand. Clients who issue RFPs and, and distribute them to agencies that they’ve never spoken with.

I just, and, and, and a large number of the RFPs do that. Even the honest, legitimate ones. I don’t understand it, it doesn’t make any sense to me. At least have a 30 minute get to know you conversation to see if this is even worth both sides spending time on it. But I, I think the other piece from the time perspective, and you said this, You know very well.

You need to focus on the amount of time that you’re spending on it. And, and I would go so far as to say you should set a budget, not a time budget. A dollar budget. Makes a lot of sense. And, and, and you have to ask yourself, would I spend $10,000 to respond to this RFP? Because guess what? Once you add up the hours that you’re spending Yep.

On a lot of these RFP responses, I guarantee you, based on what I’ve seen, a lot of you are spending five to $10,000 on submitting an RFP. Because when you have three or four people in your agency contributing to it, you don’t necessarily see all the work. But then you look at the time sheets and you’re like, oh my God.

You know, we spent 40 hours total, you know, all of the things that we pulled together and all the documents that we had to get from our bookkeeper. And all of the time I spent working on strategy. And then, you know, the plan we put together, all of those things, it adds up really fast. And when you start multiplying that out by the actual hourly cost of your team members, It is not unheard of to easily be into the five to 10,000 range, if not higher for some, depending on the nature of the response.

And you have to say to yourself, would I, if you just came to me and said, will you spend $10,000 to respond to this RFP? Yes or no? Most of you are gonna say no, but you don’t value the time of your team properly and you don’t understand what you’re really doing. And, and that to me is really frustrating.

Simon Erskine Locke: I am 100 per cent with you, right? Look, my, my view tends to be the horses for courses, very British expression. But the look, the bottom line is there are companies that are issuing RFPs, so you know, whether you like it or not, you know, that is the reality. That is the reality that is out there. So what does an agency, what can an agency do to to make sure that they don’t spin their wheels and and waste time?

Well, first thing is, is that they should do exactly what we talked about, due diligence and have a conversation. If you can, if the client is willing to have the conversation, have the conversation, the agency needs to make the decisions to go look maybe, if the client wants to or doesn’t want to. I, I’m gonna make a call whether or not I choose to.

The process needs to be lightweight. It, it just, there is no reason why clients frankly should be asking an agency to spend, you know, $10,000 worth of time to get a bunch of ideas and thoughts on something where you haven’t really properly been briefed. It’s actually kind of dangerous. It’s, it’s a, not only is it a waste of time for, for an agency time, it’s actually dangerous.

And the danger is that if you’re an agency and you do all of that work and you have not really been briefed on what exactly the client wants you, you dig a trap for yourself because you take yourself down a path that may either one demonstrate, you don’t really actually know what the client wants, and you go, oh, we can do this, this, and this and this.

And that’s actually not what they’re really looking for. You can up part of that process can be upselling it. And we’ve, we’ve done surveys at clients, and clients do not want to be upsold to or in their, in these presentations, you know, you can have extra ideas, but, but they have a specific goal that they are trying to, to, to meet.

And the agency, the best agency to address that particular need most credibly is the one that is most likely to ultimately win it. Where there is personal personal chemistry. So it’s really, you know, when we encourage, you know, we don’t encourage clients to do an RFP, we just know that there are certain ones who are gonna do it.

We try and create the path to make, be able to make that an efficient process. But we actually don’t start then with the goal of going agencies must respond. In fact, we start with the goal of going agencies should see it and then, That’s not for me. And don’t respond if it’s not a good fit. But going back to the very beginning of the thing that you, you know, you were talking about – a more nuanced perspective is important.

Nuance does not though mean, you know, well, I should just keep doing what we are doing and, you know, participate in RFPs. And it does not mean saying no to everything. It just means being smart. And going through a discipline process on the agency side, you know, the clients have to be disciplined as well to get to a place where the time that you spend to win something is commensurate with the opportunity.

And it makes sense.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, I, I think I’m gonna stick with just say no, I, I mean, I’m in Nancy Reagan’s you know, camp here, just say no.

Simon Erskine Locke: And it worked well with drugs, right? It worked well with drugs.

Chip Griffin: Touche.

All right. Bad analogy, but except for a very few specialized sectors that you can’t get away from RFPs, travel and tourism, for example, when you’re dealing with state governments and it’s just, it’s legally required, apart from a very small handful of those. I, I think that certainly all small agencies and most other agencies would be better off saying no. And the, the problem is that we’re not going to see change as long as enough people go along with the crazy processes that are out there. It’s, it’s right up there with, to me, something that is related to these RFPs, which are the crazy payment terms that a lot of the big brands are trying to foist on agencies now up to and including one year payment terms.

Which is just mind boggling to me that you would go from you know, sort of the industry standard 30 days. Then 60, 90, 120 got thing I’d seen 180 and then recently we’ve seen a year. It’s crazy. And, and we need to have agencies standing up and saying no to these crazy processes. And that’s the only way we’re gonna get change.

At that point, maybe RFPs can come back to being a reasonable place. Or if they ever were, they can get to a reasonable place. I just, I’m, I’m gonna stick with my blind hatred of them. Cause I think the exceptions are too few.

Simon Erskine Locke: I, you know, I respect your view on that, but I think that there is a, there is another path, and the other path is not to, to go, oh, you know, be, be the flag bearer for the RFP process.

But it is to do exactly what you are saying, which is, you know, if you think that you are being asked to spend too much time on an RFP, that is not appropriate for it, do not participate. But I would encourage clients and agencies to say, look, you know, we actually have, what we did is to go, okay, reinvent the process.

The reinvention of the process is to go, give all the information that is required. Give, let the agencies take a look based upon the fact that they were chosen, based on expertise. And then, and, and make that decision to go is reach out to the client, have the conversation, do all things we’ve talked about there.

And that requires, at the end of the day going, you know, maybe reinventing the process is another is an option. It, it is, and that is essentially what we have certainly tried, tried to do. But look, I don’t, as I look at all of this stuff, we go, key is small agencies, right? As a, as a business owner myself, I go again, what is the best use of time? And every agency owner needs to look at it and say, what is a good use time? And there will be consistent one again with your view, which is there are some exceptions of the rule. That is a smart way to do it. You know, not blanket never. Blanket is only if it meets a threshold that makes sense. And that may be the exception rather than the rule.

And it is not seeking out randomly posted RFPs is that we kind of suddenly go, Ooh, look, there’s an opportunity. Like look something shiny and bright.

Chip Griffin: Right? I, I just, I think it’s really difficult for most agencies, not even just small ones to realistically assess the likelihood of winning because they are almost uniformly, overly optimistic about their own abilities.

Simon Erskine Locke: Because we’re PR people.

Chip Griffin: So, and this, I think it’s human nature. I think it’s, it’s human nature, right? And, and particularly for those of us who own businesses. You know, we we’re risk takers and, and yes. And, and, and we are much more likely to think, oh, we can hit a home run. And, and that can be very dangerous when it comes to RFPs because, or, or even some other things with, with, you know, if, if we get in and we’re talking with a prospective client and they talk about how they’ve burned through three agencies in the last 24 months.

We’re the exception, we’re the one that’s gonna come in and solve that. Not wait a minute, they’ve burned through three agencies in 24 months. There’s something wrong here. You know, we need to stop believing that we are superheroes and we need to be realistic about what we can accomplish in those situations.

Otherwise, we will continue to throw good money after bad.

Simon Erskine Locke: So here would be the point that I, look, I think it is a, it is a great point –

Chip Griffin: and I’ll give this to you as the final point because I do try to keep these to 30 minutes. We’ve already gone over something. We’re gonna try to wrap up.

Simon Erskine Locke: Good. So, so it is, it’s, it’s a very valid point because I think it, the, in a way it’s a behavioral thing, right?

So we’re looking at this, there is a behavioral component, and when I’m like PR people, we are PR people. You have to be optimistic and, and maybe it’s a universal trend. But we are also self-selected to be, you know, implicit marketers. And you have to believe in, in, in what you’re doing to, to, to actually be doing what, what we’re doing in, in the PR industry.

The key thing is, and this is really hard, I do think is that the ability to kind of step back and evaluate, which is the process in a way that we’re sort of talking about, is. To be realistic. So, so you are saying, you know, we are just inherently unrealistic. What I would say is that we actually benefit from trying to kind of take that step back you know, resisting the reflexive urge to do things that maybe aren’t that smart.

Not because, you know, we are not smart people in terms of doing it, but, but because we are actually kind of, you know, motivated for doing this stuff. And I think the ability to resist the ability to be super disciplined in terms of the focus required, it is actually the key to being able to make smart decisions about whether it’s an RFP, whether it’s any piece of new business.

Because, you know, at the end of the day, this is not an either or choice, right? It’s like there, new business comes in different paths and different shapes and forms and we just have to go after the stuff that is, that we are most qualified for, that we are really have a good chance of doing. And, you know, we can point to all of the examples in terms of as responses to RFPs that, you know, are also things that we do when, when business comes in, not through an RFP process.

There is a, being disciplined is really tough when money is at. And it is, you know, inherent behavioral challenges, but that is what we do as leaders, is to try and make, make the smartest choice for our agencies and for new business.

Chip Griffin: Well, Simon, if someone wants to make a smart choice about their agency new business, and find a good match, how can they learn more about CommunicationsMatch and where should they go online?

Simon Erskine Locke: Well, thank you Chip for saying that. CommunicationsMatch.com is where they can go, and the, and the platform is, is agencies can create profiles on the platform. We have partnerships with PRSA, Capitol Communicator and, and, and others and clients can search for free. And you know, if you’re an agency that you know, a client that’s gonna do an RFP, we should encourage the client to be using the tools that we’ve got because they frankly simplify the process for agencies and clients. I’ve been on in both seats.

This process has been broken for a long time and frankly needs to be done better. You know, look, with, I, I’d like to believe like we all are, want to believe, right? That we can be part of the solution.

Chip Griffin: And, and if clients are listening to this, I, I hope that they will go to CommunicationsMatch, find some good potential agencies, and have a real life conversation with them and see where it goes from there.

Just like we’ve had a real life conversation here. So, Simon, I I appreciate you taking the time to, to share your perspectives here and I look forward to having you back again for a future conversation. I look forward to having all of you listeners back for the next episode of Chats with Chip.

Thanks for joining us.

Simon Erskine Locke: Thank you.

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