You discussed the idea of hiring an agency to help with a new campaign at your last board meeting, policy committee or general assembly? You want to replicate what somebody else has done with consultancy X or Y? Or you have some money left in your budget and would like to test the idea of having an agency?
These are all valid reasons to seek consultancy support. Before you put out an RFP hoping to get all the answers you crave in just a few days, there are a few points to consider.
- Plan: Finding an agency perfectly suited to all your needs (objectives, creativity, team and expertise, budget) should not be something you rush. It takes time. Set realistic timelines to allow agencies to prepare a solid proposal or pitch presentation. Take your internal decision-making process into account.
- Research: Inviting every single agency which shows up when you type ‘public affairs agency Brussels’ on Google can be counterproductive. Study their websites. Do they have experience in your sector? Have they done similar projects to the one you have in mind? Ask your network for recommendations and get references.
- Meet: If there is time – and hopefully there will be thanks to your careful planning – it’s always a good idea to meet agencies even before you formally invite them to participate. At the end of the day, most agencies are capable of delivering good results, so personal chemistry and ‘feeling’ are an important factor to consider early on. Avoid ending up working with a team you don’t get along with.
- Brief: A good brief with clearly defined objectives and working parameters will help make sure the agencies will prepare a proposal that fits your needs. If you need to get more people involved to make sure all angles are covered, do! Don’t be shy about telling them how much money you are willing to spend. It helps to manage expectations. Some agencies may decline to pitch if the budget is too low.
- Review: Take your time to go through the different proposals and invite all the necessary people in the decision-making process to join as early as possible. If you have questions for the agencies, ask at will! Too often potential clients look at proposals as fait-accompli documents with no room for changes.
- Pitch: If there is an actual pitch (face-to-face or virtual) make sure that those attending from your side are well briefed, have received all the necessary documents and freed up their agendas to pay full attention. Pitching can be intimidating, and agencies spend a great deal of time preparing. It feels great to be appreciated. A good way to do that can be to offer a pitching fee to participating agencies.
- Select: You should define and agree how the selection is going to take place even before you put out an RFP. Who is going to make the final call? Will it be decided by consensus? Does your team or committee need to vote?
- Negotiate: You have decided to work with a specific agency but there are still a few things you would like to revisit: team composition, scope of work, timing, budget. Be open and transparent – most agencies will try their best to accommodate to your requirements. Working with an agency is a two-way street. Communication should be fluid even before you sign a contract.”